Phil Sorsky, SVP, service providers, CommScope explores what’s expected to disrupt the status quo when it comes to enterprise-grade connectivity

2019 was a transformational year in the telecoms industry. We saw the deployment of shared spectrum, the availability of 5G handsets and services in select cities, an uptick in interest for private networks and the introduction of Wi-Fi 6 certified products. The availability - and uptake - of such technologies have unlocked more choices for enterprises in terms of how they meet increased demands for both capacity and coverage, as well as meet increased end-user expectations.

As we delve deeper into 2020, let’s explore what’s expected to disrupt the status quo when it comes to enterprise-grade connectivity:

Wi-Fi 6 set to become real for vertical players

Shipments of Wi-Fi 6 access points (APs) will increase across multiple and diverse vertical sectors such as healthcare, education and hospitality to support high-bandwidth applications including 4K video, eSports, AR/VR, facial recognition and public safety.

In fact, Wi-Fi 6 APs are expected to represent the majority of access points shipping by this time next year. Multiple Wi-Fi 6 APs deployed in dense device environments can collectively deliver the required quality-of-service to more clients with more diverse usage profiles. This is due to the use of technologies such as orthogonal frequency-division multiple (OFDM) access, multi-user multiple-in multiple-out (MIMO) and target wake time.

Shared spectrum to deliver on real use-cases

A number of European countries, such as Holland, Germany, Sweden and the UK, are looking at local licensing approaches using shared spectrum and cellular-oriented frequencies. Ultimately, leveraging localised access to spectrum in the 3.4 – 3.8 GHz range will enable European enterprises to more easily deploy their own private networks in 2020.

One of the benefits of shared spectrum includes the ability to provide connectivity for industrial buildings in remote or temporary locations such as mining, power plants, factories and warehouses, and we believe that this year will be the proving ground for use cases including industrial IoT and densely populated venues.

Enterprises to deploy private networks to own data

Private networks will be a key option for wireless in 2020, by either network slicing or private LTE networks. The concept of private networks isn’t new, but CBRS and 5G rollouts are making the conversation a little more interesting. As IoT deployments increase, buildings will rapidly become ‘smarter’ from the inside out, IoT devices frequently require the installation of separate networks, straining lean IT departments and raising installation and management costs.

5G to enable ‘true’ IoT

5G has been touted as the best thing since sliced bread – or at least that’s what some would imagine given all the expectations. This year will see wireless operators looking at the bands they’ve acquired through auctions or allocations and making technology decisions to maximise their investments.

Those technology decisions will impact the ability to bring 5G benefits into the building environment to deliver on some of the use cases including IoT, where machine-to-machine communications can enable billions of devices to send short bursts of information to other systems – bringing intelligent buildings and smart cities to life with more efficient operations and new capabilities.

Infrastructure to support new needs

The demand for sufficient bandwidth to support new technologies and the applications they will enable will become even more of a priority this year, with in-building wireless acting as a catalyst for the cyclical upgrade of back-end infrastructure. IT departments engaged in recurring upgrades during 2020 will deploy category 6A cabling, as well as spending time and money bringing in new multi-gigabit switches to support the expected increase in the amount of data and number of devices.

Fibre as the enabler

We’re also set to see a push toward fibre deployments for residential and business services along with servicing wireless backhaul. The focus is on efficient deployment of fibre, and customers are looking for the most cost-effective ways to service the broad application range in the future.

One of the things we’re seeing is a continued push toward fibre-based networks in Europe. We’re seeing a lot of additional drive toward fibre-rich networks, typically passive optical networks (PON), for residential and business services as well as preparation for 5G backhaul. Service providers want to level the playing field, eliminate the digital divide and provide access to all of their customers, and they need to use new technologies like XGS-PON and wave division multiplexing (WDM) to get more out of existing networks.

Ultimately, with the introduction of new technologies such as Wi-Fi 6, the launch of spectrum sharing, the uptick in interest for private networks and the continued rollout of 5G networks - many of which are underpinned by fibre - we’re set to see connectivity change the game in new environments. And this will supercharge experiences for consumers and businesses alike.