We talk often about how the business world has gone mobile. You can see it everywhere, in any office you walk into. Employees are on their smartphones talking with customers, texting colleagues or chatting with partners. They are downloading apps onto their tablets or sitting in conference rooms meeting via video conferences with others who may be many miles away. Stroll through a hospital or the floor of a manufacturing company, and there are myriad devices connected to the internet, communicating with each other and sending massive amounts of data back and forth. They’re all part of the fast-growing internet of things (IoT), which, within the next few years, will be comprised of tens of billions of devices, systems, and sensors all tied to each other.
This trend toward mobility in the workplace was really more of a sprint, kicked off by Apple’s release of the first iPhone in 2007 and accelerated three years later by the launch of the iPad. Other mobile device makers followed suit with their own smartphones and tablets, and quickly these consumer devices found their way into the work environment. It was the BYOD movement, with people realizing that all the benefits they were getting from their smartphones in their personal lives – ease of use, fast access to the internet, thousands of apps that make their lives easier – could make them more productive and efficient at work. The mobile revolution is sweeping the workplace, and will only ramp up as Millennials, Gen Z, and the younger generation behind them – all of whom came of age at a time of constant connectivity– become a larger percentage of the global workforce.
Enabling all this is cellular connectivity. As more business is conducted over wireless devices between people across the globe, reliable connectivity is a must. We spend a lot of time in the trenches working to make sure that we bring that crucial in-building coverage to businesses, and with the holidays just around the corner, it’s a good time to reflect on the past year – how the industry has changed and how technologies have developed. A lot of good has happened in the cellular market. Here are a few that we are thankful for.
The launch of Apple’s iPhone X: It’s always a good time for the mobile industry when Apple releases a new iPhone. The event may not create the hours-long lines of anxious buyers it once did, but it’s always exciting to see the new features and capabilities the company engineers into the device, with many reflecting their growing use in business. With the iPhone X, that includes the introduction of FaceID, a sensor technology that uses the TrueDepth camera that captures and analyzes the expressions of the user, and then projects them into a real-time dynamic emoji. FaceID represents a significant step by Apple into the burgeoning augmented reality (AR) space that has become a focus of other top-tier tech companies, including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. AR will be a highly disruptive and desirable business technology, and Apple has given us a glimpse of how it can be achieved on a mobile device. Even more significant AR capabilities are coming to iPhones in 2019, and they’re going to need reliable, fast connectivity. We’ll be ready.
Zeroing in on 5G: In many respects, the transition from 3G to 4G networks is still just getting underway, but businesses and carriers are already eying the upcoming 5G revolution. And with good reason. By 2020 there will be as many as 50 billion connected devices worldwide, and video will continue to grow as a percentage of the wireless traffic stream. In addition, emerging technologies like virtual reality, AR, autonomous cars and machine-to-machine (M2M) traffic will quickly become mainstream. 5G, the next generation in cellular connectivity, promises speeds 10 to 100 times faster than current 4G LTE, significantly less latency, 100 times the devices supported, and better power efficiency. And it’s just around the corner. Carriers like AT&T and Verizon are looking at mobile 5G coming in 2019, while a broad array of tech companies, from the telcos to the chip makers, are pushing ahead with new innovations and tests. Qualcomm just released results of the tests with ZTE and China Mobile on the upcoming 5G NR standard, and Intel this month came out with new commercial 5G radio modems. With 5G, mobile devices will be much faster, and users will be able to do much more with them.
Virtualizing the network: A key to what mobility will look like in the coming years is the work carriers are doing with software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV). Carriers like AT&T and Verizon all have network virtualization plans well underway, which will make their networks more flexible and cost-efficient. The networks will be able to shift traffic automatically based on demand, and operators will be able to spin out quicker mobile services for their customers. Certain parts of the networks, currently physically present on sites, will move into the cloud, simplifying sites and allowing better use of pooled network resources. And, yes, these virtualized, software-centric networks will be able to better support the coming 5G. AT&T has its targets set on virtualizing 75 percent of its network by 2020, and took a step in that direction this summer when announcing plans to buy Brocade’s SDN Vyatta portfolio. Verizon continues to roll out a range of network services that can run on its new white-box appliances or in the Amazon Web Services cloud, which will help drive adoption.
The end result will be a higher number of faster mobile services being delivered by operators and used by consumers and businesses alike, with the cellular networks remaining the critical link between the two.
These are only a few of the things happening in the cellular market that we are thankful for this season. They will continue to drive the demand for mobility in the business world, which in turn will fuel the need for even greater and more reliable cellular connectivity. That’s something we can all get behind.