An introductory article on the different technologies emerging in the wireless space can feel like an introductory article how to speak a foreign language. For some, the language makes sense; they’ve been around it, taken a couple classes and maybe even traveled to a place where that’s the only language spoken. For others, it can be intimidating the first few times you hear the words and phrases. Technology-speak can be the same way. Accountants, lawyers, doctors, and technology experts all have their own “language” and professional conversations might seem foreign to anyone outside of these fields. But wireless technology is everywhere and it’s impacting the way we live our daily lives, so it could be quite useful to get acquainted with wireless lingo. This article is meant to introduce readers to emerging wireless technologies, and provide a high-level understanding of the concepts.
Treat this article as a window into the world of emerging trends, specifically in the wireless space. The ideas are grand, and they need to be. Think of wireless as a large building. The most complicated processes, algorithms and concepts are in the attic, but the foundations (lower levels) of the concepts are what most people see, and all a consumer really needs to understand. We’re going to open the front door and take a tour of the ground floor.
First, it’s important to understand that wireless and cellular networks are different. Though used interchangeably, wireless is a broader term which can be used to represent any technology which is wireless, for example, WiFi, Bluetooth, contactless or NFC, 4G, and 3G. Cellular, on the other hand, represents wireless technologies specifically used to make calls or surf the internet from mobile phones, using 4G, 3G, etc.
For starters, it’s important to understand the digital landscape we’re all living in. According to YouTube, 100 hours of footage is uploaded every minute. It’s watched by younger demographics more than any other cable network. Washington Post reports that 70% of today’s college students send at least one Snapchat every single day, and most are heavy users. People are connected everywhere they go and the number of connected devices per person is growing. Wireless technology has evolved significantly, and network capabilities need to evolve with it.
This leads to a need for what’s called data offloading. What is data offloading? The surge in mobile data traffic creates an overpopulated cellular network that needs to offload users, similarly to how a boat bails water. These users have to go somewhere, and that’s where you see wireless networks like WiFi taking some of the traffic. Expect to see more wireless/WiFi infrastructure being built because it’s typically much cheaper to build than cellular networks, and can take some of the load off (offload!). Pretty interesting concept, right? For more information on offloading, check out this page on our site.
No, a femtocell is not a character from Star Wars. Consider a femtocell similar to a WiFi router we have at our homes but instead of using WiFi, it uses cellular technologies like 4G or 3G. Sticking with the previous analogy, these cells are the bail-buckets cellular networks use to remove overflow users from their boat. Femtocells are also known as small cells, and small cell technology is commonly used for homes and small businesses. Think of the femtocell as a hub for a home or office. The cells help to increase wireless reach in areas with low signal, which improves everything from call clarity to the battery life of your device. If you own and operate a small business, there might be floors or departments that receive a much weaker signal than others. With small cells (or femtocells) you can extend that wireless connection to the more removed parts of your business. We have significant experience in leveraging small cell technology for businesses – check out our main page on the subject for more information.
Just when you thought you had the latest and greatest in 4G technology… introducing 5G. Fortunately, 5G isn’t expected to reach the pockets of consumers everywhere until 2020. While there isn’t necessarily a problem with 4G, the evolution of mobile, combined with the internet of things, has created a need for more power and faster internet speeds than 4G will likely be able to handle in the near future. So although you can currently control your thermostat, garage door and microwave from your cell phone, the sheer volume of appliances and devices that your phone can handle are limited… at least with 4G.
Ever hear of beamforming? At first thought, it might make you scratch your head, but try to think of it like this… you’ve been in a wireless network with a broad reach, but what if that network could pinpoint the exact location of the highest demand? Imagine, for example, a room with the ability to focus heat on the ten square feet surrounding the people in the room. Without wasting energy heating the entire house to the same temperature, you’d be warm and cozy in the area you need it most. Beamforming works the same way, targeting wireless service like a laser instead of throwing a wide blanket to provide fast, efficient connections.
One barrier to a wireless utopia is consistency. Similar to electric cars, the next phase of wireless technology won’t reach a tipping point until a couple more things happen. First, more people need to adopt the technology. And second, the technology will need to be readily available for everyone, meaning that access to the technology needs to be convenient and affordable. If only 6% of phones have the capabilities required by new technology, the investment of time and resources are not going to be spent building the infrastructure to support it. This is just brief explanation as to why many of these impending advances are happening on the slow side.
At HSC we pride ourselves on staying on top of the latest developments in the wireless industry, so don’t worry. We’ll keep you posted on the developments of these technologies, and the services we’re able to offer because of them.