In some ways, 2015 was a great deal about a technology that A) doesn't yet exist; B) isn't even defined by standards bodies and C) won't come to fruition for four or five years, by most accounts. That technology is 5G, and if you don't know what all the fuss is about, don't worry. You will soon enough.
We started the year off with dire warnings that the U.S. was lagging other nations when it comes to 5G, and the FCC stepped up to the plate when it came time to act. The FCC reviewed all kinds of comments from vendors, operators and other stakeholders about their visions for 5G, and in October, the commission proposed rules for four different bands of high-band spectrum above 24 GHz designed to lay the foundation for 5G networks in the U.S. market.
While this was going on, operators like AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) put more emphasis on their work around the Internet of Things (IoT), which itself will be part of 5G. Another area tied to 5G where operators reported making progress in 2015 is software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).
But it wasn't all about 5G. Led by the likes of T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), more operators joined the Wi-Fi calling camp. Even Verizon, whose executives characterized Wi-Fi calling as something it would offer but didn't feel it was a big priority because it's got a pretty good mobile network for that, ended the year with expanded support for Wi-Fi calling.
And it wouldn't have been much a year at all if not for an old-fashioned technology debate or two or three. One of the most prominent debates revolved around LTE-U and its impact on Wi-Fi in unlicensed spectrum. That debate promises to live well into 2016, pitting cable operators against wireless carriers, with entities like the Wi-Fi Alliance trying to avoid interference.
Check out the list below for the five topics that we think were among the wireless tech industry's most relevant in 2015 and will have the biggest impact going forward into 2016. Also, don't forget to check out the 2015 Year in Review by FierceWireless, the 2015 Year in Review by FierceOnlineVideo, the 2015 Year in Review by FierceTelecom, the 2015 Year in Review by FierceWireless:Europe and the 2015 Year in Review by FierceCable.
P.S. FierceWirelessTech will take a publishing break for the holidays. We will update the website with any breaking news, and our newsletter will be back in your inbox on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year! --Monica