However, recently, when viewed from the outside, one may get the impression that no major changes are taking place in it: even the full launch of fifth-generation networks in Russia is being postponed. Of course, this is an illusion: there are many changes, some of them are a continuation of existing trends. 2022 will continue this trend: despite the fact that global breakthroughs will not occur, the industry has high hopes for the development of a number of areas.
Waiting for the next generation
Let’s start with the most anticipated – 5G networks. This summer, analysts at the Ericsson Mobility Report counted more than 160 operators worldwide that have already deployed fifth-generation networks. As everyone knows, there are no Russian ones among them: we are still in the piloting zone due to restrictions from the regulator, and they promise to launch the networks into commerce only by 2024.
Still, don’t underestimate 2022. Already, domestic players are doing everything possible to make Internet access at new speeds available despite the bans. Zones with 5G coverage have appeared in large cities: in popular locations for recreation and entertainment, tourist areas, in individual enterprises, in hospitals and universities, even in individual residential complexes.
By increasing the number of such pilot projects, in my opinion, next year we will see a breakthrough in this direction. The clearing of frequencies and the disappearance of plans for the development of a new generation of communications on domestic equipment are unlikely to happen – such a miracle should not be expected in the near future. But the operators will work out business models, technical aspects of the deployment and development of 5G networks.
The number of devices – smartphones, tablets, computers – will grow, which may help overcome (or at least reduce) human prejudices against 5G towers. Experience shows that it will never be possible to solve the problem of radiophobia completely, but small progress in this direction is already a lot.
The development of 5G will make virtual and augmented reality and even the use of holograms more accessible to users. Of course, ideally, for a holographic presence, for example, at a business meeting, 6G networks are better suited, but this is definitely not the reality of the next year. We still have to be content with the current successes of experiments with holographic services carried out on fifth-generation networks – they inspire restrained optimism.
MVNO with ambition
In the meantime, we are waiting for the next generations of communication, let’s figure out the future of the existing ones. It seems to me that one of the trends of the next year will be the emergence of MVNO projects to a new level. And it’s not about their number: there are already a lot of virtual operators on the market. Probably, next year more global MVNO projects operating on the networks of several operators simultaneously will show themselves.
It’s no secret that the vast territory of Russia is unevenly covered by cellular networks. In some domestic regions, customers of one or several operators at once may find themselves without communication and will be forced to connect to other networks, in fact, at roaming rates. LTE coverage is also heterogeneous, so at some point the user may be cut off from services of the usual quality. Customers, in turn, want to always be in touch, and the quality of communication must be high. And a virtual operator that allows the signal to switch between the towers of various mobile companies would be an interesting solution.
This story is not new and really complicated. Nevertheless, virtual operators have accumulated a good customer base, have learned how to package the product so that it is more than competitive. So the launch of a global MVNO project is a very real prospect.
Globalization of communication networks
Another trend is the globalization of communication networks. Satellite constellations are a prime example: Onawa has stepped up and is entering into numerous partnerships to deploy low-Earth orbit satellites for global coverage by mid-2022.
SpaceX’s plans are also ambitious: the first launch of Starlin satellites took place only in 2019, and this December it will be the 34th. At the moment, the number of Starlin satellites is approaching 2 thousand, but will be increased to 30 thousand.
The head of the state corporation Roscommon said in November that the Sphere project will allow Russia to get the Internet from space in 2024, for which the first of two flight prototypes of spacecraft will be launched in 2022. There will be little to do: launch a second prototype, purchase and launch launch vehicles for launching Express-RV communication satellites into orbit in 2024. Let me emphasize that these are not new plans: back in 2018, it was announced about the intention to launch more than 600 communication satellites and remote sensing of the Earth – albeit not too quickly, but the process is underway.
And although experts note that such projects are focused more on the provision of communication services in remote and hard-to-reach regions and they will not compete with cellular and wired broadband networks, all players in the communication market will have to take into account the satellite factor in development strategies. Whether mobile operators will adopt satellite communications is still a big open question.