Things got seriously geeky during one of the hundreds of specialized breakout sessions at the International Consumer Electronics Show.
Certainly, everyone here at the show wants to know what the next big thing will be. So it’s no surprise that a panel called “Six Wireless Technology You’ll Want to Know” would attract a standing-room-only audience.
Among those talking shop and debating the future of wireless tech was Broadcom’s own Michael Hurlston, senior vice president and general manager of wireless connectivity combos in the Mobile & Wireless Group.
Terms like “LTE Advanced,” “802.11p” and “mesh networks” were bandied about with ease by members of the panel while some 100 tech reporters, industry analysts and trade show-goers jostled for a spot in the room. Hurlston touched on several of Broadcom’s biggest initiatives on a panel with executives from T-Mobile, Sprint, wireless network tester Octoscope and even another wireless chip company (and Broadcom competitor) — Qualcomm.
Hurlston, together with these industry peers, dropped seriously relevant knowledge about wireless device proliferation, Hotspot 2.0 standards, connected cars, small cell base stations, and pondered the ways in which the sharing, reusing and parceling could address the challenge of the wireless spectrum crunch.
The theme of the day: All wireless spectrum is precious and all wireless networking technologies are needed — the challenge is getting them to work together seamlessly.
Some key topics debated by Hurlston and the rest of the wireless industry crew at the panel:
Is Hotspot 2.0 a viable option for offloading data traffic from overloaded cellular networks?
Hotspot 2.0 is a new certification standard to help mobile devices connect seamlessly to wireless networks. It’s just one tool in a box full of possible solutions to the overloaded cellular network issue, but it’s not here yet, Hurlston said. “Hotspot 2.0 is going to be a fantastic thing but North America is behind in this regard.” In China, for instance, cell networks feature an assortment of access points that offload traffic by seamlessly combining Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
“Those carriers have done a wonderful job easing the capacity crunch.”
Will small cell base stations displace Wi-Fi in the home?
While T-Mobile’s Mark McDiarmid was less bullish on the near-term utility of small cell base stations than the rest of the group (“The chipsets in those devices have to work at an efficiency level that preserves battery life for consumers,” he said. “Making them accessible is burdensome and expensive.”), Hurlston believes that the key to successful integration of small cells is collaboration. While Wi-Fi will remain a home wireless technology, it can coexist with the cellular networks because each small cell chip is built to handle Wi-Fi as well. “The right hand-offs have to take place but neither technology is going away.” Meanwhile, Sprint’s Iyad Tarazi noted that the carrier began deploying small cells six years ago and already has a million of them up and running.
How close are we to vehicle-to-vehicle communication between connected cars?
Not very. While Qualcomm’s Dan Rabinovitzj talked up the exciting potential for connected cars traveling at high speeds to talk to each other via “mesh networks” and form on-the-go caravans that avoid collisions and inform each other about traffic, accidents and other hazards, he echoed Broadcom’s Hurlston in acknowledging the huge amount of testing that will need to occur before this tech hits the road. Broadcom’s connected car efforts are much more near-term. Hurlston recalled taking a test drive in a Tesla S, which he said runs a state-of-the-art applications processor. “Its breaking system is powered by Ethernet, and we’re working on that right now. The opportunity is enormous.”