5G is everywhere these days, but there's more to the wireless industry than just 5G.
After all, innovations can happen across virtually the entire ecosystem and supply chain, from phones to business models to network equipment. Further, innovations in any of these sectors can have profound impacts on the rest of the cellular industry -- and, by extension, the wider market for telecommunications and business services.
Thus, it's worth taking a clear-eyed look at what kinds of innovative mobile/wireless products and services are hitting the scene in 2019. Here are our Light Reading finalists for the annual Leading Lights award for Most Innovative Mobile/Wireless Product or Service:
- Amdocs – eSIM Cloud
- CommScope – Outdoor Small Cells
- Parallel Wireless – Unified 2G/3G/4G/5G software
- Quantenna Communications – QSR10GU-AX Plus Wi-Fi Chipset Solution
- Sprint – Magic Box Device Portfolio
- Verizon & Ericsson – 5G Ultra Wideband
The Leading Lights Award winners, as well as this year's inductees to the Light Reading Hall of Fame, will be announced at the Leading Lights dinner and party at the Pinnacle Club in Denver, Monday, May 6, following a day of workshops preceding our Big 5G Event. The Big 5G event opens on Tuesday, May 7. For more info, and for tickets, please visit the Leading Lights Awards 2019 page.
Let's talk about these shortlisted companies:
Amdocs – eSIM Cloud
eSIM is a major step forward in the authentication and activation space for phones and other devices. It's a technology that promises to allow customers to seamlessly move from one provider to another without having to hassle with finding and removing a tiny SIM card.
And Amdocs is right on the forefront of this trend, considering its eSIM technology has already been implemented at six operators supporting iWatch and Samsung's watch. Further, Amdocs said its product is pre-integrated with OEMs including Microsoft, Apple, Google and Samsung and eSIM vendors like Gemalto and G&D.
As the company notes, 234 million eSIM-enabled devices are expected by 2021, according to Ovum, which makes the space one to watch.
CommScope – Outdoor Small Cells
Although they're small, small cells are having an outsized impact on the wireless industry. After all, they promise to create relatively small pockets of wireless coverage, which represents a major change to how operators have traditionally rolled out wireless networks with massive macro towers.
Perhaps more importantly, small cells serve to densify wireless networks, thereby improving services and speeds.
That must be why the Small Cell Forum projects 12 million outdoor small cells will be deployed worldwide between 2019 and 2025.
CommScope's products certainly sit at the apex of this opportunity. CommScope's Metro Cell offering includes a cell site hidden in an ordinary-looking street lamp, available in styles ranging from traditional to modern, and is designed to meet a variety of types of radios and environments.
Parallel Wireless – Unified 2G/3G/4G/5G software
Alongside the changes that 5G is bringing, the very heart of the wireless network is also changing as operators work to break network stacks into their various components. This could allow operators to mix and match suppliers up and down their wireless network buildouts.
And Parallel Wireless is certainly embracing this trend. The company virtualizes, automates and optimizes cellular networks from 2G to 5G, which the company said delivers quality end-user experiences for all use cases, including for in-building wireless and public safety LTE.
Quantenna Communications – QSR10GU-AX Plus Wi-Fi Chipset Solution
With so much focus on 5G these days, Wi-Fi is not getting much of a look-in when it comes to shining the wireless spotlight, but there's still plenty of R&D activity ongoing in this part of the industry. And that's where Quantenna has been making great strides.
In June 2018 it unveiled its QSR10GU-AX Plus Wi-Fi Chipset Solution, an 8x8 access point product designed for Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). It is designed to provide an enhanced Wi-Fi user experience through the incorporation of features such as Adaptive 8x8 MIMO (in 5GHz band), 8-stream client feedback processing, Enhanced System Performance (ESP) for beamforming, SmartScan, integrated dual-band dual-concurrent operation, MU-MIMO and OFDMA.
Such developments make Quantenna a popular partner and supplier. At this year's Mobile World Congress, Telefónica announced its XHGU home gateway and XPORT mesh node, believed to be Europe's first Wi-Fi 6 products and both built around Quantenna's QSR10GU-AX Plus chipsets.
Sprint – Magic Box Device Portfolio
With the name "Magic Box," Sprint clearly believes strongly that its new product is an innovation.
That doesn't come as a surprise considering Sprint's Magic Box is positioned to enhance the reach of its network by essentially acting as a signal relay, blasting Sprint's coverage into further nooks and crannies. The company has billed the offering as its own take on the small cell trend.
And Sprint is boasting of success: More than 286,000 Magic Box units have been distributed to businesses and homes across the country since the device first launched in May 2017, the operator said, which Sprint said represents one of the largest small cell deployments in the world.
Verizon & Ericsson – 5G Ultra Wideband
Although the wireless industry doesn't start and end with 5G, it's nonetheless a major part of the wireless conversation today. And it's clear that Verizon and Ericsson are sitting at the heart of that discussion.
Verizon, of course, launched a fixed wireless service last year using its 5GTF standard, dubbed 5G Home. That service helped show the possibilities of 5G in that it could be used to directly challenge wired Internet providers.
And then, earlier this year, Verizon took a further step into 5G with the launch of mobile 5G services in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis. Speeds have clocked in around 400Mbit/s with bursts of 1Gbit/s.
And it's still early days. There's more to come.