The wireless future according to Cogent

For years the business connectivity market has been dominated by fixed line solutions, but it's time to move on argues Cogent Distribution Managing Director Jim Kernahan whose business is helping the channel to deftly exploit the wireless revolution that's already in our back yards.

Current technology developments will bring to the industry an opportunity as certain and full in its potential as VoIP, according to Kernahan, who says the Internet of Things (IoT) and advent of 5G will catalyse a period of intense technology-led investment that will play directly into the hands of Cogent and its channel partners. "We're seizing this significant opportunity," he stated. "Mobile data routing (MDR), fast fixed wireless and 5G will create a new platform for network connectivity and we want to be at the forefront as these products emerge and combine."

Analyst forecasts indicate that spending on wireless telecoms worldwide will hit circa $871 billion by the end of 2017, and Kernahan's 2017 route map shows clearly what is taking place in the market. The Thatcham-based company launched in June this year following a link-up with Peplink which provides SD-WAN, load balancing, VPN and proprietary bonding solutions designed to increase and secure wireless bandwidth. "The rapid expansion of mobile and smart devices underscores the importance of delivering reliable, high speed wireless connectivity," said Kernahan.

The Peplink portfolio is supported by radio solutions from Siklu and Mobile Mark's range of antennas that work with Peplink's mobile data routing products, as well as covering other areas of wireless connectivity. "We expect fast growth in demand for indoor and outdoor wireless solutions and the integration of mobile bandwidth and fixed wireless to gradually replace fibre and copper solutions," added Kernahan. "We will expand our portfolio accordingly as an ongoing priority and growth will be steep, our success driven by getting the right products and our messages across."

With Kernahan beating the channel drum this opportunity is unlikely to suffer from obscurity, but success will depend not on the technology itself but on the confidence and resolve of resellers to win in the wireless revolution. In most cases this will necessitate a shift in strategy to partner with a distributor that has the expertise they lack in spadefuls. Enter Cogent Distribution. "We see a gap in the market for true value added distributors," said Kernahan. "There are plenty that call themselves VADs despite being box shifters that don't carry enough stock or have the technical expertise to truly advise their customers. With Cogent we're going to buck that trend. We do all the groundwork for our partners and there is much more to come - watch this space."

The company is an indirect only operation and its partners are resellers, systems integrators and consultants who lack the expertise required to bring wireless solutions into their portfolios. "Everybody who works for Cogent Distribution is an experienced professional in the wireless market," added Kernahan. "We advise partners and provide the market and product knowledge they need to help ensure that the demand we anticipate is realised."

The integration of cellular access and fixed wireless is crying out for the same industry vision that uplifted the early years of VoIP, and in launching Cogent Distribution Kernahan aims to take this visionary lead in driving the convergence and growth of pervasive high-speed wireless and 5G into a common platform. "5G will bring many opportunities to the wireless market along with a step-change, not just in speed and connectivity but in the way we buy data," he emphasised. "With many more connected devices there will be a huge jump in mainstream user connectivity and this audience will expect and demand fast and reliable connectivity wherever they are."

Readers would do well to learn from Kernahan's market observations, strategic actions and insightful experiences gained from a long career in the ICT industry. "I've been in the IT business for many years, even before the likes of Microsoft and IBM were regarded as key players," he said. "Experience has taught me to understand the evolution of products and identify the key market trends. I have a strong sense of what will and won't work as well as which products will be the most successful."

When Kernahan left university he was recruited by London Carriers, a wholly owned subsidiary of Philips Lighting, as a graduate trainee. Soon afterwards a friend set up an IT business which he joined in a sales role. "I've been in IT almost from the start and witnessed many changes that stand me in good stead as we strive to become the acknowledged leading provider of 4G/5G and fixed wireless integrated solutions," he stated. "This will involve much hard work, investment and continual monitoring of the tools we use as we prepare for a market that will be a different place to live and work in. Underlying all of this, of course, will be fast connectivity."

Kernahan fully expects demand for wide area leased fibre lines to dwindle as in comparison they become more costly than cellular connectivity over time. "Wireless connectivity will be increasingly important as coverage grows and users adopt cellular services as primary or first choice connectivity solutions, rather than toggle between the two as we do now," he said. "The IoT and 5G will pave the way to a world of opportunity, and those still in the market for fibre might want to rethink their long-term purchasing plans.