This year promises to bring in technology that may change your installation process. You’ll see a high demand for media distribution enclosures, as well as wireless mesh networks, high-end routers and modems as more of your customers adopt smart home technology.

Tech and business writers hyped the Internet of Things (IoT) a great deal in the last couple of years, but in 2018, adoption will accelerate. This is due to changes in product pricing and improvements in chip technology. This, coupled with ongoing streaming video adoption, means that, once again, broadband providers will need to improve their offerings to keep up with demand.

Wi-Fi in 2018

2018 will be the year of the home network. With the Google Home Mini and Alexa Dot both selling for under $50, the smart home market has exploded. Internet service providers (ISPs) are delivering broadband capable of handling smart home features, but the Wi-Fi setup within their customers’ homes may not be able to support heavy bandwidth use. Most homeowners don’t distinguish between in-home Wi-Fi and internet service, and they want their ISP to take care of their connectivity needs.

To keep their smart home customers happy, ISPs will need to offer features like managed wireless mesh networks, premium in-home Wi-Fi, and improvements to customer premises equipment (CPE). Managed wireless mesh networks involve installing numerous devices throughout the home that act as nodes in a network topology. Premium Wi-Fi is an upgrade to CPE that ISPs can offer as a top-tier offering. Consumer demand for better Wi-Fi will mean CPE will need upgrades, and ISPs can offer a range of routers to customers.

The Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax, will launch in 2018 as well, introducing improvements in download and upload speeds, coverage, and battery life. Products like routers based on this new specification are being manufactured now, but the standard won’t be widely used until 2021.

Video

Another factor fueling in-home bandwidth use is the continued increase in online digital media. Video (both on-demand and live) and radio have moved online in a big way.  Over-the-top (OTT) video adoption continues to grow, and live-streaming video events will increase bandwidth demand. Your customers will be attending concerts and sporting events all over the world with virtual reality (VR) technology. They will also be using VR for live social interactions on platforms like Facebook Spaces and Google Hangouts.

More machine learning

There are new chips for data centers on the horizon as well as field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) that will drive growth in machine learning (ML). These new chips will enable IoT devices to use less power and become more responsive, which will encourage more businesses to develop IoT devices.

Currently, graphics processing unit (GPU) and central processing unit (CPU) chips dominate the market, and they will continue to dominate through 2018. But, according to Deloitte, FPGAs and ASICs will account for 25% of the market by the end of 2018.

Automation in manufacturing will continue to increase, and businesses of all kinds will adopt ML for marketing, customer service, accounting, and even human resource management. Much of this will be handled by cloud services, which means the bandwidth requirements for your business customers will be on the rise throughout 2018. It also means network security will be top-of-mind for these customers.

What it means for ISPs and you

2018 promises plenty of opportunity for ISPs with the agility to change their offerings and business models. ISPs who offer premium Wi-Fi or managed mesh networks can use ML to collect customer data while monitoring the operation of these services. ISPs can – and will – continue to diversify their offerings, adding streaming video and radio services to their packages. As the packages and offerings change, the installation process will change as well.