January 24, 2023

What to expect from wireless technology in 2022


By Laurent “LT” Therivel, President and CEO of UScellular

2021 has been a year of huge challenges, but there have also been incredible advancements in the world of wireless technology that have changed the way we live, work and play – for the better.

I’ve been in the wireless industry for over 15 years and as technology advances there’s always something to be excited about. Today, more than 300 million people have access to a 5G wireless network, so it’s hard to believe that this innovation became available only three years ago. 5G has been described as a transformative technology, but most transformations happen regularly – they become “trends” that happen over time. To that end, here are three trends I predict for 2022 that can have a lasting impact on families and businesses across the country.

1. Real change for rural America

A recent study by BroadbandNow indicates that more than 40 million people in the United States do not have reliable high-speed Internet access, many of them in rural areas. One of the main factors for the lack of coverage in these areas is simple economic considerations – it can sometimes be twice as expensive to build the necessary broadband infrastructure in rural areas, and there are far fewer people to help pay for the service – which makes it prohibitively expensive. for suppliers and costly for customers.

But there are encouraging signs that this will change. The recent infrastructure bill allocated more than $65 billion for broadband and provides an unprecedented opportunity for the expansion of broadband connectivity in underserved areas, as well as increased accessibility for consumers. . And the heads of government I’ve spoken to are eager to put that money to work for their constituents.

Additionally, a revolutionary new wireless technology – 5G fixed wireless – can deliver ultra-high-speed connectivity to homes and businesses, bringing reliable broadband access to rural areas quickly and affordably. At UScellular, we achieved world-record speeds during trials of our fixed wireless solution, and we look forward to rolling out the service to more customers in 2022. Our investments in fixed wireless have the dual benefit of also enabling enhanced 5G mobile broadband. for consumers, enabling them to connect at home and on the go.

I predict that 2022 will be the year we begin the path to meaningful progress in connecting rural America and bringing everyone closer to the digital economy.

2. The Internet of Things is going mainstream

You may have heard this one before. The Internet of Things – or IoT – has been touted for years, and while there has been significant progress towards the ultimate promise of a connected world, the hype has so far outweighed the results. However, the business leaders I have met have shared concrete examples that demonstrate that IoT technology is beginning to realize its potential, primarily due to the ubiquity of 5G networks that provide the consistent and fast connection that IoT devices need.

Hospitals reduce costs and improve patient care by tracking the location of thousands of assets, such as beds, medical equipment and specialized instruments, as well as monitoring temperature-sensitive medications. Precision agriculture allows farmers to automate their irrigation systems and monitor soil quality, minimizing money and resources spent by only applying water and fertilizers when and where they are needed. . For consumers, the expectation that everything can be tracked and connected is becoming a reality with security cameras, smartwatches and low-cost item tracking like AirTags.

According to the CTIA, there are over 190 million IoT devices in the United States, representing over 40% of all estimated wireless devices. I predict 2022 will be the year the IoT really starts to break out of the hype and deliver on the promise of a world where everything can be connected.

3. Connect to be together

Perhaps the most impactful change I see for 2022 is reversing the trend of technology that is dividing us online and instead helping us connect in real life. And the clues are there.

Connectivity has always been used to bring people together – phone calls, text messages, video calls and even social media initially brought us together, helping us connect with old friends and share important life moments. But much of the social discourse online these days is divisive, toxic, and sometimes even deadly. When people can hide behind digital disguises and speak to anonymous, faceless recipients, every online conversation can quickly escalate into an “us versus them” divide.

Encouragingly, at UScellular, we are seeing a steady increase in personal communications. One-to-one text messaging is on the rise, and after declining year-over-year, phone calls per user increased on our network in 2021 – signs that people are connecting directly with each other, not around each other through social media.

I have also personally observed a shift towards mastering the dangerous echo chambers of social media, and often teenagers – like my daughters – are leading the way. They are increasingly aware of the implications of an always-connected life. They realize the value of their personal data, and they focus less on ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, and more on sharing experiences with people they love… their friends.

While there is still a lot of work to be done to make the online world safe and enjoyable for everyone, I predict that 2022 is the year the pendulum will begin to swing away from the technology that divides us and toward the connections that bring us together. So this holiday season, let’s use the connections to be together. First, call your mother. Then put the phone away and spend time with your family.

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