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Connectivity has become an intrinsic feature of the modern economy, with the surge of individuals working, learning, and socializing online at an absolute peak. Having an accelerated demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is evident how vital connectivity is in linking communities beyond borders.

Building reliable networks for internet connections, fiber, 5G, satellite technology, and cloud are some of the dominant connectivity technologies anticipated to grow bigger in significance and usage within 2022 onwards.

Empowered by the latest telecom technologies, connectivity becomes essential for all businesses, government entities, as well as individual customers, device manufacturers, and other industry players that embrace digital. It’s increasingly important to stay online to remain competitive and deliver greater efficiencies.

May it be simply about stable voice or data communications or something advanced like virtualization and smarter decision-making, existing connectivity technologies are expanding their reach as networks are built out and adoption grows. Upgraded standards are becoming the norm with new types of connectivity technologies becoming revolutionary in the decade ahead.

Engineering trust, sculpting change, and accelerating growth are among the themes forecasted for 2022. With a more resilient and efficient IT foundation, swift digitalization with enhanced applications, and maximum value creation, digital capabilities become more powerful with connectivity.

From long-range to short-range

Connectivity is a critical piece of any industries’ puzzle, and with today’s IoT trend where devices are interconnected from one another, connectivity technologies that ensure a smooth communication process are needed. Both from a long-range to short-range perspective, the following technologies have the biggest potential to prosper, as per the needs of enterprise customers and providing promising opportunities to telcos, among other factors.

Low-earth orbit constellation. Low-earth orbit constellation. Historically dominated by geosynchronous (GEO) satellites, the satcoms market is shifting towards low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. By 2030, the Middle East LEO satellite market alone is estimated to be valued at approximately $110 million. From a technology perspective, LEO is a viable solution to address the digital divide and provide accessibility, with still huge room to strengthen its business case for wide commercialization.

LEO technology is a growth driver, given its high service quality and enhanced coverage in areas where terrestrial connectivity infrastructure is not easily available. Its benefits cover not only military capabilities for defense, but also business digitalization, in-flight connectivity, and IoT adoption. Middle Eastern countries can also leverage LEO satellites in fulfilling national transformation programs, such as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 or Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.

LEO satellites will also pave the way forward for technological disruptions in the future as new technologies such as high-altitude platform systems, or pseudo-satellites (HAPS), including balloons, airships, and airplanes capitalize on the connectivity revolution LEO technology initiated.

Sub-6 GHz and mmWave for 5G. 5G is promised to be 10x faster, can support 10,000x more network traffic, and can handle 100x more devices than 4G networks with lesser latency and zero downtime. There is still much work to be done to support the 5G ecosystem at large and deliver on its promise, but the foundations are very much in place. Divided into two, sub-6 GHz or the low-mid band frequencies are the 5G of the present, while mmWave that ranges from 24 GHz up is clearly the 5G of the future.

Both have pros and cons as sub-6 GHz offers consistency and coverage with fewer speed improvements while mmWave offers speed and density but requires more small cells for coverage and signal range. Hence, it is believed that the real 5G is the combination of both, and what’s happening on a global scale now is operators deploying these together to provide a better overall 5G experience.

Boosting sub-6 GHz is a strategic move towards a fully integrated 5G network. This is a better approach for the immediate future of 5G since it will bring gradual improvements than going straight for mmWave. In fact, by 2026, roughly 90% of 5G cell sites in emerging markets will be supporting a combination of sub-6 GHz bands. In the same period, it has been forecasted that 5G networks will cover two-thirds of the world's population. From a regional perspective, UAE claimed to be the first to allocate frequencies in mmWave within MENA to expand 5G for telecom operators.

WiFi 6 and 6e. The newest wireless standard 802.11ax known as Wi-Fi 6 is upon us and many vendors are now incorporating this standard into their latest round of access points (AP) and hardware. Among its benefits are increased capacity, greater channel width, more efficient bandwidth sharing, and backward compatibility.

Wi-Fi 6E builds on these features, with the main difference being that it uses the 6 GHz band. It supports up to fourteen 80MHz channels or seven 160 MHz channels. Thus, with more channels that are available, more available spectrum for Wi-Fi service becomes usable, resulting in less overlap between networks in crowded areas. Moreover, Wi-Fi 6E also has the highest Wi-Fi Alliance security certification — mandatory WPA 3 security controls.

83% of service providers, equipment manufacturers, and enterprises worldwide plan or already deploy Wi-Fi 6/6E, before the end of 2022, a Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) survey revealed. A clear initiative supporting this has been done by Saudi’s communications and information technology commission (CITC). KSA is then the first country in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to make the full 6 GHz frequency band available for Wi-Fi usage.

Contactless communication. Contactless communication. With the need for greater safety measures and physical distance, the COVID-19 pandemic simply reinforced the importance of contactless communication channels such as mobile, email, social media, and more. Aside from that, in reality, contactless technology has been used for more than 20 years for quick, easy, and secure transactions.

With a more digital-powered society, contactless is not only here to stay – it is expected to grow and become even more widely used in the coming years. Most smartphones these days have the near field communication (NFC) technology feature in them. This is a prominent proximity-based wireless communication standard, deemed to be better than Bluetooth, making it ideal for data transfer, mobile payments, quick pairing, public transport access, gaming, and home automation.

Zooming into one use case, the Middle East payments market has recently expanded to include fintechs, tech companies, and telecom companies. Telcos are now strong contenders in payments with the likes of Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Orange Money Africa, Ooredoo’s pay+, Vodafone Pay, and Etisalat’s eWallet. With their broad reach and technological prowess, they have a strong foundation for competing in a field where they must develop, tailor, and refine customer propositions in the best way possible.

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