I recently attended the Light Reading Vision Executive 2020 Summit in Dublin, and the event was a great peek into the thought process of some of the largest network operators in the world. Light Reading and Heavy Reading presented a number of different perspectives on what the future holds for telecom operators, some of which where quite compelling. One report that they presented was on the New IP Agency Interoperability testing, a first of a kind Network Functions Virtualization test that brought 12 vendors together to show that NFV solutions from various vendors could work together. This test was a big step forward for NFV, because it showed that the industry has stepped beyond just virtualization and moving towards true NFV.

The event inspired me to put my own thoughts on what the new trends that we will see in 2016 and beyond on the blog.So….here we go…

Virtualization and NFV get some big wins and deployments: Most operators have already implemented a few projects using virtualization, often their internal IT or control plane deployments. More and more operators are making vendors decisions based upon virtualization products, and I fully expect to see a few significant data plane deployments in 2016.

Orchestration gets real: One point made at the Vision 2020 conference that is often glossed over is that orchestration is really about automation. There are a lot of vendors that have designed their solutions to be very friendly to APIs and automation, and there have already been some ETSI POCs that demonstrate this is real-world scenarios. The New IP Agency intends to do an orchestration interoperability test in 2016, and that test will shine a light on the real state of NFV orchestration, but I expect orchestration to reach out beyond NFV in 2016.

4K video begins to appear in the wild: I have a 4K TV in my house, and the picture is stunning, even with simple upscaling on existing HD video. It makes recorded TV shows look like they are almost live, which can be a bit disconcerting at times because the picture is so clear. Interestingly enough, the easiest way to get 4K streams now is directly to your smart TV since most devices are not yet supporting 4K, but that will change in 2016.

Video bandwidth continues to increase: It is a bit of a no-brainer to say that video bandwidth will increase, but the 4K prediction above is the biggest thing that will accelerate video bandwidth consumption. Netflix recommends 3Mbps for SD, 5Mbps for HD, and 25Mbps for UHD, so users may go from 3or 5Mbps to 25Mpbs for some UHD quality content. With video already consuming from 60-70% of downstream bandwidth on our customer’s networks, it will only get worse.

A new game-changing app will appear: Every year a new app appears that had to potential to change consumer consumption patterns. In 2015, Popcorn Time and Periscope were notable new additions to the landscape (fortunately for Hollywood, Popcorn Time hasn’t taken off yet). Periscope is interesting because it can turn every device into a live video stream and has the support of Twitter, and it won the App Store “Best of the Year” as a recognition of this potential. In August, Periscope claimed 10M users, and I expect that number to keep growing. What will the new app be in 2016? The beauty of it is that we don’t know, and that uncertainty is actually awesome and a testament to the creativity enabled by the Internet.

Streaming-only cord cutters get enabled: Amazon has started an aggregation offering for streaming services that includes Showtime, Starz, and other services (as a start). CBS announced (although it will begin in January of 2017 and not 2016) a new Star Trek series only for online. The biggest advantage that Pay-TV has today is bundling convenience, and Amazon’s offering is the first of what I would expect to see of many offers. Cord Cutters today will end up paying more if they want to watch a similar line-up to cable services, and have to manage a lot of different apps. Aggregation offerings may change that equation going forward.

2016 will be an interesting year for consumer broadband, and I look forward to seeing “What’s Next” in 2016.