In a fast-moving industry, it is vitally important to anticipate demand and changes. How did we do? Let’s first review our predictions for 2017 and share our views on what is coming with respect to Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) in 2018.
- A basic human need across the world—broadband connectivity.
We noted that affordability will be a key driver and that governments and key players will seek to connect the unconnected. Broadband was, still is, and will continue to be a basic human need not just for learning, entertainment and social purposes but also for managing small business, emergency services, access to government, health care, and daily life.
- Wireless—the preferred connectivity solution.
We asserted that wireless will be the preferred connectivity solution and that advancements in technology will continue to provide higher throughput at lower cost. While it is unclear whether the cost of equipment has gone down, certainly the cost per bit has been reduced as equipment capacity has increased.
- An insatiable need for speed.
Maybe this one was too obvious. Our observation that all network users will continue to need high-speed throughput to carry video and virtual reality content was certainly borne out in developments in 2017.
- A greater demand for technology convergence.
Our predictions of high-speed data access in the last 400 meters at the network edge and long-range links to transport aggregated bulk data were demonstrated in the adoption of IIoT networks that deliver field data to data centers.
- Machine learning—transcending analytics to deliver true insights.
Data science and machine learning will be key to ensuring that information is relevant to diagnose and resolve field issues.
- Increasing deployment of FWA
This will be occurring in developing communities of major markets, as governments seek to level the economic and educational playing field for all citizens and in secondary markets, as part of the digital agenda of countries seeking to “catch up” economically, educationally, in health care, and in overall quality of life. As governments realize their responsibility to connect citizens, these deployments need to be cost- effective to make business sense by driving the cost per bit delivered down. Public Wi-Fi will move from a luxury to an expectation. Public areas like parks, schools, commuter stations and event venues are providing connectivity to meet the demand.
- The 5G milestone
In 2018 we expect the first standard to be published specifying a radio waveform which will meet the IMT-2020 5G requirements. This is the 3GPP LTE system release 15, implementations of which will rely on technologies like synchronized TDD, LDPC, high-order MIMO and smart antennas, all of which are already provided in shipping Cambium products. While there is a loss of FWA frequency bands to 5G, we have seen spectral efficiency increases through the greater use of MU-MIMO technology. For example, by deploying our new cnMedusa Access Point, the cost per Mbps goes down. In 2017, many of Cambium’s service provider customers achieved a 150% throughput increase, for a cost increase of 18%.
- Larger, more established service providers to represent an increasing portion of FWA deployments
Fixed line providers are looking to increase broadband throughput and reduce the maintenance cost of copper lines. Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) enables them to achieve both aims, and the current range of technology ensures that the investments in subscribers are future-proofed. As the deployment of FWA grows within larger, more established service providers, the demands for more robust management systems and back office integration will continue to move to the front and center in equipment assessment and vendor selection. In addition to providing a connectivity pipe, service providers will establish themselves as Managed Service Provider (MSP) experts, addressing the planning, provisioning and management of edge-access network systems.
- Consolidation among service providers
Consolidation will accelerate in 2018. Founders of small WISPs can expect the benefits of consolidation as long as they have designed their network to use equipment which enables growth potential. The consolidation is likely to be multinational but localized within continents.
- Artificial Intelligence and network engineering staff
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will make the job of network administration easier and more efficient – but its’ full promise is a few years away. The need for trained RF technicians and engineers will continue to grow as more enterprises and service providers seek out these skills. Network engineers are expected to manage larger networks and provide higher value services assisted by management systems that provide more sophisticated analytics and machine learning that helps provide first-level analysis of network status. At all levels of the organization, employees will need to understand the basics of IP-based networking. To help young people learn about networking technology, we launched Cambium College in 2017, and we look forward to sharing knowledge with people new to the industry in 2018.