The world is in a perpetual upgrade cycle driven by advances in all areas of technology. Customers must understand their needs if they are to optimize the cost and performance of their networks when choosing when and what to purchase. The wireless industry faces no shortage of challenges, tradeoffs, and opportunities in 2024. From my perspective, here are the four key themes likely to dominate the industry discussion during the next 12 months.
Economics Will Trump Technology
A new Wi-Fi generation is on the horizon (Wi-Fi 7), but ultimately will take time due to client availability. Don’t expect to see mainstream adoption until late in 2025. In the meantime, the compelling economics, and performance, offered by Wi-Fi 6 will work to the bottom-line benefit of most enterprise users in their quest to improve network performance at a lower price.
The adoption of 6 GHz outdoor fixed wireless will be led by broadband service providers. Mid-band frequency solutions, with a range advantage over higher-frequency solutions, will reduce the total cost of ownership by covering large areas with fewer towers and less equipment. Wider channels that can be used due to the large swath of spectrum will enable higher-speed service plans, including 1 Gbps packages to the home.
AI and Automation
The wider deployment of AI and automation will allow operators to use data from edge elements to offer a measurably higher quality of experience to end users. Cost-efficient service optimization tools with bandwidth shaping, TCP optimization, and application control will enhance performance without requiring additional equipment. AIOps will improve network administrator productivity by discovering issues early and proactively suggesting remediation.
Hybrid Networks Will Become the Name of the Game
Hybrid networks combining fixed wireless and fiber optic access technologies will be the mainstream network architecture for service providers, regardless of the funding model. These hybrid deployments will be found in both rural and suburban areas. Many projects with government funding allocated for fiber will be deployed as a hybrid of fiber infrastructure and wireless edge technology.
Security Is King
Increased cyber attacks from a variety of sources will require more robust, yet cost-efficient, network security. Enterprise networks will lead the way as IT teams and managed service providers (MSP) include vulnerability assessments and fingerprinting IoT devices to deliver core services.
2023 has been challenging for the communications industry and the ecosystem that supports it. As the supply chain improved in the post-pandemic environment, economic challenges have resulted in a slowdown of network spending. However, this is a great time for innovation, as both the industry and government remain steadfast in their commitment to bring advanced technologies to market and build out broadband infrastructure. While performance, security, and simplicity are key factors, we should never lose sight of the fact that economics are more important than ever.
This content appeared in the RCR Wireless Reader Forum