The only constant in wireless communication is change

The striking pace of innovation in telecommunications continues at an unabated pace. The last twenty years alone has completely transformed how voice communication is conducted, and the exciting possibilities in telecommunications offer a future filled with better quality, faster speeds and safer transfers of data. Wireless technology is ever-evolving – read on to learn where this transformative communication came from, and more […]

The striking pace of innovation in telecommunications continues at an unabated pace. The last twenty years alone has completely transformed how voice communication is conducted, and the exciting possibilities in telecommunications offer a future filled with better quality, faster speeds and safer transfers of data. Wireless technology is ever-evolving – read on to learn where this transformative communication came from, and more importantly, where it’s going.

Standing on the shoulders of giants 

The origins of wireless communication technology can be traced to the 1860s (not including the ancient practice of using pigeons, or Paul Reuter, who successfully used pigeons to share stock prices between Paris and Berlin in the mid-1800s), when James Clerk Maxwell first proposed his theory of electromagnetic radiation to the Royal Society of London. Twenty years later, Maxwell’s theory was confirmed by Heinrich Hertz, who proved the existence of electromagnetic waves and built a device – a spark gap transmitter – that could be considered the world’s first radio. While Hertz was sceptical about the use of his discovery, Guglielmo Marconi was not, and in 1867 formed the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Co. Ltd, the world’s first commercial enterprise dedicated to wireless technology.  

Marconi was not alone in pursuing the development of wireless technology. Ferdinand Braun’s work modifying circuits meant that it would be possible to produce intense waves with little damping, meaning that oscillations from transmitting stations, as a result of resonance, could exert maximum strength on receiving stations, which made long-distance telegraphy possible. For their work, Marconi and Braun were jointly awarded the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics. 112 years later, the possibilities unleashed by these men are extraordinary. 

Frequencies – a wide range for divergent purposes

A frequency is, simply, a wave in the air, or more specifically, the rate at which electromagnetic waves alternate. Today there are numerous types of frequencies, leveraged for different purposes. For high tension cables and electric grids, extremely low frequency (ELF) is used. This means a low frequency range of 30-300Hz, but a wavelength range of 1,000-10,000 km. The higher the frequency, the less distance the wavelength covers. Intermediate frequency (IF), used for tactical military communication, has between 300Hz –10MHz and covers 30-1,000 m. Extremely high frequency (EHF) uses 30-300 GHz for a range of 1-10mm. 

Essentially, one frequency supports radio, another is dedicated to emergency situations, another for mobile, etc. The government of a country owns the frequencies and so has the power to decide how these frequencies are used. Therefore, governments need to weight the pros and cons; bearing in mind that while a low frequency covers a vast area, it raises a cost capacity question in that low wave frequencies ensure internet coverage but deliver slow service. A high wave frequency, with increased oscillations, provides more capacity, but with less coverage. 

But innovations in telecommunications are motivating governments to reconsider how frequencies are used. Reassigning frequencies, or ‘refarming’ could present opportunities for telcos as frequencies that facilitate higher quality and lower latency (no delay in communication) that up to now had been inaccessible, become privatized. 

Talking about my generation

Technologies in the mobile communication world are perpetually evolving. The first generation of wireless communication (in terms of phones) gave people the ability to communicate over distances by voice. 2G introduced the world to texting and the idea of transferring data, which was fully achieved by the arrival of 3G. This combination of mobile communication (calls, texts) and internet capability should be regarded as the birth of the smartphone. Users could safely and reliably run software programs on their phone, which functioned as a pocket-sized computer. 4G, beyond delivering higher quality and faster speeds, also replaced fibre and fixed connectivity.  

5G, though hailed as the next great development in telecommunications, is still making inroads, as the re-farming of frequencies needs to happen before providers can avail of this technology. Gartner predicts that by the end of 2024, 60% of communications service providers (CSPs) will commercialize 5G service covering tier-1 (most developed) cities. The leading analyst firm’s wireless network infrastructure revenue forecast paints a clearer picture. While 5G’s revenue is expected to increase from (millions of US dollars) 2020’s 13,768 to 19,128.9 in 2021 and 23,254.6 in 2022, LTE and 4G will see a decline from 2020’s 17,127.8 to 14,569.1 in 2021 and 12,114 in 2022. But by far the most striking revelation involves 2G and 3G. Gartner forecasts a 2020 revenue of 3,159.6 dropping to 1,948.2 in 2021 and 1,095.2 in 2022. 

2G and 3G – switch now, or invest in a pigeon

Usually, frequencies are followed by technology, but sometimes technology outpaces frequencies, which is exactly the situation with 5G. The technology is available, but the frequencies are not (until governments release existing frequencies occupied by other organisations, usually military). Similarly, densification allows certain frequencies to be used in different ways, so telco operators are becoming increasingly creative in how they use their spectrum assets. According to Forbes, Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) enables telecommunications providers to use some frequencies for 4G and 5G at the same time, meaning that providers can continue supporting 4G LTE customers while leaving open the possibility of adding 5G devices. This is what T-Mobile is currently doing with its low-band 600MHz, which is dedicated for 5G, but, along with other frequencies, will be put to a different use in the interim.  

It is clear that 2G and 3G are on the way out, with phase outs completed, underway or planned. The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) reports on 2G and 3G sunset progression around the world, revealing that out of 700 operators, 43 have already closed 2G and 64 plan to. For 3G, 8 operators have shut it down and 69 plan to. 

Even though 5G isn’t quite here, 6G is coming

Despite the current obstacles to rolling out universal 5G network coverage, work is well underway to develop 6G technology. The European Commission, as part of its 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP), allocated €60 million to launch initial 6G projects. Moreover, its legislative agenda calls for a strategic European partnership on Smart Network and Services as a Joint Undertaking in February 2021, which includes a public R & I investment of €900 million between 2021-2027. 

Outside of Europe, industry observers report that Japan is pledging $482 million to further the spread of 6G, South Korean-based Samsung is developing 6G technology and in the US, mobile companies like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are leading a group called the Next G Alliance to encourage 6G research in North America. Realistically though, it could be another decade before even the beginnings of a 6G network come along, so consumers and telco providers alike should concentrate on existing tools that provide rewarding telecommunications service. 

Solutions for now

Even though the question of if and when governments release frequencies for telecommunication industry and enable 5G has yet to be conclusively answered, there is still a proven solution available that maximizes operational efficiency and delights customers – voice over LTE (VoLTE). VoLTE empowers telco operators with increased capabilities that are ushering in a new, higher set of standards, referred to as Rich Communications Services. Along with higher call quality and faster service speeds, VoLTE delivers effective video calling, file transferring, real-time language translations, video voicemail and improved instant messaging. These advantages explain why the VoLTE market, valued at USD 3.7 billion in 2020, is expected to increase to USD 133.57 billion by 2026, according to Mordor Intelligence

VoLTE, powered by faster internet speeds, also enhances an operator’s offer with steering of roaming (SoR). SoR is a tool that strengthens the ability of home network operators (HPMN) to manage visiting network (VPMN) traffic. In an increasingly competitive market, signalling-based methods like SoR are essential for operators to guide (or steer) their roaming traffic to preferred networks. The result? Reliable coverage and connectivity for customers and cost-effectiveness for telcos. 

Partner with an experienced leader who understands your needs

The fast pace of innovations in telco present operators with a myriad of possibilities, but choosing solutions that fit current needs while anticipating future goals is not easy. That’s why telcos around the world turn to our experts. To learn how VoLTE, SoR and other strategies can drive your growth, get in touch with Paweł Franasowicz, mobile/WhatsApp: +48503493639.

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