February 3, 2021

Telecom Trends in 2021: Bringing 5G Indoors, Wireless Public Safety Changes, and New Carrier Moves


By Seri Yoon | Feb 01, 2021

While many industries hit a wall last year, telecom was defined by its growing importance to our economy and lives. In 2020, 5G continued its nationwide rollout, and bandwidth usage substantially increased due to stay-at-home orders and the global quarantines. At the beginning of the pandemic, mobile bandwidth usage increased between 50 and 70% as people increasingly relied on digital communication for both work and personal usage. This is expected to continue in the new year. Below are other major trends I see happening this year in telecom.


5G’s high speed, low latency communication is poised to unlock new capabilities for a variety of industries by enabling scalable technologies such as massive IoT, AI, and mixed reality (AR and VR). However, the mmWave frequency bands that underpin 5G traverse short distances, sometimes under a mile, and are easily disrupted by natural elements and building materials. This makes 5G mmWave akin to a hotspot for wireless coverage as opposed to pervasive connectivity that we have become accustomed to during the 4G/LTE era. With such a short and easily disrupted range, the long-term success of 5G will be largely determined by mobile carriers’ ability to bring the limited network indoors (where 80% of connections happen) through a combination of distributed antenna systems, small cells, repeaters and other emerging wireless technologies.

Enterprises, healthcare, manufacturing, and many other industries are all looking to capitalize on the immense potential of this next wireless generation, but changes cannot truly begin until carriers and OEMs work together to bring this limited range band indoors.


When most people envision wireless communication they think of its business and consumer usage, but there is also substantial growth in the wireless broadband public safety sector as the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a hefty emphasis on health and safety. Emergency responder communication enhancement systems (ERCES) are required in every commercial building to ensure ubiquitous connectivity for portable land mobile radios (LMR), including critical coverage areas like fire command rooms, exit stairwells, elevator lobbies, basements and exit passageways. To ensure this happens across every property, authorities having jurisdictions (AHJ) enforce codes from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Fire Code (IFC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), including local addendums. Complying with these codes is required for a building to receive its certificate of occupancy.

UL 2524 is a new standard proposed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which represents the most rigorous set of standards of two-way radio communication to ensure emergency responders can connect in and around commercial buildings. While it has already been mandated for new buildings in limited jurisdictions, this is likely to grow in 2021 because the new IFC and NFPA code versions undergoing review mandate UL 2524 system listing. The good news for AHJs is that UL 2524 will also make enforcing compliance much simpler at scale because all ERCES products that are UL 2524 second edition-listed have a mark that can be scanned and verified, streamlining a typically mundane aspect of enforcing the codes.


Earlier, I mentioned the importance of bringing 5G indoors to take full advantage of what the wireless technology will bring to many industries. Mobile carriers understand 5G success hinges on these applications, and will engage in new partnerships to bring themselves much closer to the technologies and use cases their networks enable. This is vastly different from 4G/LTE where carriers simply provided sufficient coverage and capacity for enterprises to use how they see fit.

For example, late last year Verizon and Microsoft partnered to bring private 5G mobile edge computing to enterprises. Similarly, they also partnered with Nokia to offer private 5G network solutions to enterprises in Europe and Asia-Pacific using their Digital Automation Cloud (NDAC) tools. Sprint (T-Mobile), Steelcase and Ericsson are collaborating on 5G and IoT applications in the workplace. Tech companies are also partnering with each other in support of mobile carriers. IBM recently launched its 5G cloud platform for telcos, partnering initially with Nokia and Samsung to help it come to fruition. We can expect more such cooperation in 2021 to ensure the success of many complex and revolutionary use cases that 5G will enable.

If 2020 was the year that people became even more reliant on telecommunications to live, work and play, 2021 will be defined by industry efforts to capitalize on this momentum and completely reinvent the way we engage with wireless. This is the “prove it” year for 5G to live up to its enormous hype, and mobile carriers will do what is needed to succeed.

Seri Yoon is the Director of Marketing at ADRF, with responsibility for marketing programs, brand management, and public relations. Seri also manages and oversees corporate sponsorships, events, social media campaigns, media relations, marketing training and more.  She has more than 16 years of marketing experience in the telecommunications industry. Prior to joining ADRF, she was a Marketing Manager at Commscope and TE Connectivity. Seri holds a BS in Business Administration from Carnegie Mellon University.