Top telco executives make their 2019 predictions

With 2018 rapidly heading toward the rearview mirror, it's time to take a look at what might be coming down the road in 2019.

FierceTelecom asked a few of the industry's top executives to look into their respective crystal balls to make their predictions for next year. Here are their thoughts.

Mazin Gilbert, AT&T Labs

“2019 will be the year 5G really starts to gain momentum. Add in industry expansion of edge cloud, software-defined networks and AI, and businesses can begin planning to expand smart manufacturing, smart health, smart cities and smart IoT.” Mazin Gilbert, vice president of advanced technology and systems, AT&T Labs.

Vicki Lonker, Verizon

"In 2019, we're going to see and hear more about what we're calling the 'Real-Time Enterprise.' CEOs have already begun to transform their businesses with foundational technologies like SDN, 4G, Internet of Things and will now start the planning process on how they will reinvent their operations and organizations to leverage the enormous potential promised by disruptive technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence/machine learning, automation and robotics, augmented and virtual reality and the next-gen cloud including edge computing. Some of these technologies have moved from concept to reality, and others are still in development. Next year, we'll see and hear stories about those who start to leverage the advantages with real use cases." Vicki Lonker, vice president, network and security product management, Verizon

Rob Willcock, Orange Business Services

"In 2019, we’ll continue to see SD-WAN as a key enabler for enterprise customers’ digital transformations. The integration between MPLS and internet, combined with the move to cloud, requires a different network and security design – particularly on a global scale. With SD-WAN, enterprises can address these requirements and introduce automation to make networks even more efficient. Future-proof solutions with simple interfaces, like Flexible SD-WAN from Orange, enable enterprises to use their networks dynamically to anticipate and respond to changes in their business environments while migrating applications to the cloud." Rob Willcock, senior vice president, Americas, Orange Business Services.

Bill Walker, CenturyLink

"I predict that 2019 is the year when most carriers accept NFV and SDN as mainstream. What I mean by that is that I see us looking at NFV as part of our capabilities, rather than a black/white separation between legacy and NFV/SDN.  New solutions and architectures will include both, and operations will be unified (or at least well aligned). I expect that new product and deployments will just see NFV/SDN as part of the portfolio of capabilities that we can use to get stuff done. Products will come out faster, customers will have more control over their services and the customer experience will greatly improve as we shift the focus from technology 'bottom up' to customer needs 'top down.'" Bill Walker, senior director of network architecture, CenturyLink

Carl Grivner, Colt Technology Services

“The adoption bell-curve of SDN/NFV technology, incorporating uCPE, will revolutionize the way CSPs interact with their customers as we predict a move from early adopters to early majority in 2019. Proof-of-concepts (PoCs) are in the advanced stage and all CSPs understand the importance of software to really answer the demand from enterprise customers for greater control over services, which need to become near real-time. 2019 will be the year when trial partnerships, pilots and limited rollouts will need to become wider network realities.” Carl Grivner, CEO, Colt Technology Services

Jennifer Artley, BT

“In 2019, I expect to see progress in emerging technologies like deployment of 5G and advanced data integration for global networks. Digital transformation will continue through as-a-service solutions and cloud migration, with a strong emphasis on security across all offerings.” Jennifer Artley, president of BT in the Americas and managing director, Technology, Life Sciences and Business Services

Neil McRae

"SD-WAN at the application level. As more cloud apps talk to each other, exchanging secure data aligned to your corporate policies with more intelligent automation (what folks are calling AI) increasing its impact in the workplace. Increasing toward serverless and cloud functions starting to go big. This will start to expand real-time business telemetry into business processes where your business apps are streaming information in real time enabling a much more real-time approach to how enterprises do business enhancing customer experience at a new level. Cloud security layer that enables this, beginning of the end for traditional prem-based security products.

 "Mobile and SIM (eSIM) with mobile to corporate gateway at the premises of your business, so leveraging TPM (Trusted Platform Module) in devices and having the control over devices anchored inside the enterprise, essential for 5G and IoT services to really take effect and with the item above enables what I call 5G-Business Collaboration which will bring huge benefits and new ways of working for enterprises and new requirements for how telco’s work with enterprises.

"Cloud native becomes tablestakes. The start of wearables becoming more wearable!" Neil McRae, chief architect, BT

Austin Herrington, Windstream Enterprise

"Unified Communications will more fully leverage AI, increasing the robustness of conversational chatbots and venturing into journey mapping. AI will also play a role in networking, with intent based routing getting weaved into SD-WAN, evolving from dynamic to predictive routing." Austin Herrington, vice president product management, Windstream Enterprise.