Wireless Trends for 2020

The year 2020 is quickly approaching, meaning that 2019 is quickly winding down.  That means it’s that time to reflect back on the things that were (boring) and pontificate on the things that might be (kinda interesting, maybe.)

Me, I chose the pontification aspect.  I mean, why have a blog if you aren’t going to use it to stand on a soap box and spout out how smart you are?

Oh, and I was having a conversation about this topic this morning and it actually made me think, and I would like to share one of those thoughts with you now.

What was 2019

For lack of a better terminology, I think 2019 will go down as the year of “have you heard what’s coming?”  There was a lot of promise, and sales talks about what we need to prepare for, but I think that 2020 will start to deliver on all of that.

What will be 2020

So, for most of this prediction, I am doing what I am good at, and that is using crowd sourced information.  For this particular case, my crowd of information is coming from the registration page for the Wireless LAN Professionals Conference, or WLPC, that is scheduled to take place in February of 2020.

What makes this particular conference useful for a study like this is how it is put together.  The boot camps, session presentations, and the deep dives (5 hour intensive classes on one particular subject) are not put together by some select group of people sitting in a room.  No, everything that is on the schedule for this conference is suggested by, and voted upon, by the general Wi-Fi community at large.  If the community doesn’t think your topic is relevant, you don’t make the schedule.  Name and title, or how much your company is willing to pay to get you on stage, means nothing at this conference.

Based on who promotes this conference, and their followings on social media, I suspect the voting public on this one can range to the thousands.  In such a specific field as wireless, that’s a lot of people putting in their input.

So based on what all these people want to hear about at WLPC 2020 I think we can gain a pretty good idea of what they think is coming.  In what won’t be a shock to anyone, it’s the same thing that was of interest in 2019, but in a different perspective.

For most of 2019, the talk has been around Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), CBRS/private LTE, cellular 5G, WPA3, UWB, IoT, Zigbee.  Now, as we near final certification from the IEEE for the new standards and as manufactures from both the infrastructure and client side are shipping product that now support any or all of these things, the focus for 2020 is going to be dealing with this.

Sure, it’s easy when all of this is theoretical and nothing can really be proven in real life to sit around and speculate on what will be, but when technology hits the street, it’s a different story.  During WLPC EU in Prague in October of 2019, a group of people got together to try and actually catch some 802.11ax in action, in the wild per se, and watch it on a spectrum analyzer.  It took hours for a group of really smart people focused on the task at hand to pull it off.

I suspect by October of 2020 it would take this same group about 10 minutes to accomplish the same task.

WLPC 2020 has 8 different sessions focused solely on non-Wi-Fi related wireless topics.  For such a competitive field, to have that many sessions to learn and hear about wireless topics that aren’t Wi-Fi related is impressive.  What this tells me is that the discerning wireless specialist is worried about wireless technologies that aren’t 802.11 related.  When we start talking about the new 802.11 topics, the number of sessions climbs.

Of other note that I find interesting is the fact that all of these sessions aren’t what we have heard in the past, that this new thing is coming; they are all focused on how does the wireless professional deal with these technologies in their environment.  The community at large believes that 2020 is the year that everything that has been on the drawing board and in the lab for the past couple of years starts to hit the street at the same time and with a vengeance.

What does this mean for me?

Sadly, it means a ton of work.  Sales people will be out in force in 2020, trying to convince every company they can get in front of that their technology will be the wave of the future and you should spend your money with them.

All of these sales people will be backed with scores of engineers that specialize in one topic.  Enterprises will be overwhelmed with options and will rely more on their wireless specialists to steer them in the correct direction.  Organizations that don’t listen to their specialists, or rely on specialists that aren’t up to snuff, might suffer over the next couple of years if they make the wrong decision.

Technology has been pushing hard towards wireless for years, and now is the time to step up.  Attend these conferences, engage in the numerous webinars that are advertised, and ask questions when you aren’t sure.  Traditional silos of the past are long gone, and if you don’t embrace this new wave of technology, this new way of doing business, you might get left behind.

One last thought to leave you with.  Artificial Intelligence, or AI, and programming/scripting are such an accepted thing, it didn’t even make my radar for next year.  Just accept it, it’s here to stay.

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