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Four Telecommunications Trends Impacted By The Pandemic

Raj Shanmugaraj | 12/01/2021

Four Telecommunications Trends Impacted By The Pandemic


Nothing has put more pressure on the global telecommunications infrastructure than the Covid-19 pandemic. Overnight, companies, schools and households around the world transitioned to remote working, learning and socializing — all ofwhich require online access and increased use of video communications and augmented reality. This transition almost instantly pushed up internet usage by 70% and tasked networks that, prior to this point, were working fairly efficiently.


In a previous article, I wrote about the vast network of fiber optic cables on land, undersea and over airwaves that service the world’s bandwidth needs. While this network continues to be absolutely critical to meeting bandwidth demands, the impact of the pandemic has drastically changed the pattern of data traffic flow that runs through this vastly complex telecommunications infrastructure. A significant amount of data traffic used to originate from offices and buildings full of workers that had high-bandwidth connections set up to handle that flow, but now there is increased traffic coming from residential areas as people continue working and shopping from home and kids learn remotely. This is placing more strain on public and cloud infrastructures, as well as the edge and access connection points that service residential areas globally.


As this traffic continues to move to the edge and access connection points of service provider networks, we need to find new and innovative ways to keep up with bandwidth demands while still maintaining the efficient cost structures that are so important in these markets.


There’s No Going Back


These changes to the telecommunications infrastructure are irreversible. The prudent thing to do now is to move forward and work to evolve the network in a manner that can accommodate the new normal and new flow of data traffic. Below are some of the underlying trends and technologies that will be key to handling these changing and growing data traffic demands:


5G And Wi-Fi


The fastest 5G networks are expected to be at least 10 times faster than predecessor 4G LTE networks. The pandemic may accelerate the move to widespread 5G. China has roughly 700,000 5G base stations compared to only an estimated 50,000 base stations installed than the U.S. This race will continue for many years until 5G becomes ubiquitous around the globe. In the meantime, many providers have been deploying and even donating Wi-Fi hot spots to help connect kids during remote learning. For example, Google donated 100,000 Wi-Fi hot spots to help households in California, while T-Mobile donated 10,000 Wi-Fi hot spots to Baltimore students. We are likely to see many cloud providers and carriers putting hot-spots in places not planned on before.


Powerful Cable Access And Edge Computing


As more traffic is pushed toward the edge of the network, there is increased pressure on carriers and access providers to handle the new demands. Technologies such as high-capacity coherent optical, traditionally used for long-distance transmission, are now moving into the edge of the network to give these providers a much-needed bandwidth boost in a cost-effective manner. These technologies are easy to deploy due to their plug and play nature, allowing providers to upgrade older 10G links with new 100G or higher speeds in the future.


Network Security


Changing data traffic flows have created enormous pressure for companies to come up with new strategies that extend the same security they have in the office to their now-remote workforce. Businesses need to ensure that their networks aren’t exposed to hackers gaining access through an employee’s home network. Likewise, carriers need to make sure their residential data services are secure to provide security to the millions of children now connecting to their schools, teachers and classmates virtually.


Cloud Networking


Thanks to cloud computing, consumers and businesses now can access applications and data from any location worldwide and any device with an internet connection. Cloud networking enables "on-demand" access that enhances productivity and collaboration in the workplace as teams working on the same projects or documents have their files centrally located. Cloud computing can also benefit from exciting new capabilities such as AI and machine learning as it delivers the processing power needed to run these applications anywhere in the world. Furthermore, moving content to the cloud also saves costs and increases security. Tool maintenance and upgrades are less expensive when applications and services are centrally located, while end-to-end encryption and traceability are easier and more effective to manage to prevent network attacks.


Staying One Step Ahead Of Demand


The pandemic could have broken the internet, but it didn’t. This is a testament to the telecommunications infrastructure that has been put in place over the last few decades. 


However, it’s imperative to continue advancing these networks (over land, sea, air and space) because data traffic is ever-increasing, and applications that use more bandwidth are still being developed. Video communications, augmented reality, telemedicine and autonomous driving are perfect examples. AI and machine learning being used in innovative ways such as for Covid-19 contact tracing is another example. These applications are driving the need for higher speeds, with each interface supporting terabit-per-second speeds, smaller plug-and-play optical interfaces that enable scalability, and security features such as encryption.


These network advances should be achieved while also reducing the overall cost to maintain and expand high-speed networks. All these things require a strong global telecommunications infrastructure that is always looking to stay one step ahead of required capacity.


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