By Mark Dzuban
Like Converse “Chucks” hightops, vinyl LPs spinning on phonographic turntables, and sleek, mid-century modern furnishings that would fit right in with a futuristic R. Buckminster Fuller home, wireless communications technology is back in vogue in our industry.
Everything old is new again in its time. It wasn’t that long ago when wireless — in the form of the RF technology that powered our early success — was yesterday’s tech. While still relevant, it was overshadowed by the introduction of optical fiber, like reliable old clothes shoved to the back of the closet to make room for more fashionable attire. Now wireless’s massive potential is the right technology in the right place at the right time, the power behind smart cities, autonomous devices and vehicles and a host of other innovations.
To be clear, wireless has been growing in importance in cable telecommunications providers’ arsenals for some time. In-home Wi-Fi, public networks and the insatiable appetite of consumers for streaming content to any device have transformed the way our industry interacts with the customers we serve, but more exciting things are rapidly coming over the horizon.
When our industry rocked the high-tech world with its announcement of a roadmap to 10G early this year, a big part of the promise was the potent combination of 10G and wireless. The unprecedented forces of 10G — high bandwidth, low latency, high security and highly reliability — will enable the high-performance wireless connectivity needed to power smart cities, driverless vehicles, autonomous devices and more.
As the direct connection to customers’ homes, our industry always has been the foundation that’s essential to the success of the high-tech world. Pairing 10G and wireless in the years to come will unlock a new wave of innovation that will increase both the importance and the value of cable. Here are some possible applications:
- Life Enhancement — While wireless monitoring capabilities (including my wife’s own cardiovascular monitor!) already exist, improved wireless connectivity will enable an entirely new generation of devices that can support the human experience. Think of optical devices connected to wireless receivers, enabling the blind to see or devices that allow increased independence for the aged.
- Holographic Imaging — Consider how our industry’s robust broadband pipes could enable high-bandwidth 3D imaging that literally could bring new dimensions to education. The ability to create a visual representation of an object, a human body or even a notable personage from the past — think of hearing from and seeing Einstein himself! — could drive deeper levels of knowledge and retention.
- Real-Time Management of Critical Applications — As accidents with early iterations of driverless cars have shown, there is zero margin for error when it comes to the management of mission-critical applications. The combination of 10G and wireless will pay dividends in transportation, in environmental management and in countless other scenarios.
As we point toward that future, here are two things to remember. First, wireless is a complement to the wired network, not a replacement. While wireless connectivity over the last 1,000 feet will provide new mobility that will transform our businesses and the lives of the customers we serve, the bulk of network traffic will be carried over our wired infrastructure — ultimately turbocharged to support 10G services. The second point of note is that none of this will happen overnight. Some of the most ambitious visions are five years away, some are well beyond even those horizons.
In the meantime, cable’s increasing embrace of wireless will yield new benefits — from the backhaul of cellular traffic to mobile telephone handoffs to the cable network, expanded home and business security applications, increasingly flexible business services capabilities and soon-to-come wireless delivery of 4K and 8K video. Exciting, to be sure, but the best is yet to come.
Mark L. Dzuban
As President and CEO of SCTE•ISBE, Mark Dzuban is continuing a lengthy career of telecommunications leadership. Mark has been instrumental in positioning SCTE•ISBE as a leader in energy management and technical education, driving creation of the Energy 2020 program, the CORTEX Expert Development System™ and other programs and services that build value for the cable system operators, technology partners and individual members. Mark was honored with the prestigious NCTA Vanguard Award in 2011.
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