A view from the top: what will 2016 bring?

Now the year is coming to an end, we took the opportunity to speak with Ian Langley, our VP and General Manager, about what he predicts 2016 could bring for us and the industry…

 

Validation

For the last two years the industry’s focus has been firmly placed on 5G, with speculation centring on the impact the new protocol may have and potential timeframes for deployment. Next year, progress is likely to move along more quickly as technical definitions mature, leading to a more informed conversation on the potential use cases.

The research currently underway at initiatives such as the 5GIC at Surrey University is already making a very significant contribution to this and further UK-led developments are likely to be made at various stages during the next year.

Building on the breakthroughs being made in the UK and internationally, we anticipate MWC to be a hotbed of debate around the issue with a range of demonstrations illustrating the exciting future of communications brought about by the introduction of 5G.

The majority of the applications for 5G are still in the concept phase, but they will be coming thick and fast over the next decade. Although we are unlikely to see many ‘finished articles’ next year, thorough testing and validation of new concepts and innovations will begin in earnest.

While conceptually the conversations of 2016 may be centred around 5G, in terms of physical devices the landscape will likely be dominated by the IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (Machine to Machine) applications showcasing the exciting new telecoms world almost upon us. Central to the success of these innovations – from connected cars to smart fridges – is the thorough validation required to ensure they talk to the network and each other exactly as they should. If first-to-market products suffer from technical difficulties, the public and businesses may be reluctant to embrace future developments with the same vigour.

From a day-to-day operational perspective, one of the most pertinent challenges to be faced by some operators is the switching of some functionality to a virtualised network infrastructure. Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) offers a platform for agile operators to both launch new services for customers and improve margins through reduced OPEX spend.

Following extensive virtualised testing this year, we expect to see operators ahead in the testing cycle potentially begin limited service roll-out in 2016, while those early in the development phase will step up their validation-drive using pooled shared test assets.

 

Coverage

Universal cellular coverage is now seen as a utility, with consumers expecting the full range of services to be available wherever they are. This demand has intensified with the popularity of LTE, which now has an excellent outdoor footprint across many countries. However, there remains a problem enabling this coverage inside of buildings. During 2016, we expect a wider number of stakeholders to take a role in expanding coverage provision for their customers.

In addition to this consumer pressure, as consolidation in the telecoms market continues and the number of operators per market decreases, we are likely to see increased focus on the coverage issue from regulators looking to ensure the remaining providers are meeting the coverage requirements set out in their licencing agreements.

Although regulator attention will likely be on rural areas, consumer pressure is likely to be firmly focused on urban issues such as the vast number of indoor ‘not-spots’ and coverage problems in outdoor areas of dense activity such as transport hubs and stadia. Operators will be forced to take action, but they may not have to take the financial impact alone.

During recent months we have seen a growing appetite from facilities owners and managers to take their own decisive action regarding indoor coverage issues by provisioning their own venues. Sometimes this is in partnership with their local carriers, but often this is a private project for the benefit of their own customers. Following the lead of many stadia companies who have installed their own DAS deployments, 2016 will be the year indoor cellular coverage becomes a major marketing tool for facilities managers and owners of venues where operators are failing to provision services themselves.

We can expect multi-use complexes, shopping centres, transport hubs and high-end apartment blocks to heavily promote these to tenants, easing the strain on operators to improve indoor coverage themselves and providing better indoor cellular coverage for their customers.

 

Contact Us

 

Ian Langley Ian Langley has over 25 years’ experience in the wireless industry. He began his career in an engineering role with British Aerospace, and then moved to Marconi Instruments, which later became IFR, Aeroflex, and most recently part of Cobham. He became Engineering Manager of Aeroflex’s Stevenage site in 2006, and has been VP/GM of the wireless business unit (now Cobham Wireless) since 2010. Mr Langley has an MBA from the University of Hertfordshire and a HND in Engineering.

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