In an IDC report from 2012, analyst Matt Davis, director of consumer and SMB telecom services, reported that “The enormous growth in end-user demand for both fixed and mobile broadband services is staggering … Fixed and mobile operators will have to deal with a new reality that will tax network resources to the limit and perhaps past the limit.” 

According to this same report, IDC predicted that between 2012-2015 broadband traffic over fixed networks could grow 50 percent every year over those three years, while traffic over mobile networks could essentially double every year. 

The question is, where are we today and what do we need to do to prepare for the network of tomorrow? Today, mobile and fixed traffic have grown significantly but not quite at the rates IDC predicted. According to a report from Ericsson released this summer, traffic from 2012-2013 doubled, and growth through the end of 2014 looks to be about 65 percent. It also notes that fixed data traffic has about a 25 percent compounded annual rate of growth (CAGR) between 2013 and 2019. Cisco also downgraded the rate of mobile traffic growth it projected in its annual Visual Networking Index, the latest edition of which was released in February 2014, and noted a relatively tame 20 percent growth in fixed Internet from 2013 to 2018. 

Does this mean that we in networking can rest on our laurels? Certainly not, but it is heartening to see that network innovation is keeping pace with what can still be fairly described as staggering growth.

Even with seemingly inexhaustible end-user demand being driven by the constant evolution of bandwidth hungry apps and performance-enhanced devices, we have not yet hit the limit. And it seems undeniable that as technology becomes more efficient, has greater processing power and new algorithms are realized, we will continue to herald breakthroughs that we never thought possible even just a few years ago. Without this innovation the millions who watch streaming video and upload high-definition photos, not to mention monitor busy intersections with video surveillance or check in on post-op patients over fixed and mobile networks wouldn’t be possible today. 

A combination of wireless approaches to connectivity has enabled people to live ever-more mobile lives dependent on seamless, high-quality connectivity, particularly in remote, under-served or RF-constrained areas where this has been difficult to come by. Network architectures to consider include unlicensed fixed indoor wireless access, or WiFi, licensed mobile wireless access, which is everything from 2G through LTE, and unlicensed and licensed fixed outdoor wireless access, purpose-built networks designed to serve a particular area to the customer’s specifications. 

Wireless Broadband Segment Access Technology

Market Growth

Unlicensed Fixed Indoor Wireless Access

WiFi: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

2012: 5.2 million hotspots

2018: 10.5 million hotspots

12% CAGR (2012-2018)

Source: Wireless Broadband Alliance

Licensed Mobile Wireless Access

GSM, WCDMA, TD-SCDMA, HDSPA, LTE

2012: 6.5 billion connections

2018: 8.1 billion connections

4% CAGR (2012-2018)

Source: Ovum

Unlicensed and Licensed Fixed Outdoor Wireless Access

LMDS, WiMAX, Fixed LTE, non-3GPP fixed wireless access

2012: 29 million subscribers

2018: 41 million subscribers

6% CAGR (2012-2018)
Source: Ovum

All are projected to grow through 2018, bolstering the thought that whatever type of network you are on is dependent on where you are and what works for that particular situation: 

  • Unlicensed fixed indoor wireless access – Valuable in providing a consistent experience for end users while reducing congestion in the macro-cell network
  • Licensed mobile wireless access – Used daily by anyone with a mobile device; major source of revenue for service providers
  • Unlicensed and licensed fixed outdoor wireless access – A complement or alternative to fixed LTE deployments, and helping hand to service providers who don’t have the option of purchasing more spectrum or extending wireline networks, in pushing network boundaries to new places and delivering new applications

Given the latter’s unique ability to bridge the needs of mobile network “cord cutters”, those who use the mobile network for bandwidth-intensive applications more suitable for broadband networks, and fixed subscribers, we predict that it will grow more than 6 percent over the next few years.

Regardless of how end users get online, what service providers must have in their networks is equipment capable of symmetrical and configurable uplink and downlink ratios. Moreover, as traffic and rich media continue to explode due to the aforementioned applications and scores more, networks are evolving to adapt to consumers as content creators and not just consumers of data, the demand  and need for symmetric traffic patterns, heightened security measures, lower latency and hence real time performance are must-haves in today’s networks.

Looking to the next step in network evolution: Frictionless coordination among hybrid networks, devices and cloud-based intelligent apps, is what will enable the next layer of efficiency. This architectural thinking will deliver an end-to-end solution, for which industry standards already are emerging; Cambium Networks is focused on this next phase and pinpointing areas of improvement so networks of the future can handle the growing demands of mobile and cloud. When this integration among technologies pervades, a breakthrough will have been achieved, and analysts and tech pundits can focus less on predicting data growth patterns and more on what these heightened efficiencies will net the world.

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