Industry Blog

The 7 trends shaping the mobile industry in 2022

Time to read: 3 minutes

Are we there yet? This is a question many around the world are asking themselves as we continue our seemingly endless journey out of a pandemic and towards the so-called “new normal”. When we wrote our last industry predictions at the beginning of 2021, we talked about how much the world had changed, catching everyone that wasn’t a trained epidemiologist off guard and injecting some completely new trends into our industry. But this year’s industry trends are no less radical.

For our 2022 predictions, 7 Trends That Will Shape the Mobile Industry In 2022,  we gathered findings of a cross-section of mobile industry thought leaders and experts, including ABI Research, Analysys Mason and Strategy Analytics, as well as our key in-house experts from across the company. We identified seven emerging trends for the next 12 months which will be key to the mobile industry. Here’s a taster of what you can read.

Green-washing is out, earth-friendly mobile operators are in

Operators have been shoring up their ESG strategies for years in order to stay relevant in an increasingly climate-conscious market, and 2022 will see a further surge in sustainable policies and green initiatives. Greenwashing is definitely out, and impactful, earth-friendly strategies are in. Who could forget BCG’s revelation that the telecoms sector produces twice the global CO2 emissions of civil aviation? Several operators including AT&T, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Verizon are now leveraging virtualization to help cut emissions and lower their carbon footprint.

Political tensions spill over to mobile networks

As if the telecoms industry didn’t already have enough on its plate with the weight of the climate crisis heavy on its shoulders, it’s now going to have to weather an increase in state-sponsored cyberattacks. As tensions increase globally, we’re likely to see an uptick in nefarious activity targeted directly at mobile operators, including the interception of calls, location tracking, fraud, denial of service (DoS) attacks, covert surveillance, and, of course, ransomware. If government is the beating heart of a nation, telecoms networks are the neural conduits connecting everything to it, making them a very lucrative target for cyber terrorists, “hacktivists” and foreign adversaries.

Hyperscaler protocols dictate terms to operators

Complex encryption protocols were meant to keep subscribers safe, but operators have been scrambling trying to cut through encryption like QUIC (Quick UDP Internet Connections). According to Enea’s own figures, UDP increased from 39.8% in 2020 to 43% in 2021, while TCP uptake decreased from 60.2% to 57% over the same period. We’re likely to see this gap widen as we move through 2022, with the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Instagram all recently migrating to UDP. Unsurprisingly, instructing a significant portion of the world to effectively “stay at home and watch videos” during a global pandemic, puts strain on video traffic!

Wi-Fi and 5G get all serious…and tie the knot  

Many 5G operators are struggling with in-building penetration – it’s worse than 3G/4G. This undermines their ability to displace the residential broadband market, so operators have found a solution: Wi-Fi 6. With Wi-Fi 6 tripling the available spectrum of earlier specifications, operators can expand capacity in public locations by combining Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. Wi-Fi 6 has the same scheduling mechanisms as cellular (OFDMA), which will position it as the technology of choice for extending mobile coverage and offloading traffic. Instead of Wi-Fi and cellular competing, 2022 will bring us another step closer to a world of harmonious convergence.

The 5G threat landscape becomes harder to guard

Data is the new currency. And as telecom networks are the pipelines that move that data, they’re a natural target for threat actors seeking to steal it or hold it to ransom. This isn’t a new development but what we will see in 2022, as 5G continues its rollout, is the potential attack surface broaden. 5G means more use-cases, and more use-cases mean more end-points. In 2022, threat actors are going to have more targets than ever before, making security a vital consideration.

Getting (more) intelligent with edge clouds

The benefits of edge processing have long since been known, allowing data processing to occur closer to application clients instead of distant data centers. In 2022, the edge cloud market could soar, giving mobile operators even greater opportunities to deliver ultra-low latency and massive capacity from edge locations especially for ultra-low latency video applications. But buyer beware – the use of edge clouds will also contribute to the ever-growing attack surface that threat actors seek to exploit.

…And finally

The coming year will give way to threats and opportunities in equal measure, and operators will have to make important decisions that could heavily impact their bottom line. It almost makes you nostalgic for the days when all operators had to worry about were encroaching hyperscalers! We hope that the trends highlighted in this year’s report provides a roadmap for mobile operators to navigate our post-pandemic world.

Download this year’s report