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December 02, 2015

Is Copper the Buggy Whip of Telecommunications?

Back when I moderated another conference, Alistair Woodman -- who was at Cisco -- did a presentation about aluminum. At the turn of the 20th century, aluminum was a rare metal that was used for jewelry. It was as expensive as it was rare, and therefore it was considered valuable. Today, it’s plentiful and the companies like Alcoa have a stock price that is more driven by consumer demand.

I bring this up because copper as a commodity is tanking worse than oil and very much like coal. Unlike oil, the issue is not production battles and consumer demand. Like coal, the alternatives are better and cheaper (probably cleaner) and the demand has moved beyond these commodities.

Copper has historically been at the heart of industrial and communications development. However, like the historical concept of the Bronze Age, we are seeing a transition. I doubt history will ever call this the ‘Glass Age’ since the Copper Age has not been used. Perhaps it will be discussed as the migration from electricity to light. Perhaps it will be considered the end of broadcast and the change to direct cast.

We have light, fiber, and wireless technologies cheap enough that we are always on.  Centuries from now we might be referred to as the age of glass. If you look at the innovations from Corning beyond Gorilla Glass, you see that we will all be able to manage services with voice, touch and gestures. 

TMC’s Rich Tehrani recently talked about the next phase of the industrial revolution and the usage-based economy. His analysis is spot on.

When you are always on, direct costs are elusive and embedded in access. Usage then becomes the unit of measure.

What that does is change the pricing model as well. Access is table stakes, and usage gets paid for in a variety of ways and value is based on individual analytics and not on a composite.

At the heart of this is the Internet of Things and an augmentation of the ability to see, think and manage.

It’s all in how you use it.

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