Wireless Growth and the Evolution of Carriers and Service Providers

Carl Weinschenk
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Reimagining Business and Tech in the Digital Age

Yesterday, I wrote about a trend that will likely have an indirect but significant effect on the business telecommunications landscape. The apparent traction being gained by ultra-high definition and 4K technology will affect the way the carriers and service providers upon which businesses rely roll out services, both physically and from the marketing perspectives.

A similar and even more significant change in the status quo is suggested by a survey released this week by the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA). The survey found that 20 percent of people rely solely on wireless Internet, even in their homes, according to The Hill.

So more people are relying more heavily on wireless for broadband and voice communications, and that trend is apparent in business as well. The faster speeds and greater reliability being achieved by wireless connectivity are leading businesses to eschew wired connections to some or all of an office. The differences between wired and wireless connectivity are fading and, as they do, wireless tends to become the first choice.

The parallel trend is that the quality and variety of short-range wireless is growing. That makes sense: There is a lot of money in the air and a lot of smart people are trying to grab it.

One example is WiGig. The standard, more formally known as 802.11ad, is set to grow. EE Times reports that WiGig:

…is poised to be an essential enabling technology with the increase in bandwidth demanded by applications such as gaming and HD video streaming. Launched by the Wireless Gigabit Alliance back in 2009, it is a step change from the 802.11 evolution we have witnessed over the last few years, adding a new 60 GHz frequency band to the mix of 2.4 and 5 GHz offerings.

The reality is that more and more data is moving around homes and offices and people don’t want to (or can’t) reach everywhere with cables and wires. This trend has been building for years. As technology and demands increase, the importance of wireless disproportionately increases. We may be approaching a tipping point.

Another wireless standard that is set to thrive is ZigBee (IEEE 802.15.4). This week, Technavio released a report that says ZigBee will enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 67 percent from this year to 2020. The high number is due in part to the small universe at the start. Still, it is impressive growth.

The major takeaway is that the way in which people use technology, on one hand, and the rollout/deployment of that technology, on the other, are synergistic. The speed, sophistication and robustness of ZigBee, WiGig and other protocols almost too numerous to mention are freeing service providers and carriers from the need to worry about how to ferry signals around homes and offices. This is removing limitations in in-home or in-office wiring as a gating factor in the rollout of bandwidth-hungry services and, in the process, allowing coverage to be ubiquitous.

The trend works for consumers and businesses. It is also a good thing for carriers/service providers. It frees them to focus on elements deeper in the network, where they almost certainly are more comfortable anyway.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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