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The 4 Worst Network-clogging Trends from CES 2020

Portrait of Russ Fordyce

January 16, 2020
By Russ Fordyce
Sr. Director, Marketing

How Content, 8K, IoT, and 5G Will Keep You Up at Night for a Long Time to Come

In case you live under a rock or have successfully executed your New Year’s resolution to avoid all media,  the Consumer Technology Association’s CES show just wrapped, bringing nearly 200,000 people and an estimated $300 million to Las Vegas.

As usual, the CES sideshow, those items in the small halls and back corners of the convention center, entertained audiences with many bizarre and odd technologies, including items like Qoobo, a modern pillow pet that can take the place of a real cat or dog; a personal beer refrigerator that keeps track of your inventory; and even a lipstick mixer that can create the perfect color on demand, with just a few clicks from your favorite smartphone.

Source: Qoobo

But there were several important announcements, launches, and product showcases that could have a significant impact on optical and IP network operators in the coming months and years.

The Golden Age of Streaming Content Isn’t Ending Anytime Soon

The sheer amount of new “TV” shows, movies, and even platforms being developed is staggering. And if you are like me, it is impossible to keep up with the water cooler talk these days about “The Witcher,” “Fleabag,” “Watchman,” and the long-awaited return of Jennifer Aniston on “The Morning Show” from Apple TV+.

During CES, Apple landed an exclusive deal with ex-HBO chief Richard Plepler to develop content for its newly launched TV+ streaming service. Plepler was responsible for the meteoric rise of HBO to the streaming game, with hits like “Game of Thrones,” “Silicon Valley,” and “Ballers.” And if you think all that content will only be devoured on iPhones and iPads, think again: Apple now holds a 16% share of the U.S. streaming services market, and this announcement should only accelerate that number.

Another notable announcement was from a new streaming platform called Quibi (pronounced “kwibee”) that will deliver “bite-sized” content instead of traditional shows and movies. While this may sound ADD-inducing, the company is following online trendsetters like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram that all deliver short content, and is being led by Meg Whitman and media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg.

All these new shows and streaming platforms mean only one thing for network operators: more and more bandwidth demands from the edge to the core of your network as streaming media (also known as over-the-top or OTT) continues to take over and accelerate our viewing habits.

If You Thought Video Streaming Was Bad for Your Network, Here Comes 8K

Samsung, LG, Sony, and others all made announcements or showed off 8K televisions at this year’s CES. If you are not familiar with 8K televisions, these are super-high-definition platforms that aren’t twice as good as 4K, but four times as good! That is 16 times better than regular 1080P HD, which we all thought was amazing only a few years ago.

The first real use of 8K technology was during the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but Japanese broadcaster NHK started broadcasting 8K on a permanent basis in 2019, and will broadcast the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo in 8K as well.

While there has been debate about the timing of 8K, the fact is, it is real and coming. And if it is anything like the emergence of 4K, shipments of TV sets will accelerate…and the content, and bandwidth demands, will follow. Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and other platforms already stream in 4K but have yet to announce plans or dates for 8K streams. That said, Vimeo has been streaming in 8K for more than a year, and e-commerce giant Rakuten said in an interview in early 2019 that they intend to offer movies streamed in 8K.

Add higher and higher resolutions to more and more streaming content, and the golden age of content could prove to be the plague for many network operators.

Watch Out Michael Scott, IoT Is Invading the Office

IHS Markit has forecasted that the number of installed Internet of Things (IoT) devices will reach 40 billion by 2020. That’s five devices for every human on earth! And CES did not disappoint in the area of new consumer IoT devices. My favorites were a unique indoor gardening appliance by LG that takes the guesswork out of watering your plants and vegetables, and an IoT sliding door from Wayzn that automates the process of letting your dog in and out. Genius!

But IoT isn’t staying home. This year, there were several new devices to help us all work smarter. Lenovo’s ThinkSmart View is a dedicated screen for conducting Microsoft Teams audio and video calls from anywhere – like an Amazon Echo for work. While some workers have started to adopt video conferencing, dedicated devices like these could drive adoption (and bandwidth) as employees can more easily multitask and take notes during meetings when the video doesn’t consume their entire screen.

Source: Lenovo

Chinese robotics and artificial intelligence firm PuduTech also introduced BellaBot and HolaBot at CES. These two IoT robots are designed to eliminate food servers and “busboys” in restaurants. The company claims that the bots include an “advanced tactile feedback system, which makes it more human-like.” These types of robots may have a future in lower-cost restaurants that don’t have the margins to hire staff but want to deliver a “fast-casual” experience.

Regardless of these inventions’ viability, IoT will break free from our homes and invade other parts of our lives. More devices, more places, more bandwidth…you get the idea.

Say Goodbye to LTE and Hello to 5G Chips in Everything

Finally, one trend that seems to be on fire is putting 5G chips in just about everything. While many device manufacturers promised to add 4G LTE chips to laptops and other devices, now the reality of an always-connected world seems to be coming true.

Of course, we will have 5G smartphones, like those already announced or made available from Samsung, LG, OnePlus, Huawei, Xiomi, and eventually Apple. But laptop manufacturers, including Dell, Lenovo, and HP, have already promised 5G-enabled units.

5G will also enable mobile operators to jump into the home internet game. With faster speeds and more robust networks, companies around the globe will surely follow the lead of Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile by offering more than just mobile solutions. This should send chills down the spines of cable operators, as more providers now can deliver triple- or quad-play bundles.

More interesting will be how 5G enables new forms of communications. Verizon and HERE showed off new navigation capabilities to help us avoid hitting pedestrians, as well as a new “Visual Positioning Service (VPS)” for better vehicle location identification and navigation. So while 3G and 4G smartphones seemingly made us all horrible drivers, 5G could actually reverse the trend and automate safety.

That’s a Wrap from CES

What is clear from this year’s CES is that explosive bandwidth demand from consumers is not fading – in fact, it only seems to be accelerating as manufacturers take advantage of the new speeds and characteristics of the modern service provider network. New services and new devices will also push the performance limits of current networks, so network operators will need to rapidly scale up their networks and deploy new technology to help them deliver these latency-sensitive services.