I’m headed to #CES2020 this week with a backup battery, comfortable shoes, and a lot of questions. After eyeing the new televisions and fancy cars, I intend to focus on learning more about the following areas:
5G. Each of the major wireless operators has their own blend of frequencies and their own conception of what will move consumers to take advantage of an immensely more capable and robust wireless 5G NR technology platform. How are the carriers using their preexisting technology choices and spectrum mixes to capture market share and defend against gains from insurgents, such as the cable companies and DISH? And for that matter, how do the cable companies intend to use new spectrum-acquisition models, such as the upcoming CBRS auction, to retain subscribers in an era of over-the-top video consumption and intensified head-to-head competition with wireless operators?
IoT. Most 5G talk focuses on throughput, but mass connectivity may prove more important in the long run. With nearly anything with electrical current (and plenty of things without it) gaining access to the web, the need to connect hundreds of thousands or millions of devices within a small geographic area will tax wireless infrastructure and the back office like never before. How are carriers and vendors gearing up for this new service-delivery architecture?
AI. Technology works best when it is neither seen, nor heard, but just happens. And consumers, me included, only grow more demanding with time. As the comedian Jim Gaffigan quipped: “What do you mean I actually have to point the remote control? What is this? The 50s? Can’t I just look at the TV and it’ll know what I want to watch?” Consumer expectations only increase with technology. What progress have vendors made in breaking down the barriers to cross-platform connectivity so all of our smart devices and services can talk to – and interact with – one another?
Robotics. The promise of a robotic butler or washing machine or garbage-taker-outer always seems just around the corner. The combination of falling chipset costs, nearly ubiquitous high-speed data connectivity, and improving cross-platform integration could mean our capacity to outsource the drudgery of household or industrial chores may finally cross a tipping point. What are vendors doing to realize the vision of robots that perform useful functions and require less back-end work than just doing the chores ourselves?
Rural Broadband. Government gives rural service a lot of attention. But I want to hear what the private sector is doing to drive service into geographic areas with low population densities. The economics of service in these areas is forbidding. But new technologies, such as non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service from the likes of OneWeb, Amazon, and Space, as well as newly available spectrum, such as the low-band frequencies T-Mobile acquired at auction just a few years ago, have the potential to finally close the gap between urban and rural consumers. What new service models have the most promise of raising the bar on rural broadband connectivity and which service providers and network architectures will capture the greatest share of this underserved market?
#CES2020 should be a blast. If you have some ideas on other things to watch, please let me know. And if you’d like to connect in Las Vegas, shoot me a note. See you there!