With lingering effects of the COVID pandemic, 2021 was a difficult year. We correctly predicted that remote work was not going away, and that people would migrate out of the congested city centers. We also predicted a growth in private broadband networks. On the technology front, we foresaw that millimeter wave technology would have an impact on city centers, which is starting to appear. Our miss was that spectrum sharing as in the case of CBRS outside of the USA did not happen as soon as we had stated.
2022 will see continued demand for high performance wireless broadband driving the deployment of hybrid wireless/wired networks for service provider and enterprise private networks. Adoption of Wi-Fi 6 technology and the opening up of the 6 GHz frequency bands will drive rapid adoption. Specifically:
- Hybrid networks (combination of fixed wireless and wired) will become the mainstream network architecture, regardless of funding model – not just in rural areas but in suburban and urban as well. It’s simply a matter of economics (when it can be wireless, it will be wireless) and time to deployment (we can’t wait years for wired networks).
- Wi-Fi 6 adoption will grow exponentially, pushed by the shortages in Wi-Fi 5 chipsets, and fueled by iPhone 12/13 adoption. Also, most Wi-Fi 5 based access points will be discontinued (End of Life announced) during 2022. Intelligent and connected home devices will continue to proliferate, continuing to drive demand for bandwidth.
- National, state and local government connectivity will grow. Smart city / safe city applications will remain front and center for every municipal government. Healthcare applications will continue to propel the need for increased bandwidth. As such, the challenging terrain will drive many network extensions to be wireless.
- Adoption of 6 GHz will be fast with brief Proof of Concept (PoC) trials which are well underway.
- Millimeter wave adoption will be rapid as network operators have more options in 60 GHz and 5G Fixed 28 GHz frequency bands. For both service providers and enterprises, hybrid networks of 5G, fiber, fixed 5G, and fixed wireless technologies will provide increased end user capacity and reliability while delivering a solid business case.
In 2022, we’ll continue to experience some of the most profound changes we saw in the past year, including new spectrum allocations and supply chain challenges. There will also be continued increasing demand for high-speed connectivity at home to meet the needs of remote work, distance learning, better entertainment and fulfilling the dream of a smarter home. But one thing remains true. Technology innovation in the wireless space will continue to accelerate in 2022 to bring more affordable high-speed internet to more locations to improve communities.