As 2016 came to an end, the telecom industry was ripe with speculation, forecasting how the sector could evolve over the twelve months ahead. The year ended with plenty of movement surrounding the FCC’s 600MHZ auction. The third stage concluded shortly after it began and widely missed the clearing cost target. Quickly following was the kick off of the fourth round, which analysts believe has a higher probability of success due to the relatively small amount of impaired spectrum. Just two days after the fourth round began, though, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler decided he would resign, which leaves Donald Trump two FCC seats to fill; the President-elect is expected to give Republicans a 2-to-1 majority on the commission. The incumbent Republican members have made it clear their agenda will focus on removing net neutrality rules as quickly as possible and the coming appointments will go a long way in realizing these goals. Some hope that the new presidential administration focuses on facilitating 5G deployments by enacting polices that spur innovation; however, experts still believe we won’t see 5G in the United States until 2020 or 2021.

5G in fact dominated the year-end telecom news cycle, but not everyone is bullish on the new standard – one expert even believes that it serves no benefit, claiming technological advances are not sufficient and current wireless capabilities are enough to effectively accommodate demand. Others believe that spectrum will be a speed bump in the way of 5G, pointing to the failure of the FCC’s 600 MHZ auction to meet clearing targets; however, some pundits believe sharing spectrum will solve any issues. Regardless of naysayers, carriers are still pushing forward. Verizon plans to launch fixed wireless 5G trials in four states early this year and AT&T is trialing 5G for Intel in its Austin, Texas offices. Much like the U.S., the E.U. hopes to be 5G-ready by 2020 and has decided to make the 700MHz spectrum available for wireless broadband, analogous to the FCC’s 600 MHz endeavor.

5G was not the only technological advancement in the spotlight. SDN, which IDC predicts will be a $12.5B market by 2020 is expected see serious progress this year. Analysts believe that we’ll start to see GPU accelerators facilitate SDN, domain specific-SDN applications come to light, and an increasing use of open source to help carrier and enterprises improve upon SDN technologies during the year.  Even enterprise technology executives are placing bets on what we’ll see this year and are hoping for major improvements in the development of artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and cyber security.

Of of the major wireless carriers, Sprint has been rather loud about its hopes for the year. The provider has promised that it will deploy more spectrum than any of its competitors. Sprint also promised to bring 5,000 jobs back to the U.S. following massive cuts, which came to light following a meeting between owners and the president elect. The underdog of the big four has reason to feel optimistic about 2017, having more than doubled its stock price over the course of the year, the result of stronger than expected subscriber growth and cost cutting.

That’s all for now. Don’t forget to stay tuned for up-to-date news and views from the Vertix team. Until next month…