Millenials hold market gold

By Grant Seiffert

Who cares about speed and mobility when it comes to connecting?

Who cares about accessing the latest YouTube videos, playing video games, and connecting with friends (but hardly ever by phone)?

If you're reading this column, chances are you're a business person who needs continuous, reliable access, speed and mobility to do your job. But many of the companies making it all happen are chasing the loyalties of the largest market driver--the Millennial Generation.

Why are Millennials in the driver's seat? There are 75 million reasons why. That's how many were born between 1982 and 2003 in the United States alone--the largest generation--and the largest market--in U.S. history. To put it into a global perspective, in India, there are more than 360 million people ages 14 and under--more than the entire population of the United States.

If you aren't a Millennial yourself, chances are you have some in your household. Use the opportunity to observe and learn. Millennials were born into a silicon reality. They are the first generation whose entire lives have been encoded on silicon chips ... from Day One. These kids were born wired and have gone wireless already, demanding connectivity, anywhere, anytime.

The worldwide video gaming market alone is projected to be worth $48.9 billion by 2011, according to PriceWaterhouseCooper's "Global Entertainment and Media Outlook" report, with Asia/Pacific logging the highest spending at $18.8 billion in 2011. Video game sales surpassed music sales last year, having already surpassed the movie sales.

Mobile phones can exploit new ad platforms and provide viewing opportunities that TV simply can't. NBC is closely tracking mobile viewing of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. Global mobile video revenue will grow to $15 billion in 2012, from $3.5 billion this year, according to MultiMedia Intelligence.

Unfortunately, Millennials have no brand loyalty. If they're having a bad user experience, they move on and don't look back. So, the company brand is only as good as the last experience, a concept that's turning brand marketing on its head.

On the other end, Millennials thrive on change, so if something is always the same, predictable experience, they will jump to the next big thing. And, if it's not downloadable, forget it. That's a harsh reality for content providers. It's a never-abating hunger for more--more speed, more bandwidth, more freedom, more creativity.

Millennials want everything personalized--it's all about them. Millennials are the Soc-Net (Social Networking) generation, living in an alternate universe in which avatars and alter egos are real. Facebook and MySpace are already passé for our Millennial generation, as we--their parents--join LinkedIn and feel cool.

So, how do we position ourselves to serve our new masters?

Connectivity is the backbone of information and communications technology (ICT) industry, as well as the network that supports it and where it's heading. The network can be fixed, wireless, satellite, cable, in short, anything that moves bits around from one place to another. As the network evolves, new and rewarding opportunities are created. With the viability of builds to remote locations and the versatility of IP, convergence is finally becoming reality.

For the ICT industry--forecast to reach $5 trillion in revenue by 2011--to continue its unprecedented growth, broadband deployment must also become a reality--everywhere.

In 2006, more than 1.1 billion handset units were sold globally, according to Yankee Group. The forecast for 2012 is expected to near 1.5 billion units. India alone is adding more than 7 million wireless subscribers a month.To keep up with Millennials' demands for services and data apps, we need to push to bring 3G and 4G networks online.

 And we must invest in long-term R&D for the United States to maintain an edge in a hyper-competitive global market, in which some players receive government subsidization. We have to keep pace. As you look to invest in R&D in your company, remember the Millennial Generation. The new mantra as we move forward is "Youth is the mother of invention!" (a maxim I just created)

To help you face the challenges ahead, TIA is inviting industry leaders to participate in development of a new market intelligence initiative, "ICT2020" reports that will define the best practices for service providers in the year 2020 and highlight companies today that are making significant progress along this path. We're looking for vision, and we hope you'll share yours.

Grant Seiffert is President of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). The TIA represents thousands of information and communications technology (ICT) professionals in standards, government affairs, market intelligence and product-oriented environmental compliance.