Thursday, August 29, 2019

Have Average U.S. Fixed Network Internet Access Speeds Climbed Above 100 Mbps?

It often is unwise to rely on older data in markets that move fast, as is the internet access market, which saw global average speeds grow by 23 percent from 2017 to 2018 alone. 

U.S. internet access speeds might be climbing even faster. U.S. fixed network speeds in 2018 climbed 36 percent, according to Ookla. In the third quarter of 2018, for example, average downstream speeds were 96 Mbps, upload speeds 33 Mbps.

Already, the latest Federal Communications Commission report on U.S. internet access speeds is wildly out of date, based on 2017 data. That is not a knock on the FCC, just a recognition that such data tends to lag by about two years before it is reported to the public. And speeds are climbing fast. 

In December 2017, three percent of fixed connections (or 3 million connections) were slower than 3 Mbps downstream, 11 percent (or 12 million connections) were at least 3 Mbps downstream but slower than 10 Mbps, 17 percent (or 18 million connections) were at least 10 Mbps downstream but slower than 25 Mbps, 32 percent (or 34 million connections) were at least 25 Mbps downstream but slower than 100 Mbps, and 38 percent(or 41 million connections) were at least 100 Mbps, according to the FCC. 

Where in 2017 perhaps 63 percent of connections ran at less than 100 Mbps, Ookla data from mid-2018 suggests half of connections were running at speeds less than 100 Mbps. 

U.S. Fixed Network Internet Access Speeds, End of 2017
Speed (downstream)
Locations, Millions
% of Connections
Less than 3 Mbps
3 Mbps to 10 Mbps
10 Mbps to 25 Mbps
25 Mbps to 100 Mbps
More than 100 Mbps
Source: FCC data, IP Carrier table

It is not yet clear how much average speeds will grow in 2019, except to note that speeds will continue to get faster.

New Survey of Small Business Telecom Spending in United Kingdom

New research by Onecom, said to be the U.K. largest independent telecom services provider, suggests that small businesses spend £2,052 ($2503) a year on telecommunication services, an increase of as much as 40 percent since 2016. Other studies also suggest U.K. SME spending has grown

The OneCom research is based on a survey of 208 employees, self-employed individuals and small business owners. Ofcom data suggests the typical U.K. household spends £1046 ($1276) annually on communications, so the Onecom data undoubtedly reflects data from small businesses only.

Analysts differ on the definition of  “medium-sized” business, but it seems self evident that a firm spending about twice what a consumer household does is not a mid-sized firm. 

Some 75 percent of respondents are also considering upgrading services, lead by interest in 5G and faster internet access.

Other studies of U.S. information technology spending suggest that most business spending on communications these days is for mobile phones and communications service, representing as much as 87 percent of total communications spending. 

“Telecommunications spending (business) is forecast to be $1.5 trillion this year (2018),” IDC has said. “Mobile phones will be the largest segment of technology spending at nearly $500 billion in 2018, followed by mobile data and mobile voice at more than $400 billion each.” 

Spending patterns for small business likely diverge a bit from that pattern, with fixed services representing a higher proportion of total communications spending. Very-small business spending also is skewed more heavily towards hardware and devices, compared to larger businesses. 

By some estimates, communications generally represented about 30 percent of U.S. business spending on information technology in 2016. Globally, telecom spending averaged about 41 percent of total IT spend in 2016. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

T-Mobile Test Drive Makes the "Intangible" Tangible

The T-Mobile US Free 30-DayTest Drive offer, which allows potential customers to experience its 4G network, is one concrete solution for allowing people to evaluate a product they cannot see, touch, hear, smell, taste or otherwise directly evaluate. 

As with all other intangible products, consumers only find out how the product works after they’ve already purchased. 

That is one reason selling services generally is more difficult than selling products. By definition, services--including communications--are intangible. Like marketing advice, crisis management and other services, communications can be very hard for buyers to evaluate, in advance of purchase.

There is no physical object to inspect, so a potential buyer has to try and determine value some other way. Buyers must rely on evaluations, third party testimony, advertising or other proxies for value.

There being no way the buyer actually can determine “quality” in any direct way, until the services are provided.

Obviously, that creates a barrier to sales. 

So think about it: all  communications and connectivity services are intangible products, for which a buyer has no way to determine quality in advance of purchase, and no way to compare quality to other potential buyers except to “try them.”

There are some obvious consequences. If a buyer cannot independently determine value or quality, buyers might be prone to distrusting quality claims. Perhaps that is why service providers tend to score low on consumer satisfaction surveys. People might know they have no way of making judgments as they can with physical products. And when “value” cannot be determined, it is hard to determine whether “price” is right, either.

In fact, every connectivity service--video, voice or internet access--scores at the bottom of multi-industry indexes in surveys of customer satisfaction conducted by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Make it personal is one typical bit of advice for sellers of intangible services. In other words, explain “how it makes your life better.” “Show the benefits” (outcomes) is another way to sell an intangible product. When even that is tough, sell “peace of mind.”

That's why credentials, furniture, street address, references and "experience" become proxies for value and competence where an intangible product is concerned. Even tangible products such as fashion items or vacation resorts have a huge and similar problem, namely creating a brand or mystique that helps potential buyers evaluate the product, which either is a means to another end, or an "experience."

Trust also is important for selling intangibles.  As there is nothing tangible to show customers, customers have to trust their suppliers. And though it would be hard to show a direct correlation, one element that promotes trust might be that lots of other customers have chosen a particular supplier. So market share becomes a proxy for value and a reason for greater trust.

In his book Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing, Harry Beckwith makes the point that an intangible product cannot be sold in the same way as a physical product.

“In fact, a service does not even exist when you buy one,” notes financial analyst Ben Carlson. “If you go so a salon, you cannot see, touch, or try out a haircut before you buy it. You order it. Then you get it.”

Product failure also is harder to determine. Did you get good advice? How a good a job did your painter, dentist or doctor do?

That is unknowable. That is why products can have warranties. There is some way of knowing and quantifying the risk of product failure.

Most services cannot be similarly quantified, with the possible exception of outage or availability performance.

The big point is that customers buy connectivity services that mostly come without guarantees or certainty. So anything suppliers can do to provide proxies for quality should help.

And that is why “brand” reputation matters. Irt is a proxy for quality and a reason for trust. That is why personal relationships matter: they are proxies for quality and reasons for trust.

That is why good storytelling matters.

Companies and people sell themselves, their vision, philosophy and values. Being likable is a prerequisite when the customer has endless choices.

“Prospects do not buy how good you are at what you do. They buy how good you are at who you are,” says Beckwith.

That is why sellers of broadly similar products benefit from “accentuating the trivial.” That might be one of the few ways to differentiate, when products perform in broadly similar ways.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Most Users Waste Money on Internet Access Above 100 Mbps, Study Suggests

In tests of internet access services used by 53 of its journalists, the Wall Street Journal has concluded that most people do not use but a fraction of the capacity they pay for as buyers of fixed network internet access. 

Is faster better, for most people? “For most people, the answer is no,” say a team of writers including Shalini Ramachandran, Thomas Gryta, Kara Dapena and Patrick Thomas, writers for the Wall Street Journal. 

The big caveat is that this study looked at applications such as video streaming, gaming and other common apps, and were not specially focused on downloading. 

As this chart suggests, experience is improved most at the lower end of the speed scale, say 55 Mbps or so. “For a typical household, the benefits of paying for more than 100 megabits a second are marginal at best, according to the researchers” say. 

These sorts of results would not be unexpected or unusual by anybody who actually studies such matters.

The Difference Between Management and Leadership

With the caveat that skills required by managers in supply chain roles--especially in retail, logistics or manufacturing--might not be weighted the same as required by managers in other verticals, leadership and thinking are more important than operational expertise or technical knowledge, as arguably is true of all upper-level and middle management roles. 

At middle levels, what we might call “management” skills are important, beyond the specific technical skills any associate has relied upon in former roles. 

Think of the common process in the telecom industry, software or hardware industries where talented engineers or coders discover as they move up the ranks that they no longer are writing code or doing engineering but instead mostly are managing people and information flows. 

The ascension to the “C” suite is even more startling, as there is a difference between leadership and management that typically goes unrecognized. In fact, leadership and management involve different skills: they are not different words for the same skill. 

The analogy I have long used is that “leadership” is conferred by those who follow; “management” is conferred by a role within an organization. People follow leaders because of some non-bureaucratic and personal source of authority. 

In combat, formal authority (management) does not matter as much as leadership. Soldiers under fire must follow their officers, because those officers have formal authority. But soldiers in great danger willingly follow those they trust, no matter what their rank.

That is what I mean by saying "leadership is conferred by followers," not by formal legal authority. Second lieutenants have formal authority, and can manage, in essence. But it often is the case that leadership is exercised by others in a platoon, no matter their rank.

People obey management because they work for organizations that say employees follow the directions given by managers.

Oversimplifying, management has power conferred by the organization. It is a function of role. 

Leadership is assent conferred by followers, not dictated strictly by organization titles, reporting lines and structure. In describing the difference between management and leadership, management often is viewed as “authoritarian,” where leadership is said to be motivating. 

That mostly is a gross exaggeration, and unfair. Managers are not necessarily "authoritarian," but they command because they have lawful organizational authority.

Leaders might, or might not, have proper and lawful authority. What they do command is the willing followership of others, given on a voluntary basis.

Managers Give Directions
Leaders ask questions
Managers have subordinates
Leaders have followers
Managers use an authoritarian style
Leaders have a motivational style
Managers tell what to do
Leaders show what to do
Managers have good ideas
Leaders implement good ideas
Managers react to change
Leaders create change
Managers try to be heroes
Leaders make heroes of everyone around them

People often mistake leadership and management as the same thing but in essence, they are very different. The main difference between the two is that leaders have people that follow them, while managers have people who simply work for them

Another useful, but oversimplified summary might be that “management” is mostly the required skill people need in middle management. At the “C” level, in line roles, leadership skills are more important. 

Look at the sorts of questions would-be CEOs are urged to answer:
  • Why do you want to be a CEO
  • What is your value proposition for the organization
  • Do your skills and experiences match the organization’s strategic objectives
  • How do your values align with the organization’s values
  • What have I learned from failures and successes that help the organization\
  • Where are the company’s strategic opportunities

None of those sorts of questions would really make sense for a competent middle manager. 

Make no mistake, mastering management is not the same as mastering leadership. And leadership has to be learned, just as management has to be learned.

Job Skill Requriements are Shifting Fast, WEF Report Says

In about three years, according to a survey of larger employers conducted by the World Economic Forum, 54 percent of all employees will require significant re-skilling and upskilling related to new technologies and trends disrupting business models. “By 2022, the skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted significantly,” the WEF reports.  

If that forecast proves to be accurate, we can be fairly certain most firms will have failed to achieve all they intended. 

Global average skills stability—the proportion of core skills required to perform a job that will remain the same—is expected to be about 58 percent, meaning an average shift of 42 percent in required workforce skills over the 2018 to 2022 period, just to do the same jobs presently conducted, according to WEF enterprise respondents. 

“Human’” skills such as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation will likewise retain or increase their value, as will attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving, WEF says. 

Emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence as well as service orientation also see an outsized increase in demand relative to their current prominence.

Of the more than half (54 percent) of employees who will require “significant” additional skills, about 35 percent are expected to require additional training of up to six months, nine percent will require reskilling lasting six to 12 months, while 10 percent will require additional skills training of more than a year. 

Skills continuing to grow in prominence by 2022 include analytical thinking and innovation as well as active learning and learning strategies. 

Employers also expect sharply increasing importance of skills such as technology design and programming. 

Job titles expected to be in demand in 2022 include:
  • Data Analysts and Scientists
  • Software and Applications Developers
  • Ecommerce and Social Media Specialists
  • Customer Service Workers
  • Sales and Marketing Professionals
  • Training and Development professionals
  • People and Culture specialists
  • Organizational Development Specialists 
  • Innovation Managers
  • AI and Machine Learning Specialists
  • Big Data Specialists
  • Process Automation Experts
  • Information Security Analysts
  • User Experience and Human-Machine Interaction Designers
  • Robotics Engineers
  • Blockchain Specialists

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