It’s that time of year again. It’s time to look back and forward on the networking industry and, in particular, my area of expertise: wireless networking technology. This year, like the past years, I have some predictions. But I would also like to focus on a wish list regarding trends in wireless networking technology.
As a technology analyst, I look at voluminous amounts of data and synthesize a rational and justifiable prediction of the future. I also highlight what is missing among wireless networking trends.
As an example of my early days in wireless networking technology coverage, I wanted an inexpensive, portable, license-free band spectrum analyzer. A few years later, I received one. Today, spectrum analyzers remain the best way to diagnose problems with Wi-Fi and other wireless systems at the physical level. These devices are essential for the wireless toolbox of any organization or service provider.
The same goes for the centralized control and management of Access points (AP), wireless analytics, AI, machine learning and many other technologies. Ask – or perhaps predict with a high level of certainty – and you will receive.
So here we go: demands and forecasts for wireless networks trends in 2019:
1. Millimeter waves
Frequencies above 30GHz – and especially the much of the unlicensed spectrum around 60GHz – remain underutilized today, which is a shame due to the vast potential here. Component prices have fallen and ease of use has improved. I still have high hopes for 802.11ad and its successor, .11ay, which could lead to 100 Gbit / s wireless local networks.
But expect to see a bunch of point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, and mesh fixed services next year and possibly 5G mobile services. Spectrum is the wireless highway, and we cannot afford to ignore any road as traffic volumes continue to increase.
2. Integrated performance assessment and management tools
This one is driving me crazy. I want to measure the performance of a given link between a Wi-Fi client and an access point, but there is no way to do it. I need a benchmarking server built into the access point to eliminate the need to go through the access point, through another link, and into a server, thus introducing more variables. It seems obvious, and yet it remains to be invented. I hereby put all patent rights in the public domain and have my credit card ready.
3. System-independent edge-to-core analyzes
Analytics, increasingly based on AI and machine learning, are essential. Networks today are simply too complex for mere mortals to understand, configure, optimize, and troubleshoot, all while maintaining ROI. We need analytics that run across the network and across products from multiple vendors. In other words, we need end-to-end analytics. But it is a difficult problem to solve, just like unified management between suppliers has been. However, we need it, and someone is going to do very well here over the next few years.
4. One-stop wireless security as a service
No one is ever done with security; it’s always evolving. And since the range of potential threats will remain vast, an end-to-end cloud service might be the best way to address this challenge. We’re making progress here, but, again, we’re never done. Therefore, my wish for 2019 is simpler: that every organization, everywhere in the world, has a solid, published and supported security policy. I am amazed at how many organizations do not.
5. Services independent of the operator
I know nobody wants to be the big jerk, but someone has to. Ideally, several some would. A competitive market improves performance, reliability and availability, while reducing costs. Of course, carriers will continue to insist on added value, and that is great. But ultimately all services must be independent from the carriers.
Think about it: you’re buying broadband access from an operator, which is a data plan with an IP address, but your phone number – a service in addition to IP – is somewhere else. The same goes for multiple mobile personas, unified communications, and just about every other networking and communication service.
6. “Get smart” replaces “get more” for network performance issues
Historically, the strategy for addressing performance issues, such as system-wide capacity, has been to move to the next generation of technologies, such as 10, 100, or 1000 Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11b / g / n / ac / ax. And that’s good, but the most important trend going forward will be to apply more intelligence and not brute force. Consider, for example, AI, machine learning, anything software-defined, and network function virtualization.
Over time, networks are predominantly implemented in software, with less specialized equipment. These networks should have more flexibility and adaptability thanks to software running on efficient and inexpensive processors. We are already seeing, for example, key elements of 5G networks implemented as software running on standard commercial computers and open source operating systems. And we’ll see a lot more of it on virtually every network, everywhere.
Keeping up with emerging trends in wireless networking is an exciting area of networking that is always innovative, complex, rapidly evolving and, most importantly, fun. I wish you all the best for your wireless networking efforts in the New Year.