For more than 20 years there have been rumblings in the industry that wireless technology will be replaced with 2G, 3G, 4G, 4G LTE and 5G. This will never happen: wireless networks will always have a place in the marketplace.
One of the misconceptions, especially for those who are not familiar with today’s wireless technology, is its reliability. However, we know – and can prove – that it far outshines other technologies.
Wireless technology has come a long way. Ten to 15 years ago it was less reliable and users reluctantly chose the wireless route because it was the only option available to them, and it was affordable – they operated on the premise that it would be quickly replaced with new technology. However, the evolution of wireless has gone full circle and there are now a number of examples where it has become the preferred – and best – connectivity solution for a variety of projects.
Wireless is no longer regarded as the temporary solution by default to deploy a customer’s network requirements faster and on budget. Companies would previously look for a universal solution – a technology addressing all their networking needs (for example WiMax*, which is still being used in certain parts of the world). However, today we know that an ubiquitous solution is not necessarily the best solution. What we see now is that once competing technologies (such as 3G, LTE and 5G) are being used together, because they are each suited to very specific applications.
We now also know that the success of a network – regardless of its size – is how the different technologies (both wireless and wired) coexist in the same infrastructure ecosystem.
Of course, the customer’s needs have also changed. Some 30 years ago networks were using GSM. However, things have moved on and today it is all about data. We have moved away from an era where a small amount of data will suffice, to an era where consumers are hungry for data – regardless of the technology platform or the cost, for that matter.
For this reason, we have seen a huge uptake in the deployment of wireless networks. The key advantage over wired networks is geography – the landscape. In many countries – including South Africa – there really is no other option but to use wireless: an alternative would be satellite, but it is often prohibitive due to the high price tag.
Wired networks are also plagued with cable theft, which remains a global issue and is incredibly disruptive for users who expect uninterrupted coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The key demands for the future are being driven by the Internet of Things (IoT) where your fridge will be connected to your mobile, to your car or to just about everything you can think of. How do you achieve this using cables? With great difficulty.
Products are already being developed to meet the needs of the future – taking physics to its limit and beyond to provide the capacity that will be required by users. A user today may be satisfied with 2Mbps for Internet access, but that will need to be multiplied by at least ten to deliver on the user’s network (wireless and wired) connectivity demands.
Another key aspect which will become more prominent is latency – the time it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to another. This is particularly important when it comes to downloading video content and making voice calls, and is an area where wireless is the superior technology. It is particularly effective for homeland security, face and number plate recognition.
Despite the fact that all technologies are developing at a very fast rate, the allocation of spectrum remains a challenge. The truth of the matter is that there is only a certain amount of spectrum available and the lower frequencies – where it is easiest to deploy wireless networks – are heavily congested.
By Dmitry Okorokov