UK wireless technology trends: Enterprise tablets take hold

What's next in wireless technology trends? IMS Research analysts predict enterprise tablet adoption, as well as growth in Near Field Communication, Wi-Fi Direct and M2M communication for businesses.

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: IT in Europe: Wired and wireless: Can you achieve an integrated network?

Until recently, the term enterprise wireless was synonymous with Wi-Fi and wireless LAN, but that's no longer the case. Current UK wireless technology trends entail enterprise tablet adoption, as well as the emergence of Near Field Communication (NFC) and machine-to-machine communication in the business setting.

SearchNetworkingUK sat down with IMS Research analysts Don Tait, Gerry Xu, Filomena Berardi and Bill Morelli to see how UK wireless technology trends are changing, and how these shifts will affect the way UK enterprises do business.

What applications do you predict will drive Near Field Communication (NFC) adoption in the enterprise?

Don Tait: 2011 finally looks like the year that NFC will take off. I see NFC adoption happening more in the consumer space initially, but there are applications in the medical sector and for access control, as with a recent trial at the London O2. The applications likely to drive NFC adoption include payments (especially micro) and ticketing. NFC will happen more quickly where the stakeholders such as mobile network operators (MNOs), phone manufacturers, banks, transportation ticketing providers and smart card suppliers within the ecosystems have agreed on revenue shares. They all need to work together to show the benefits and promote the technology.

There are reports that Apple is planning to introduce an NFC payment feature in the next releases of the iPad and iPhone. How might that affect the NFC sector?

Tait: I see this as a positive development. When Apple launches something, the rest of the market normally follows suit. It will be something like a snowball rolling down a mountain and gathering pace, and will help drive NFC towards mass market.

Enterprise tablet adoption, particularly of iPads, is growing massively. What wireless trends will affect the development of the tablet sector in 2011 and beyond?

Gerry Xu: Wireless solutions are going to be more compact, less power consuming and highly integrated, enabling OEMs to introduce tablets with fully wireless functions from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM, GPS to LTE and NFC. With these functions, the tablet is expected to be a pervasive computing device which is able to connect anytime and anywhere. Enhanced network bandwidth allows people to consume richer media, such as videos and photos online through tablets and makes tablets more attractive.

Another trend that may affect tablet wireless is video streaming technologies that allow tablets to stream video content to TV without latency. There are also developments around 60 GHz, a less busy frequency that won’t have interference from other devices. Although there is less latency, the distance it can penetrate is not so far as current Wi-Fi, but there are technologies looking at video transfer that way.

IMS has forecast 1 million Wi-Fi Direct devices will be sold in 2011. What is driving uptake of Wi-Fi Direct?

Filomena Berardi: Wi-Fi is in many devices and not just PC-centric devices. As long as one device is Wi-Fi Direct-enabled, they will be able to communicate in an ad hoc manner. This will enable transferring files at a fast rate without wires from, say, a handset to a laptop. It will be an organic development as future Wi-Fi kits will be Wi-Fi Direct-enabled.

Why should enterprises be interested in Wi-Fi Direct? Can it offer a new way of networking as well as localised access to peripherals?

Berardi: Possibly. Wi-Fi has an installed base dominated by notebook PCs. However, its recent incorporation into devices other than PCs, such as cellular handsets, portable media players, car head units, set-top boxes, game consoles and others, would suggest its growth potential and new use cases.

What is driving machine-to-machine communication (M2M) in the UK?

Bill Morelli: One of the key drivers that will definitely apply to the UK market is falling cellular module prices, such as those using 2G, 3G and 4G air interface technology. This reduced pricing will make integrating cellular connectivity in a device or piece of equipment more feasible for cost-conscious developers and OEMs.

MNOs are also playing an increased role in driving the uptake of M2M communications. Operators have set up initiatives to provide services and rate packages that better address the M2M market.

In Europe, operators such as Orange, Vodafone and Telefónica have established dedicated business units to develop and enhance their M2M portfolios in recent years. Last year in the UK, Vodafone announced a deal with Numerex -- a company that focuses on the M2M space -- in which the two will partner to simplify the process of bringing M2M services to the market in the UK.

Another driver for the market is government-driven regulations or mandates. In fact, Europe will be impacted more than any other region with the anticipated rollout of eCall, which would make emergency call systems mandatory. When enacted, this legislation would drive the penetration rate of cellular M2M modules in new automobiles in Europe to 100%.

Government regulations could also drive up M2M communication in metering. An EU directive states that smart meters must be installed on over 80% of all electricity metering endpoints by 2022. As a result, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK and Ireland are all expected to begin installing smart meters in the next few years. A portion of these will use cellular technology.

What is the outlook for LTE implementation in the UK?

Morelli: LTE implementation in the UK is still a bit up in the air. Telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced some plans for spectrum auctions in 2012, but it is already facing criticism from carriers, which might cause delays. None of the carriers will be making significant LTE moves until they have won the spectrum, so Q4 2012 would be the earliest point at which they would start build-out. It is more likely to be the first half of 2013. I expect it will be several years before the UK starts to transition. In the near-term, carriers will be relying on HSPA+ to help with network congestion issues. The good news is there should be a fairly good portfolio of LTE handsets available by the time the UK does roll out networks.”

--Tracey Caldwell is a professional freelance business technology writer.

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