If you're at all interested in starting your own online business, there's no time like the present. We live in a golden age of wealth. As much as the media tries to glorify the perils of our society, we actually live in a time that's ripe with opportunity and the potential for monumental business growth at a scale never before experienced. Thanks to the internet and smartphones, the amount of commerce being conducted online has experienced explosive growth.
If you're at all scarcity-minded, it's important to understand how much abundance exists today. Considering that virtually every brick-and-mortar store has made the transition to an online business, there's certainly no shortage of competition. But there's also plenty of so-called blue ocean. While most might make it out to seem like Amazon is the only company reaping the benefits of the ecommerce boom here, the growth is widespread and across every single sector in business.
It's been estimated that retail business will stay on par with a 3.7 percent to 4.2 percent growth rate. However, web based sales are expected to be anywhere from three to four times that rate of growth. However, even though brick-and-mortar sales still comprise the majority of consumer's spending, it's only expected to grow at roughly 2.8%. Clearly, what's driving much of our present ecommerce growth is the smartphone market.
However, this only further illuminates the exponential rise of online business today. Considering that the internet is still largely in its infancy, as the modern conveniences give way to near-instant delivery of products via drones, 3D printing and other means, and as virtual and augmented reality help to improve the online shopping experience, nearly all our commerce will eventually be conducted through online channels rather than offline channels.The question then becomes, how can you take advantage of this massive surge of spending happening every second of every single day online?
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Vodafone Ireland has launched the country’s first live 5G network site, although it will be some time before most of us can benefit from it.
The new site has opened for trials in Dublin’s docklands with Vodafone planning to use it to test 5G hardware, software and services ahead of a wider rollout of the mobile technology.
The company on Wednesday showcased the much-hyped technology with what is believed to be the first Irish international holographic call made between Vodafone Ireland chief executive Anne O’Leary, who was in Dublin, and the company’s interim chief technology officer Max Gasparroni, who was in Germany.
Vodafone and Ericsson, which is supplying the hardware for the new network, also announced a new partnership with University College Dublin’s innovation hub, NovaUCD, to create a new 5G accelerator programme. This initiative will allow participants to test new products and services over the network with candidates who successfully complete the programme being eligible for early-stage investment to help bring their solutions to market.
While long promised, 5G has been a long time coming, with research firm Ovum not expecting it to be commercially available generally until 2020. Vodafone Ireland, which successfully demonstrated the technology at an event in Trinity College Dublin in February, said at that time it expected to roll out 5G within 24 months.
The technology brings faster mobile speeds than existing mobile technology networks, as well as lower latency and increased security and reliability. It also enables multiple devices to be connected in a move that is expected to lead to a sharp rise in the number of Internet of Things devices in circulation.
Vodafone has stressed that while 5G is complementary to rural broadband it should not be seen as a replacement for fibre technology.
While the launch of the test site marks a first it will be some time before 5G becomes widely available, not least because there are few, if any, commercial devices on the market.
Nonetheless, Mr Gasparroni said the new site was a significant marker on the journey towards the rollout of the technology.
"5G is a major step change compared to 4G, with 4G you can support thousands of sensor devices. With 5G you can support hundreds of thousands, so you can allot use cases such as asset tracking, smart cities and so on," he said.
Hans Hammar, global programme director of Ericsson, said a mobile wifi router it has developed that enables users to connect their devices to 5G should be commercially available in the first quarter of 2019.
However, he added that many smartphone users will have to get new devices if they don’t want to connect to the technology using mobile wifi routers.
The first 5G devices should begin to hit the market in the second quarter of next year, Mr Hammar said.
Mobile World Congress organiser GSMA has forecast there will be 1.1 billion 5G connections globally by 2025.
It is 2019 and you could say Ireland – well, parts of it – has had broadband since 2001 when digital subscriber line (DSL) technology first became a thing.
In the early days, however, lack of political will, insufficient regulatory direction or intervention, failure to understand the critical and strategic importance of digital infrastructure, and the slicing and dicing of incumbent operator Eir by various owners, accompanied by years of neglect of the national infrastructure, left rural Ireland behind.
Inaction, inactivity and sheer blundering cost rural Ireland dearly in those crucial early years of broadband.
You could say it was a tale of two countries as urban Ireland got connected and the digital revolution brought massive jobs announcements by players such as Google and Facebook to cities such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway.
But the gap was showing and action was needed.
In 2012, former Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte set in motion the National Broadband Plan (NBP) to bring rural Ireland into the 21st century.
It was supposed to be a costed, clear-cut strategy to sort the mess out for once and for all, and create a lever for broadband operators to serve the countryside. At the end of the process, we may have had a new national broadband provider or State telco.
Ireland was not alone in having distinct geographic and financial roadblocks to deploying this vital infrastructure, and the rest of Europe looked on for some kind of a miracle or way ahead to emerge from these shores.
At least three Ministers for Communication wanted the NBP to happen on their watch – Rabbitte, Alex White and Denis Naughten – but it didn’t. No shovel hit the turf on their watch.
Target years slipped from 2018 to 2019 and now it might be 2021 or 2022 before the last home or business in rural Ireland gets connected.
The political farce that ensued over lunches and meetings between Naughten and American businessman David McCourt, resulting in Naughten’s resignation, was supposed to have come to an end with the publication of Peter Smyth’s report, which exonerated both men of any wrongdoing.
That report was published on 27 November, around two months ago. At the time of the report’s publication, newly appointed Communications Minister Richard Bruton, TD, vowed that the NBP would go ahead. But nothing has been communicated to the public since then, except that the assessment of the final bid, submitted in September, is continuing.
The final bidder on the table is a consortium called National Broadband Ireland, which is led by Granahan McCourt. Firms supplying this consortium include Actavo, Nokia, Kelly Group, KN Group and Enet, which is now owned 100pc by the Irish Infrastructure Fund.
Will the plan go ahead? Will it be changed? Will there be a new bidding process?
At stake is the future livelihoods of thousands of people in rural communities who need this infrastructure.
It can not be an easy decision, nor should it be. It is better that the job is done right and that what emerges is infrastructure a country can be proud of.
The difference between 2001 and now is that there is an appetite for remote working for career, health and lifestyle reasons, and multinationals, SMEs and start-ups are more open to supporting remote workers in order to retain precious talent. Regional towns such as Sligo are becoming a magnet for investment and talent due to infrastructure, a healthy lifestyle and opportunities for work-life balance.
Enabling that talent to go to the regions means more money being spent in the regional economy. It means farms diversifying to become profitable. It means the leaders of tomorrow having the tools to educate themselves.
After more than 18 years since broadband arrived in Ireland, seven years since the NBP was first drawn up, two months since the Smyth report and almost a month into 2019, it is time for the Minister for Communications and his counterpart in the Department of Rural Affairs to start communicating.
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Driving the spurt from 2.3tn (1.5tn) to 4.2tn (2.7tn) will be the rapid rise of mobile internet access. The study, supported by web giant Google, assumes that in four years 3bn people will be using the internet, or nearly 50% of the world's population. The research suggests that the UK is one of the most advanced e-commerce economies. Right now, every year about 200 million people are going online for the very first time. However, traditional internet access via a copper wire and a desktop PC will fade into the background. The rapid fall in the cost of smartphones - with cheap versions now costing about 100 - means that by 2016 about 80% of all internet users will access the web using a mobile phone. The research does not even account for web access using so-called feature phones.
These numbers look impressive, but they are still just a fraction of the global economy. We dont fill empty holes on websites any more, we engage customers Michael Lazerow Chief executive of Buddymedia The search for e-commerce 3.0 In 2010, the internet economy in the G20 group of leading nations was worth 2.3tn - larger than the economies of Italy or Brazil, but a mere 4.1% of the total size of all G20 economies. The Boston Consulting Group researchers speak of the emergence of a "new internet" where: web access will not be a luxury any more the majority of web users will live in emerging markets (within four years, China is expected to be home to 800 million people using the internet; that is more than the United States, India, France, Germany and the UK taken together) about 80% of all internet users will access the web from a mobile the internet will go social, and allow customers and companies to engage with each other
This trend will be coupled with another huge technology shift that will fundamentally change the nature of how to run a business - the rise of the so-called "internet of things", where all kinds of devices from sensors to cars to radiators will be connected to the web. Technology giant IBM estimates that by 2015, one trillion devices will be internet-connected. Online is also reaching into the offline world. The BCG researchers say that every household already researches about $3,000 worth of goods online before buying them in traditional stores. Digital, the researchers say, cannot be an add-on. Businesses have to adapt their people, processes and structures for the digital economy. Paul Zwillenberg of BCG says that entrepreneurs building a digital business are outperforming rivals who do not embrace the web economy. However, what the research fails to capture is the balance of employment between new, more efficient digital companies and old-style businesses
Google, who supported the research, is obviously one of the companies set to gain most from the rapid growth of the internet. "Understanding the economic potential of the web should be an urgent priority for leaders... [with] a powerful case for countries and companies to get online and reap the rewards of an age of data," Patrick Pichette, Google's chief financial officer, says. However, the report suggests that Google will not be the only winner. The researchers identify several "internet ecosystems" that will try to tie users in to their customised part of the internet, among them Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Baidu and Tencent in China and Yandex in Russia.
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The new services will be part of a new ‘fibre-to-the-home’ package that is currently being built in 16 towns around Ireland and is planned for 66 towns around the country. The first towns to get the service will include Kilkenny, Sligo, Letterkenny and Cavan.
Under its plan, Eircom will offer three different services of 150Mbs, 300Mbs and 1,000Mbs each. While it has not yet said how much they will cost, the services will be available to other operators for resale for between €20 and €35 per month.
The trial weve had in Belcarra in County Mayo has been very successful, said Eircom chief executive Richard Moat. We’re going to go to 66 towns with this product
The move is part of a bid to compete with Vodafone and the ESB, which are expected to launch 1,000Mbs fibre broadband services in a number of Irish towns later this year.
At present, Eircoms eFibre broadband services can reach a maximum of 100Mbs. However these services are delivered partly over copper phone lines between a house and a nearby phone cabinet. The companys new fibre services will be piped directly from the network into the home using a fibre connection.
Eircoms fibre-to-the-home move comes as UPC recently increased its top home broadband speed to 240Mbs.
Mr Moat said that 1.1m homes in the country can now access its eFibre service and that it now has over 200,000 customers using an eFibre package.
Ireland recently moved up the international broadband league for the fastest average speeds. However, 700,000 rural homes and businesses remain outside fibre rollout areas and are not expected to be upgraded until the government rolls out its state-subsidised fibre broadband in two years.
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