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[Image Credit: http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/10/introducing-workplace-by-facebook/]

Only 10 years ago we were talking about online collaboration and calling it the ‘Wireless Village’ It was powered by SIP data transfer and it was going to revolutionise the way that people interacted remotely with each other, files, games and machines.

Except it didn’t really work. Not because the technology was at fault, but because the infrastructure at the time couldn’t support the information load and there weren’t the apps to power the user experience.

This promise of always online, always connected interaction was visionary for its time. In demo it looked the business, we could access large files, exchange data across the world and run our business from our mobiles.

Except it didn’t catch on. It was expensive. Not the hardware or limited apps that were available, but the data backbone needed to carry the data was being charged by packet size and frequency. Even though the technology behind the data transfer was revolutionary at the time, the data carriers only revenue model was to charge for every Mb being consumed.

More recently we have seen the channel start to look at data in a very different way. Fibre connectivity is now the backbone to every service that a business requires. Everything else is evolving into something that can be delivered as a service. Voice, banking, applications, platforms, billing. When companies such as Google and Facebook invest as much money into business collaboration as they have been doing the channel should take note. Microsoft’s launch of Office 365, turning what was a CapEx item into a monthly subscription per user, was a response to changes in the way that businesses work the world over. Google’s suite of online applications, free at the point of consumption is another.

Now we have Workplace by Facebook. A secure, always online collaboration tool that operates on a subscription basis that is completely oblivious to how your business connects to the outside world. Mobile? No problem. ADSL? Slow, will take a while, video calling probably won’t be very good, but sure, why not. Gigabit fibre? Now you’re talking.

The channel is facing the possibility that voice as a service, hosted, on premise, or SIP will start to feel the pinch of secure, high quality, global collaboration products. Big players such as BT and IDC have telegraphed that these changes are happening as we speak and that by 2020 these products will be mainstream.

The Wireless Village may be closer than we think.