Trend: The next five years in wireless

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games will be held in London, and we can expect many Olympic and world records to be broken. What records will the wireless industry have broken by then? Two executives at Texas Instruments'  Communications Infrastructure Division--Alan Gatherer, the division's CTO, and Sandeep Kumar, its strategic marketing manager--offer an intriguing and detailed summary of the major wireless trends during the next five years.

The main technological developments:

  • New generations of highly integrated digital signal processors (DSPs) and analog radio components, which continue to offer higher performance with lower power consumption at affordable costs.
  • Hundreds of Kbps to tens of Mbps on mobile phones, sufficient for extremely compressed low-definition TV broadcasts.
  • Up to hundreds of Mbps for WLANs, sufficient for highly compressed, high-definition TV.
  • Metropolitan-area networks (MANs) with bit rates approaching WLANs and coverage over several miles.

These technological changes will lead to profound changes in the wireless landscape. Currently there exist two categories of networks, largely in competition with each other: Voice-centric cellular with circuit-switched delivery in real time; and data-centric WLAN with IP-based, best effort packet-switched delivery. The most significant change in the overall wireless network in the next few years, according to Gatherer and Kumara, "will be the merger of these into a single data network where the application-agnostic world of IP delivery will be tempered with a desire to support multiple applications, some of which have no real-time constraints and some that have significant real-time constraints in a wireless environment."

The convergence of the two categories of networks will mean:

  • Implementation of IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem), a standardized architecture to support IP-based applications whatever the capabilities of the user terminals.
  • Even better level QoS, and solutions to trickier coverage problems with video gaming applications in higher frequency bands.
  • Wireless handsets' continued evolution, as they become even more personalized. Some will be smaller, some will offer larger displays with higher resolutions, and some will integrate video cameras and other specialized inputs.
  • New and more numerous contents providers.
  • The business model for network services will be different from what it is today, just as the network topology and delivery framework will also change.
  • Traditional carriers will continue to enhance their service offerings to retain subscribers, and will also let new service providers set up shop on their IMS networks to provide niche content.

For more on future Wireless trends:
- see Alan Gatherer's and Sandeep Kumar's Commsdesign discussion

MORE: See the discussion by David Brown of Trinity College about software integration and interoperability as the key to video-over-WiFi mobile phones.

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