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It is clear wireless is now poised to become the leading networking option for many enterprise use cases. It's also clear that advancements in 5G networks, the introduction of edge computing options, the advent of Citizens Band Radio Service and the improvements available with Wi-Fi 6 will gradually change the way networks are built and IT services are delivered.
Below are six wireless networking trends Doyle Research expects will drive mobile operator and enterprise IT architectures in 2020 and beyond.
Mobile edge computing becomes real
While mobile edge computing options were much hyped in the beginning, they are starting to proliferate as suppliers -- both startups and existing -- offer new products and as-a-service offerings. The primary driver for edge computing is the growth of IoT applications with large data sets and low latency requirements. These IoT applications need compute processing and storage near where the information is gathered -- i.e., edge computing -- instead of transporting this information to faraway centralized data centers.
A few of the leading use cases for edge computing include smart grid, oil and gas monitoring, traffic management, remote video processing, and manufacturing monitoring and analytics.
Vendors to watch: EdgeConneX, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Saguna, Vapor IO, VMware and Volterra
5G dynamic spectrum sharing
Spectrum limitations have slowed the rollout of 5G services in many countries, including the U.S. and much of Europe. Dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) is a new technology that enables mobile operators to offer 4G and 5G services over the same band of spectrum. This enables operators to quickly respond to bandwidth demands by allocating spectrum on various services -- i.e., 4G vs. 5G -- on their network. DSS requires software upgrades to both the radio access network (RAN) and 5G.
Vendors to watch: Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Networks
The migration to 5G requires operators to deploy large numbers of new base stations for geographic coverage and to deliver high-speed bandwidth with low latency. Three large suppliers -- Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Networks -- have traditionally dominated the large RAN market, combining for more than $35 billion per year, according to Doyle Research. Proponents of Open RAN hope to break this supplier monopoly by enabling new suppliers and, ultimately, radically reducing prices. Open RAN is designed to run on lower-cost commodity hardware.
Vendors to watch: Altiostar, JMA Wireless, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless
CBRS drives private cellular networks
Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS, is another emerging wireless networking trend. CBRS is a repurposed band of unlicensed spectrum recently cleared for commercial use in the U.S. Enterprises can deploy CBRS in select geographic areas -- e.g., mining, large warehouses or manufacturing -- to enable their own private 4G, and soon 5G, networks. This enables enterprises to control the quality of service (QoS) and ensure the security of the devices and applications. Most organizations will deploy CBRS as the WAN connection to local LAN routers, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which will connect the individual IoT devices.
Vendors to watch: Cambium Networks, Celona, Cradlepoint, JMA Wireless, Motorola and Ruckus Networks
Wireless SD-WAN with 5G
Organizations spend in excess of $40 billion per year on traditional wired WAN services -- including MPLS, Ethernet, internet, cable and even T1 -- to connect their data centers and remote branch offices. The availability of high-speed wireless data services, such as 4G LTE and 5G, provides new competition in the managed business services market. 5G services are as fast or faster than most wired WAN services and can be rapidly provisioned, often in a day.
Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) provides intelligent traffic management across various applications and multiple WAN links. It enables wireless data services to become part of a hybrid WAN services strategy -- likely with MPLS and internet -- to improve reliability. 4G and 5G offer organizations the option to migrate to wireless-only WAN connectivity, especially for mobile locations -- e.g., pop-up stores -- and smaller branch offices.
Vendors to watch: Leading SD-WAN providers, leading wireless operators and managed service providers
Wi-Fi 6 in the enterprise
Wi-Fi remains the dominant method of connecting PC, tablets, phones and other devices in the enterprise. Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, is the latest upgraded version of the venerable Wi-Fi standard, which offers improved performance and enables QoS for critical applications. It increases the number of devices that can simultaneously connect to a single Wi-Fi access point and adds features to improve the battery life of IoT devices, such as Wake on wireless LAN. Wi-Fi 6 is designed to better serve densely populated zones, such as stadiums, hotels and convention centers.
Vendors to watch: Aruba Networks, Cisco, Juniper Networks and Ruckus Networks