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Mobile to Rock at EC18

Working with the Enterprise Connect conference team on mobility sessions is one of my biggest projects each year, and each year we seem to come up with a different set of topics that need to be on the program. The transition to 5G and the required infrastructure changes, like small cells, are certainly part of the story. However, this year the biggest changes we're seeing are in usage.

Text has gone from being a convenient chat mechanism to a major enabler in the omnichannel contact center. Once an interesting "idea," the Internet of Things (IoT) has grown to a capability serving hundreds of millions of endpoints. And as the mobile services get more numerous and complex, IT departments are going to have to get more knowledgeable and involved.

Here's a quick rundown of the major mobile topics we've got planned for EC18:

  • 5G -- Yes, it's coming. The carriers are promising initial services by year-end and major rollouts through 2019. In the meantime, does anyone really know what 5G means? You've probably heard it should increase mobile data rates by an order of magnitude (i.e., 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps sustained) and you might have even heard about low latency (i.e., 1 msec) services for applications like autonomous vehicles, so there's a play on IoT applications. But did you know, many of the initial deployments are for fixed wireless? The FCC has just released $4.53 billion to fund the construction of LTE wireless networks in rural areas, as part of the Mobility Fund Phase II.

    5G is going to have a big impact on small cells, and those small cells introduce the possibility of using different frequency bands, including the 5-GHz band your Wi-Fi network is running on. All of this will be on the table for the "Mobility 2021: Preparing for the (Even More) Mobile Enterprise" session, for which we've compiled a panel comprising representatives from carriers (Sprint and Verizon) and UCaaS/CPaaS providers (Ribbon Communications and RingCentral).

  • IoT -- Now that we have some tens of millions of IoT devices in service (hundreds of millions if you include smartphone-based applications), IoT is finally starting to get some serious attention. While 5G and IoT have gotten tangled together, in the near term the carriers are already deploying new wireless services like Category M and NarrowBand IoT specifically for the requirements of low-capacity IoT applications (read related article, "IoT Starts With 'Network'"). While the cellular offerings will be key for wide-area applications, Wi-Fi is going to have a major impact as well, and already dominates in IoT applications for the home.

    However, IoT faces a lot bigger challenges than finding wireless transport options, like developing the expertise to build and maintain IoT applications and developing business plans that cover the costs (see related article, "Long Windup to IoT"). We'll be talking about all of that and more in our session, "IoT: Market, Players & Opportunities." For this discussion I'll be joined by representatives from Arrow SI, AT&T, Cisco, and Mitel -- so we should get a great mix of viewpoints. You might also want to check out Brent Kelly, of KelCor, in his session, "Real-World IoT--How it Works, How it Integrates."

  • Text -- The adults have now figured out what the kids knew when they jumped on AOL Instant Messenger in the '90s -- text is great! We're seeing it show up on employee-to-employee applications in team collaboration apps, but text is having an even bigger impact in the omnichannel contact center space where traditional contact center providers like Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys are coming up against the likes of Facebook and Salesforce.

    What the enterprise vendors will be finding out is that text is already a multibillion-dollar market, and they're on the outside looking in! (see related article, "Texting Two Ways"). We have a session that will help you understand what's what in the text market; which parts are open and which parts are closed; and what tradeoffs they'll have to take into account in trying to work their way in. All of this, including Apple's new Business Chat offering, will be in the discussion during "Making Mobile Messaging Work for Your Enterprise." To cover all sides of the argument we have representatives from the UC&C/contact center space (Genesys and RingCentral) as well as CPaaS pioneer Twilio.

  • Apple -- Speaking of Apple, we'll have a whole session dealing with the subject: Is Apple Really Ready for the Enterprise? The stress marks are beginning to show in the Apple juggernaut, but the company still represents a major force in the mobile market. We'll be looking at Apple's unique position in the technology market; what it has to offer enterprise customers, both in terms of employee-to-employee and business-to-consumer offerings; and how you can get the most out of your Apple investment.
  • Indoor Coverage -- In our last mobility session, "New Options (and Challenges for Indoor Wireless Coverage," we'll get back to infrastructure, particularly the infrastructure that will allow users to make and receive calls (and texts and emails) in the traditionally problem-prone indoor environments. Distributed antenna systems (DAS) have been the go-to solution for carriers up to now, but a DAS can represent a million-dollar investment for a headquarters location or a large public venue. As a result, with 5G the carriers are looking at any number of small cell implementations as part of an overall strategy of network densification.

    Not all of this is good news, as some of those solutions involve using unlicensed frequency bands that could potentially interfere with your in-place Wi-Fi networks, while other solutions look at hitching a free ride on your Wi-Fi infrastructure.

    How the carriers address those issues will depend a lot on what spectrum they have available to use, and subject matter experts from Sprint and Verizon and will be on hand to talk about the technologies, frequency bands, and overall approaches these companies will be taking to ensure our mobile works wherever we wander.

I've had the opportunity to work on some great mobile projects this year, and to do extensive research in how the carriers are setting up to address the challenges before them. I've also watched as both the UC&C/team collaboration and contact center vendors have made adjustments to their offerings in response to the ever-changing demands of mobile users. We've put together a program that's designed to bring you up to speed on the issues you need to be conversant in, and the opportunity to hear what some of the major suppliers are doing to stay in step with the all-important mobile ecosystem. I hope you'll join us!

Learn more about mobility at Enterprise Connect 2018, March 12 to 15, in Orlando, Fla. Register now using the code NOJITTER to save an additional $200 off the Regular Rate or get a free Expo Plus pass.

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