In a nutshell, the wireless industry keeps on getting broader and more bifurcated. This is the main trend that has been around for years and that will not stop. Communication is becoming truly pervasive. Opportunities and confusion are intermingled. To understand it all, one needs to cut across wider breadth and dive into greater depth to separate hype from reality. This is a challenge all in its own. Separating the real from the fake is harder than ever!
In this year’s edition, some of my observations are:
* More than ever one needs to step back and define a term, idea, concept to establish a level set… The list of acronyms continues to explore as the industry sucks in adjacencies.
* Don’t discount the down. The space is too dynamic to count any one out (applies to the likes of Nokia, and should I venture to say Blackberry?).
* 5G is here! I mean is the hype machine has started so expect at least 6 more years of press releases, conferences, workshops, etc.! For the people doing standards works, I hope it will not divert you too much from your current work on future LTE releases.
* Undeniable growth in M2M but I wonder about the 50 billion connected devices by 2020 as Ericsson has been claiming for years… How will that impact future evolution and deployment of new technology with so much connected legacy devices?
* Small cells this year, small cells last year, small cells next year… Where are the deployments? That is not my question, but what the players are asking!!! The number of vendors is increasing with better integration with core solutions: that’s where the differentiation is!
* Small cell backhaul: next generation solutions for all vendors. But watch out: the longer deployments of outdoor small cells drag out, the higher the bar will be. This will help focus the market on a few solutions and vendors by default. Also, don’t discount copper!
* Cloud RAN is here! Multiple demonstrations by the likes of China Mobile, SK Telekom, and others have shown that Cloud RAN is not just a Powerpoint presentation… The software base station is here!
* This brings me to SDN – the virtualization of the core is well underway but the speed to which it will migrate to the edge will be a topic of debate and anticipation. Stay tuned!
* LTE-Advanced functions are here and actively demonstrated by vendors (carrier aggregation, CoMP and many other features). The many twists on specifications, which are allowed and possible as standards define interfaces better than they do functionality, makes me wonder on the future carrier-vendor dynamics and intra-vendor dynamics in HetNets and multi-vendor networks which will be bound to get more complicated.
* TD-LTE is more serious than ever and emerging as a real alternative for operators with WiMAX TDD spectrum. What’s needed is the investment funding and sound strategy. Of course, a few more vendors into the ecosystem mix will help in raising confidence.
* 60 GHz baseband solutions solutions from at least 4 different companies were present in force. They have been a main attention grabber, and interestingly backhaul is the highlighted application. Beamforming is one of the features differentiating the solutions. This will be a space for much creativity and innovation similar to the ISM bands.
* Data Analytics is almost everywhere, not the least by NSN’s pre-show announcement of predictive capacity outage capability. This is one area where I think reality can meet the hype, so I’ll be watching.
* Finally, with so much marketing hype, my request to all vendors is to: stop using marketing buzz words that don’t apply to your products, it’s more respectful of your audience and paints you in a better light; don’t wrap up demos with a lot of useless fluff and time fillers – we are all busy so we can be on our way and you get to talk less; and don’t bother with much written text, no one has the attention span to read what you write (until perhaps after the show if they remember to get back to it)!