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Future Trends in Networking

Blair Arch, Princeton University
(Blair Arch, Princeton University - Kimberly Chen)

- Overview

Here are some future trends in networking: 

  • Self-healing networks: Networks will be self-optimizing and self-healing, using AIOps, automation, and orchestration as the basis for operations.
  • Decentralized technologies: The internet will increasingly be powered by decentralized technologies like blockchain and peer-to-peer networks. This would allow for greater privacy and security and will cut down on censorship.
  • Network automation: Network automation is the process of using software and tools to automate repetitive and complex network tasks. Network automation can improve network performance, reliability, security, and efficiency.
  • Wi-Fi 6 and 6E: Wi-Fi 6 and 6E continue to dominate as leading network technologies, revolutionizing wireless connectivity in 2024. Wi-Fi 6 is faster Internet, up to 9.6 Gbps.
  • Cloud computing: Cloud computing enables a more seamless transition to remote work and more effective management of virtual workspaces.
  • Scalability: As organizations keep on embracing and building upon new advances like cloud computing, they'll need network architectures that can evolve with them as their demands shift and develop.

Other future trends in networking include: 

  • 5G Revolution
  • Edge Computing
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
  • Zero Trust Security
  • Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
  • Multi-Cloud Adoption
  • IPv6 Transition

- Remote Work Becomes the Standard

As the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading globally and forcing governments to introduce hard lockdowns, people became more online-dependent - for work, school, communication and entertainment. This caused a massive surge in Internet traffic and raised concerns as to whether our network infrastructure could handle it.

At the very beginning of the pandemic in Europe, five major Spanish telecommunications operators, including Orange and Vodafone, warned that a roughly 40% spike in traffic had flooded IP networks together with a 50% jump in voice calls due to the rapid expansion of coronavirus. They urged users to use the Internet responsibly to avoid collapsing their networks.

Streaming services are indeed on the rise. Growing Internet traffic and concerns about network infrastructure are affecting our everyday lives, but coronavirus also has a profound impact on our businesses. The main challenge the companies are facing now is the need to work remotely. To make a smooth transition from on-site to remote work, an organization needs to have in place clear procedures, competent IT staff and proper networking technology.

VPN (Virtual Private Network) has become a keyword. Unfortunately, not every company had used a VPN before the pandemic so many needed to make an effort to catch up. Even if a company had a properly configured VPN, most of its employees didn’t use it, as they mostly worked onsite in the office. But with the pandemic scattering everyone into home-office mode, bandwidth suddenly became an issue. When the entire company moved online, it was hard to scale it up to cover the surge in traffic. 


- Emerging Enterprise Networking Trends

Networking got some serious attention with the advent of new technologies recently. These advances make their way into the fabric of digital transformation initiatives. We’ll see a focus on people and processes as automation becomes the new normal. Also, we’ll see greater reliance on wireless networking. All of these innovations promise to make for an exciting start to a new decade for IT leaders and their networking teams.



Software-defined WANs provide robust security, better performance, and enhanced flexibility and control. Companies can also expect significant gains in stability that will yield lower operating costs and higher levels of satisfaction from end users and customers. With an ongoing shift to the cloud and the resultant doubling of network traffic every 36 months, implementing and managing multiple transport options through SD-WAN is an especially timely advantage.  Billion-dollar deals in the SD-WAN space have impacted the number of vendors and elevated the market power of companies like HP and Ericsson. Despite recent transactions, though, plenty of options still exist in a space that will continue to expand over the year ahead.



Closely related to SD-WAN is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture, which adds an additional layer of security that is particularly applicable in remote work and edge networking environments. SASE provides IT with full visibility of traffic as it moves across the network. The ability to manage and monitor users, end points, and network traffic in real time is increasingly important as the shift to remote work becomes permanent. With more computing power placed on the edge, the burgeoning SASE market will become increasingly important. 


- A Multicloud Strategy

COVID, along with other catastrophic events that occurred in 2020, exposed the need for better access to data, applications, and bandwidth when core services are interrupted or inaccessible. By adopting a multicloud strategy, for example, organizations can reduce the impact of specific vendor outages, spread the workload across providers to increase efficiency and performance, and increase network security.  The inherent controls associated with SD-WAN/SASE are perfectly aligned with the flexibility of a multi-modal strategy. 

Multicloud is more than an evolution of the concept of redundancy. Instead, it assumes simultaneous access and utilization of cloud services, transport services, and other critical applications to ensure network stability and resiliency. Automation and interoperability are critical, as stated recently in a whitepaper from Everest Group for Accenture:  “When interoperability is at the core of a multicloud strategy, workloads run in unison to drive business agility, reduce the cost of technology, and harmonize processes.”


- Wireless 5G

5G is the fifth generation of cellular technology. It is designed to increase speed, reduce latency and increase the flexibility of wireless services.

The theoretical peak speed of 5G technology is 20Gbps, while the peak speed of 4G is only 1Gbps. 5G also promises lower latency, which can improve the performance of business applications, as well as other digital experiences such as online gaming, video conferencing and self-driving cars. 

While previous generations of cellular technology, such as 4G LTE, focused on ensuring connectivity, 5G takes connectivity to the next level by delivering the connected experience to customers from the cloud. 5G networks are virtualized and software-driven, and they leverage cloud technology.

5G networks will also simplify mobility, providing seamless and open roaming capabilities between cellular and Wi-Fi access. Mobile users can stay connected as they move between outdoor wireless connections and in-building wireless networks without user intervention or user reauthentication. 

5G technology should improve connectivity in underserved rural areas and cities, where demand may exceed the capacity of today's 4G technology. The new 5G network will also have a dense distributed access architecture and move data processing closer to the edge and users for faster data processing.


- Wireless 6G

6G (sixth generation wireless) is the successor to 5G cellular technology. 6G networks will be able to use higher frequencies than 5G networks and offer higher capacity and lower latency. One of the goals of 6G internet is to support communications with one-microsecond latency. That's 1,000 times faster than one millisecond of throughput -- or 1/1000th of the latency.

The 6G technology market is expected to facilitate major improvements in imaging, presence technology, and location awareness. Used in conjunction with artificial intelligence (AI), 6G computing infrastructure will be able to determine the best place to conduct computing; this includes decisions about data storage, processing and sharing.

It's important to note that 6G is not yet a practical technology. While some vendors are investing in next-generation wireless standards, industry specifications for 6G-enabled networking products are still years away.


- Wi-Fi 6 and 6E

The new Wi-Fi 6 wireless standard, also known as 802.11ax, shares the same characteristics as 5G, including improved performance. Wi-Fi 6 radios can be placed where users need them to provide better geographic coverage and lower costs. The foundation of these Wi-Fi 6 radios is a software-based network with advanced automation.

Beyond increased speed, Wi-Fi 6 also supports more users and connected devices without sacrificing performance. Testing and simulations by Intel and the Wireless Broadband Alliance put latency at between 2ms and 7.6ms, which is especially important for both office and public networks. 

Wi-Fi 6E extends the capacity, efficiency, coverage and performance benefits of Wi-Fi 6 to the 6 GHz frequency band. With up to seven additional ultra-wide 160 MHz channels available, Wi-Fi 6E devices can deliver higher network performance and support more Wi-Fi users simultaneously, even in very dense and congested environments.


- Wi-Fi 7

Wi-Fi 7 (the seventh generation of Wi-Fi) promises major improvements over Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, and can deliver up to four times the speed. It also includes neat improvements to reduce latency, increase capacity, and improve stability and efficiency.

How does Wi-Fi 7 compare to Wi-Fi 6E? Understandably, you might be wondering how Wi-Fi 7 differs from Wi-Fi 6E, which broadly promises the same benefits as previous standards by opening up the 6 GHz band. Especially since Wi-Fi 7 will use the same three 2.4-GHz, 5-GHz, and 6-GHz frequency bands. Here are some notable upgrades.

Each band is divided into channels. The 2.4 GHz band consists of 11 channels, each with a frequency of 20 megahertz (MHz). There are 45 channels in the 5 GHz band, but they can be combined to create 40 MHz or 80 MHz channels instead of being limited to 20 MHz wide. The 6 GHz band supports 60 channels, while Wi-Fi 6E has a channel width of up to 160 MHz. Wi-Fi 7 supports channels up to 320 MHz wide. The wider the channel, the more data it can transfer.

A simple analogy is to imagine how much traffic a single-lane road can handle compared to a three-lane highway or a six-lane highway.


[More to come ...]

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