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Written By:

CTN Editorial Board and Alan Gatherer, Guest Editor

Published: 26 Jan 2022


CTN Issue: January 2022

A note from the editors:

Over the new year’s break, the CTN team spent quite a bit of time to consider our predictions for 2022. We will do our best to provide some insight on the coming year.  With an avalanche of predictions coming from everywhere, we noticed that not many, if any, cared to see if their 2021 predictions actually panned out. So, in the spirit of accountability, we asked our esteemed former Editor-in-Chief, Alan Gatherer, to take a look at what the team came up with and use his natural wit to tell us how they did.  As you will see, he fell on the sword more than once. That’s the spirit Alan!

After that, in a much more subdued style, we embark on a new set of predictions that, by the look of them, seem to mirror, well, 2021’s.  And, for those that like the Marvel and Toy Story movies, you can try to guess what movies the 2022 predictions titles came from. Hope you have as much fun reading them as we had crafting them.

CTN Editorial Board
Alan Gatherer, CTN Guest Editor

Looking Back: Alan’s Stream of Consciousness Review of CTN’s 2021 Predictions.

1. Am I in the Presence of the Ghost of Telecoms Yet to Come?

A year ago, we predicted that 6G would become much shinier than its older brother, kind of like the ghost of Christmas present out-jollying the ghost of Christmas past in Dickens’ seasonal story. However, 6G so far has resembled more the ghost of Christmas yet to come; not saying much, and just generally pointing towards possible technologies without telling us if they are the shadows of the technologies that Will be, or if they are the shadows of technology that May be…part of 6G (sorry Mr. Dickens). We are thus tempted to call Humbug on 6G for 2021 and feel somewhat dismal on its prospects for progress in 2022. Some of this, of course, is due to the pandemic and continuing US-Sino tensions over, well, just about everything, which has focused our minds on getting 5G to do things right now as well as getting Open-RAN to work (see below). But there is also a general lack of actual meat in the 6G proposals.

2. 2021 Was Open-RAN’s Breakout Year

We plan to call our prediction on O-RAN breakout a moderate success. Reliance Jio and Rakuten, who had already deployed IT-based networks, began to normalize towards O-RAN standards, and the European operators took a leadership role in deployment of O-RAN equipment, with both Vodafone and Deutsche Telecom being very active, though of course the new equipment players pushing into the market are from all over the planet. As expected, the current deployments in Europe are mainly rural, as this is where Want is keenly felt (once you start on Dickens it is hard to stop), but enterprise and unlicensed deployments are beginning to emerge and may yet prove to be the innovation-driving force for O-RAN. Even Ericsson, often cast as the Ebenezer Scrooge of O-RAN, has ramped up its activity supporting it in 2021, mainly providing grim warnings about security, but still...

3. CBRS Moved Slower Than We Expected

After the excitement of the US CBRS auction in 2020, we expected use of the spectrum to make a bigger splash in 2021. This is not to say it was not a success, but deployments have been slow thus far and the fancy applications, such as factory 4.0 and AI-based robotic farming didn’t exactly explode in 2021. We remain optimistic that the CBRS auction will be looked back on as a watershed moment. But we also observe that development of these complex boutique wireless networks is proving to be more challenging than the marketing of “containerization” and “open interfaces” might lead you to believe.

4. AI in Communications, Yup

We will call our prediction that AI would become more commonplace and less exciting a success for 2021. In 2022, we expect engineers will continue to find novel ways of using AI in telecoms, but the impact will be a slow boil in the background of telecom deployment. This is somewhat of a concern for O-RAN which often makes a big deal of the ability to introduce machine learning into the network. This we feel is an important facet of modern networks and one that O-RANs must leverage successfully. But the benefits will come at a slow and steady pace in 2022.

5. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Will You Increase My Channel Capacity?

Last year we were quite excited by the hype around Intelligent Reflective Surfaces, but the progress in 2021 has been weak and mainly focused on trying to find something useful to do with machine learning. Efforts around producing productizable IRS seems to have come to a halt while the algorithm folks work out what they are good for, which in turn doesn’t seem to be moving very quickly to a conclusion. In our defense, we did notice the highly speculative nature of IRS a year ago. But still it seems we were a little too enthusiastic and we downgrade our predictions of IRS to a maybe this coming year.

6. Space Was Every Bit as Exciting, and Then Some, as We Predicted

We will call this prediction a success. SpaceX was in the news almost daily, not always for communications of course, and OneWeb began some serious deployment. By the end of 2021, we were seeing finger pointing not just between SpaceX and OneWeb, but the Chinese government even got into the mix complaining about SpaceX satellites getting too close to its shiny new space station. Talking of things in space being shiny, this was also the year in which people started complaining about light pollution from satellites. However, the cat is out of the bag and LEO satellite communication seems to be in a new era. Our prediction for 2022 is that the US and China will either work out how to talk to each other about what is up there and how to play nice in low earth orbits, or something will hit something and there will be hell to pay. Either way it is an exciting time for LEO satellites.

7. Were We Living on the Edge of the Network?

Like O-RAN, cloud edge networking made steady progress in 2021, but perhaps didn’t push into everyday life in the way we expected. Mainly for the same reasons stated above, a lack of deployment at scale of IoT and slow progress of AI into the network edge. The standards and technology are there, but business applications at attractive pricing seems to lag. We suspect that ease of deployment may be the biggest roadblock for edge computing, especially as it relates to the new applications that require very low latency and high reliability communications. We predict continued improvement in this area will lead to a tipping point, but if this will happen in 2022 is less clear.

And Now, a Look Ahead at 2022

“To Infinity…and Beyond!” mmWave to THz?

Even though millimeter wave transmission was considered one of the foundational 5G technologies since its inception, achieving full-gain multi-user performance has since proven costly and power-hungry. However, the thirst for high peak data throughput continues unabated, and 2021 saw an uptick in R&D spending and deployment in fixed wireless access and hotspots, a trend we expect will continue in 2022. Adding sensing and positioning capabilities on top of communication further expands potentially profitable use cases for the higher bands, which now include the so-called sub-Terahertz bands beyond 100 GHz. Interestingly, 2021 has seen a rather significant uptick of joint-sensing-and-communication topics in beyond-5G (not 6G, mind you) conversations from both academic venues and R&D organizations of tier-1 infrastructure vendors. In retrospect this is only natural: Directional beamforming, already a necessity to overcome pathloss in data transmission, happens to be also an incumbent must-have for imaging radar and passive imaging; wider instantaneous bandwidth provides both high peak data rate and ranging/positioning accuracy; higher carrier frequency allows the same beam-bandwidth product to be delivered by a smaller physical aperture. The high frequency bands and the concomitant wider bandwidth are a necessary enabler for joint-sensing-and-communication systems. These will propel broader R&D exploration on devices and on systems that scale with ever-increasing carrier frequency and ever-wider bandwidth, notably including the RF-photonic approach which is becoming competitive in cost and power consumption through progress in the photonic integrated circuit (PIC) front.

“If We're Going to Win This Fight, Some of Us Might Have to Lose It.”  5G or Not 5G? Will This Be the Year, Finally?

On our 2021 predictions, we talked about the amazing things we thought 5G could do and how CBRS spectrum could be a game changer for its deployment.  Well, as Alan aptly surmised on the retrospective, this wasn’t quite the case. Globally, 2021 saw a massive appetite for spectrum (The C Band Auction: What Just Happened?) but not so much in terms of broad deployments, and now we face a political mess with the FAA and the FCC trying to figure out yet another “5G is bad” issue.  Assuming that this issue is resolved quickly, we can focus on the actual deployments. Typically, spectrum auctions will lead actual network activities by six to twelve months, and with this type of investment happening not just in the US but globally, the odds are that 2022 will be a year where a massive amount of 5G rollouts takes place, becoming a peak year for deployments. With this, 5G will become mainstream, beyond MBB consumer type services and becoming a natural choice for several verticals and advanced connectivity solutions in factories, warehouses, mining sites and campuses.  The US, Korea, Japan and China will continue to lead this charge, but some countries in the EU along with Canada, Chile and others will also have meaningful deployments underway.  We predict that FWA will become the #1 application in 2022. There will be headwinds including the lack of low-category, native-5G devices, but this will be mitigated near-term with 4G-based solutions that will help bridge the gap.

“Sometimes You've Gotta Run Before You Can Walk” 6G: Not So Fast

A year ago, we were rather bullish on 6G, and we were not alone at that; the list of position papers that have appeared throughout 2021 on the matter of 6G is long indeed. Our main conclusion at the end of the year? Nobody has a clue. And, in fact, that’s as it should be at this stage. With 5G being rolled out at a pace somewhat slower than some had anticipated, and with some of its chief features (the verticals, millimeter wave, URLLC) still gathering momentum, it is way too soon to know what will be lacking in 5G, let alone what new needs will arise over the next decade for 6G to address. Sure, we all suspect that extended reality, cyberphysical systems, drones, or satellites, will play some role, and related ideas are covered in this very article, but past blunders in predicting killer apps are rather humbling. So here at CTN we’ll happily report on concepts and technologies for 6G as they surface, but we will not turn the page on 5G yet. As advanced, it is our belief that many lessons are yet to be learned from 5G’s deployment and future refinements.

“If We Can’t Accept Limitations, Then We’re No Better Than the Bad Guys.” O-RAN: Whom Do We Call When Something Goes Awry?

As we anticipated in our forecast a year ago, and despite understandable reluctance in some quarters, open RAN has made great strides in 2021. The perception has definitely sunk in that the future of radio access networks is edge-cloud-based and virtual, largely software defined, and this is the perfect context for the O-RAN ideas of openness and interoperability to win hearts and minds. That said, there are still hurdles ahead. For one, it is proving challenging to rely only on general computing platforms, and it seems like RANs will necessitate cloud centers that are more heterogeneous that anticipated, and not devoid of specialized hardware. But, above all, the question in people’s minds as they envision O-RAN implementations is the same doubt in the mind of someone embarking on air travel with multiple legs served by different airlines. If I miss a connection, which airline is going to fix me up? In the case of O-RAN: if something goes wrong and some parts don’t interface properly, whom do we call?

“Whatever It Takes.” Edge, IoT and Communications (EIC) Supports Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs)

SDG efforts are gathering steam in order to support the UN’s SDG vision by 2030.  This is not just green-energy-related, but seventeen equally important goals all of which share many important traits. How can communications technologies support these goals? Of the seventeen, we can argue that the majority can be supported by communications related activities, including edge computing and IoT solutions.


In 2022, use cases driven by Edge, IoT and Communications will enable solutions that support these efforts. Take the example of goal #4: quality of education. We all know how the delivery of education services has dramatically changed over the last two years and more is in store with a trend to democratize education driven by EIC (e.g., immersive virtual reality (VR) headsets). Climate action is in large part driven by carbon emissions reductions, in which ICT technologies play a large role. Environmental monitoring, resource management, and supply chain processes are use cases supported by EIC and delivering multiple SDG goals (#7, #9, #11, and #13). Finally, SDG goal #3 (Good health and wellbeing) is another one that’s being democratized by EIC, with access to quality health care becoming more widely available (e.g., remote patient monitoring and intervention delivery). What’s your view on these SDGs and how EIC can help make them a reality?

"Okay, the Unexpected I Can Deal With... As Long as I'm Expecting It, That Is…". How Our Security and Privacy Is Changing Forever

It has been brewing for a long time, as our communication devices have become an extension of us and a vault of all we are and do, and as cloud technologies take over how we store and move information, our privacy and personal information security is becoming increasingly a target for hacking not just by flybys, but also by much more sophisticated actors.  For a long time, some governments have been synonymous with surveillance efforts; in 2021 we saw Western governments calling out Chinese officials for their surveillance activities domestically and internationally, high level talks were held between Russia and the USA on the topic of hacking of commercial entities, and we saw strong efforts in the EU to regulate data privacy. Sadly, much more was happening as 2021 saw an explosion of events that bring into question the future of the Internet as we know it and the way in which the devices we use might be designed.  Many countries are looking to control the type of information that flows on their “Internet”, and this might lead to a fragmentation of the world wide web with distinct “walled garden” networks.  New surveillance technologies have made security attacks, pervasive enough that citizens are living in fear of data being stolen for damaging purposes. Pegasus and Candiru are two examples of software and companies looking to benefit from this industry, with the Pegasus scandal being just one of many such events that occurred in 2021. So, what can we do to protect ourselves?  2022 promises to continue the trend of having more sophisticated security solutions being offered while security efforts in standards bodies will increase significantly. As we deploy more and more IoT type devices, vulnerabilities are bound to explode. The success and failure of IoT and its supported services will depend on our ability to manage, regulate, and reach security agreements across all responsible actors and to find solutions that can protect the consumers and enterprises that embrace it. Will 2022 be the year when we see the internet change forever? Will security challenges delay deployment of 5G/IoT based verticals?

Statements and opinions given in a work published by the IEEE or the IEEE Communications Society are the expressions of the author(s). Responsibility for the content of published articles rests upon the authors(s), not IEEE nor the IEEE Communications Society.


This is all pie-in-the-sky. You can have all the greatest security standards in the world, but whether they are implemented is well open to question. Security is at the mercy of the vendor since there are no mandated security or testing to make sure the technologies are secure. The cloud is another example of this, and I predict that major clouds will be hacked in 2022, if they haven't been already. The layers of security software I have seen from cloud vendors simply invites complexity, and that is the downfall of the system. Humans simply cannot build secure systems, as it has been shown time and time again. Ransomware is a good example of this. Generally some user clicks on a link, and the attack vector takes over, and technology may mitigate some of this, but not all.

The better communciations we have, the better the malware can be distributed.

Can technology save us from ourselves? Nope.

Thanks for listening.

Steve Jacobson
Senior Life Member, IEEE

Submitted by on 19 January 2022

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