As a technology analyst, I’m often asked what I do for a living. Simply stated, I get paid to provide my opinion on the sectors that I cover. That’s a dream job for me—just ask my friends and family if I ever fail to give my opinion or shy away from a debate! What’s really challenging and fun about what I do, however, is my broad focus on enterprise networking, wireless broadband infrastructure, and carrier services. It affords me the opportunity to work with some of the largest telecommunications brands in the world, peek “under their hoods,” and look into my crystal ball. On that note, here are a few of my big predictions for 2018.
Sprint wins the 5G race in the U.S.
I had the opportunity to spend a few days with Sprint executives, including CEO Marcelo Claure, mid-last year. You can read more about my observations here, if interested. What struck me the most about the number four carrier in the United States is how methodical its approach has been the past 3 years, under Claure’s tenure. Under his watch, the company has returned to profitability, wireless network quality has improved, and the company is well-positioned with spectrum to deploy 5G. I also applaud Sprint’s focus on mobile 5G, since AT&T and Verizon Wireless are running the risk of over-extending themselves with both fixed and mobile 5G deployments. However, what’s really compelling is Sprint’s parent company SoftBank and sister companies ARM and OneWeb. ARM brings a wealth of technology to enable edge networking and support both massive and critical IoT deployments. OneWeb’s low orbit satellite network (set to launch this year) could provide key backhaul support for Sprint’s 5G network, and accelerate the deployment of autonomous vehicles, amongst other high-bandwidth and low-latency intensive mobile services. Additionally, SoftBank brings a wealth of business acumen and deep pockets to facilitate tying it all together. Add it all up and Sprint has an impressive blueprint to win the 5G race in the United States, as the next generation mobile network begins to deploy towards the end of 2018.
Despite the public display of animosity between the two companies late last year over 5G claims, a merger makes sense on many levels in 2018. I recently wrote about Ericsson ’s strengths with regard to 5G—you can find that article here. Both companies are in the same geographic location sharing a border, and despite some nationalistic differences, their corporate cultures seem like they would be compatible. Combining both companies’ patent war chests and development efforts would likely give it leverage over smaller competitors who are only bringing point solutions to market. Given some of the recent financial challenges within both Ericsson and Nokia , a merger would also go far to reduce operating expense and more effectively manage headcount.
Blockchain and enterprise networking converge
Cryptocurrency caught fire last year and the momentum has carried forward into 2018. As a result, the underlying blockchain technology has garnered widespread attention. It is now being refined by technology powerhouses like IBM to exploit its advantages, for a multitude of industries and applications. Blockchain is a continually growing open ledger of records which are linked, distributed, and secured using cryptography. Once recorded, the data can’t be altered without affecting other datasets. Where this becomes interesting in an enterprise network environment is the challenge around protecting data integrity and preventing data breaches. I’ve written about this subject previously and you can find that article here, if interested. Blockchain is compelling when considering its potential for financial transactions, medical records, and other sensitive data flowing over networks susceptible to hackers. Stay tuned in 2018—I believe you’ll be hearing more from the likes of Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Aruba, and others about blockchain and its transformative potential in the enterprise networking space.