March 30, 2017
One of the hazards of today’s fast pace of technological evolution is that patience isn’t a virtue. What I mean by that is everyone wants to get in on the action ASAP, which, in today’s world usually means picking an existing, somewhat compatible or anticipated vector and running with it.
Unfortunately, without some boundaries, practically nobody is on the same page. At the recent Mobile World Congress, there seemed to be a lot of products companies were hyping as 5G. And the development paths, while they generally do go in the same direction, rarely go down the same road. The pressure keeps mounting to hasten some 5G standards so the industry has some vision of where to go.
But pressuring the working group isn’t beneficial. Past experience has shown that rushing a standard rarely achieves the desired results. So the best path is to wait for the standards.
But that isn’t happening. Instead, Analysys Mason see a rather fragmented market evolving made up of a plethora of different networks connecting a variety of un-standardized devices.
For example, Verizon and AT&T and some others are backing LTE-M. Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, and others, are leaning towards narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) networks. Verizon and AT&T claim LTE-M can meet the bandwidth and latency needs of high-speed networks. NB-IoT supporters claim they are better suited for the specific needs of M2M and general Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX) scenarios.
Ok, fine. But this kind of splintering really doesn’t do either technology justice. In fact, it may well hinder the real development of a coalescing IoX. According to Michele Mackenzie and Tom Rebbeck of Analysys Mason, such fragmentation breeds uncertainty; i.e. should a device developer pick one, or the other, or cover themselves with both? Seems like that isn’t all that complex, but what it does is increase cost, and complexity. That may well work for the more expensive devices, but it hinders the development of cost-sensitive products like low-cost sensors, which are going to be a big component of the IoX.
There are some interesting implications to this. One of which is for the developer to stick with existing 4G or other proven technology. That is good and bad, at least it gives the standards bodies some breathing room. But it also affects investment in the emerging platforms.
It would be so much smarter if the bottom line was operability, and not first to market with a near “X” product. The growth potential of the IoX and 5G is phenomenal and interoperability-minded mentalities would make a lot of things happen faster, better and more reliably.