Connected Commerce Picks Up Speed




If you think you’ve finally caught up to the Internet of Things with connected devices, data exchange and automated workflows, then it’s time to prepare for the next stage of connected commerce. Things only get faster from here.

Some analysts foresee the decline of WiFi (the 802.1x series of wireless Internet connectivity) over the next few years. Video is growing in use and applications, but may become ubiquitous with the arrival of 5G wireless telecom signals – the next step following the current, called Long Term Evolution or LTE. So, adding reliable, low-price video will be another factor to manage in your daily business operations.

An Ericsson Mobility report anticipates that by 2020 we’ll be on to 5G speeds. The report estimates that globally, 5G subscriptions will quickly reach half a billion in 2022, 25% of them in North America.

For consumers, 5G technology means ultra-high data speeds (upwards of 20GBPs), ultra-low latency, and new devices and applications.

Companies and employers may see another round of ‘Faster, Cheaper, Better Connected’ that changes how work gets done. A Bloomberg Business Week article predicts the demise of WiFi as wireless signals become as taken-for-granted as the air we breathe.

Oxygen is free, however, high-speed wireless takes significant investment.

Ensuring speed, capacity and access by large private companies is a challenge, says Tom Wheeler, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, who outlined concerns to a Harvard Law School conference. And putting those critical resources in the hands of companies that can choose not to invest means that you’ll need a Plan B, or even a Plan C, just in case.

“AI (artificial intelligence) is at risk if carriers are a choke point. The Internet of Things is changing the Web from a push to a pull of data,” Wheeler said. “How we connect defines who we are.”

Private networks, secured and hardened networks are just a couple of next-generation opportunities. Public safety agencies and other critical infrastructure have taken control of their networks and it may be time for companies to do the same, notes a network/communications report by IHS Markit.

Market consolidation, financial pressures, government control of wireless spectrum all play a role in getting us the speed, access, reliability and service needed. In a 2016 report, IHS Markit analyst Diane Myers ranked AT&T, CenturyLink, Fusion, IntelePeer, Level 3, Sprint, Twilio, Verizon, Windstream and XO. The scorecard identified companies best positioned to succeed long term. Rankings are based on criteria such as the number of IP-connectivity trunks, financial stability, market strategy, service capabilities and support options.

So how do you decide what is mission-critical and what isn’t? How do you know your network is robust enough? Consultants and some difficult conversations will undoubtedly follow.

Your company’s telecom ecosystem has to consider how the most critical suppliers, partners and customers connect – copper-wire for voice but WiFi, broadband for data? What are potential weak spots in your network?

The FCC specifies 25 Mbps/3Mbps as the minimum for “broadband speed.” Almost 10% of all Americans, 39% of rural Americans and 41% of Americans living on Tribal lands lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service compared to just 4 percent of urban Americans.

Similarly, 41 percent of schools or 47 percent of students lack the 100-Mbps-per-thousand students connectivity, which is the short-term goal. In 2016, the FCC classified broadband as a utility – as essential as phone service and electricity – and is distributing $2.15 billion for rural broadband projects that commit to provide a specific performance level.

State initiatives are also trying to bridge the gap, at the same time first responder networks are trying to upgrade and develop interoperable standards. It isn’t going to be easy to keep up.