Earlier this month we looked at some of the top telco trends to watch out for in 2021. From the long-promised rollout of consumer-ready 5G cellular, to the rise of edge computing, we’re seeing the need for high-bandwidth, high-speed broadband only increase with the expansion of new wireless technology.

Professionals in the broadband industry have been hearing this for years but 2021 is poised to be the year it moves from speculation to reality. So, here’s a look at three trends that promise to shape the fiber optic industry in 2021.

Structured Cabling Demand Rises 

Even in an increasingly wireless world and with 5G here, the need for wired Ethernet solutions in the home grows year over year. In fact, the global structured cabling market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.3% until 2025.

This is a trend that has been evolving over the past few years. More connected devices in the home, and high-bandwidth activities like online gaming and 4K video streaming are sucking up more bandwidth forcing many homeowners to have wired Ethernet access points installed throughout their home. Homebuilders, too, are now weaving structured cabling into their plans in higher numbers.

The pace of this trend was kicked into overdrive by the COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight, millions began working from home and discovered just how inadequate their existing internet connections were.

Many are opting to upgrade to fiber optic but are quickly discovering it’s not enough if your home office is a floor or two away from your router. Installers can expect to see a significant increase in the demand for structured cabling installations in new and existing homes alike.

Fiber Densification Increases

Just as structured cabling throughout the home maximizes the effectiveness of high-speed FTTP, fiber optic infrastructure in cities is needed to maximize the effectiveness of high-speed 5G networks.

5G’s incredible potential is limited by two factors: It’s short range and weakness penetrating walls. Therefore, achieving and maintaining peak performance will require dense backhaul networks full of mini-towers and antennas to sustain optimal 5G coverage.

These backhaul networks need to transmit and hand-off data in near real-time in order to match the speed of 5G, uninterrupted. Industry experts suggest fiber optic cabling can match the bandwidth demands needed to properly support 5G.

As 5G wireless networks expand, demand for fiber optic densification will also increase in equal measure.

WiFi 6 and 6GHz WiFi Enter the Mainstream 

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the future of Wi-Fi, you’re likely already watching Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E (which uses the recently opened-up 6GHz band). If you don’t, it’s time to start getting up to speed, as both could be clear alternatives to structured cabling solutions in the home.

Wi-Fi 6 is more than just a faster wireless network technology. It gives routers more ability to manage crowded networks and efficiently optimize coverage for different devices. CNET likens it to a “four-armed bartender capable of efficiently serving drinks to several patrons at once.”

Wi-Fi 6E, meanwhile, is capable of using the new 6GHz band recently opened by the FCC. What does that mean in practical terms? “If a Wi-Fi 6 router is a better bartender,” explains CNET, “then a Wi-Fi 6E router is a better bartender with a brand-new bar, one with an exclusive client list and lots of room to work.”

Wi-Fi 6 and 6E routers are already available to consumers and market-leading devices like the iPhone 12 already support it. Broadband suppliers and installers should expect more customers to begin enquiring about the availability of Wi-Fi 6 and 6E hardware in 2021.