Technology Trends and the Impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 pushing 5G forward faster, AI and Machine Learning — driving businesses through the pandemic, increasing demand for data driving growth in subscriber connections, and WiFi 6 technology are examples of four technology trends in the wireless communication space that have been impacted by COVID-19. More details on each provided below.
COVID-19 Pushing 5G Forward Faster
- For a while now, consumers have continued pushing for even faster connectivity; however, COVID-19 accelerated the push, particularly towards 5G connectivity.
- The work from home initiative due to the negative impacts of COVID-19 has relocated many workers from highly connected offices to remote working places with poor connectivity; thus, mounting pressure on the need for faster connectivity, i.e., 5G technologies.
- Despite the slowed activities within the telecoms, companies should remain optimistic that many wireless carriers are proceeding with their plans for 5G rollout. Some telecoms are positive that they may exceed their 5G implementation plans.
- For example, in May, Verizon debuted a "virtual lab to test 5G deployments." It rolled out 5G coverage across San Diego, California. In China, the deployments are happening faster, forcing some players like Ericsson to revise their 5G enrollment goal for 2020.
- Elsewhere, chip manufacturer — Qualcomm stated in its most recent quarterly earnings report that over "60% of devices shipped that quarter were 5G ready." Presently, about 380 operators are investing in 5G, while 80 operators in more than 35 countries are already offering commercial 5G services.
AI and Machine Learning — Driving Businesses through the Pandemic
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) continue exploding as more businesses implement the technology to analyze the data that is growing exponentially and gain insights into their businesses. In 2019, IT Ops and Security company Splunk announced the “Data to Everything” campaign to indicate the growing importance of capturing all data.
- The value of AI and ML to data analytics is currently marketed to businesses under three critical propositions, i.e., convenience, scale, and speed, which have been realized in recent months. Companies should expect to see more power in AI and ML, following continued growth and investments.
- The fusion of AI into more activities done by humans is also a result of massive investments in the sector. Leading cloud vendors like AWS, Google, IBM, and Microsoft are increasing investments in technologies to speed the cloud.
- Likewise, chipmakers Intel and NVIDIA are developing graphics processing units (GPUs) that can enhance learning and training from data to drive targeted recommendations and accurate conversational AI.
- AI technology is expanding to the edge, where it helps businesses accommodate the vast amounts of data from the IoT (internet of things) space. Overall, AI and ML are likely to continue expanding; thus, at this moment, a wireless company should have access to these technologies, specifically AI and ML.
Demand for Data Driving Growth in Subscriber Connections
- In the U.S., the demand for mobile data services expanded at a steady pace from 2014 to 2019, with the industry’s major players capitalizing on this trend, following the growth of wireless subscriber connections that grew from 223.5 million in 2014 to about 365.6 million in 2019, an increase of over 63% in five years.
- America’s wireless networks data traffic surged unexpectedly as the networks attempted to handle the unprecedented increases in mobile voice and data traffic fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the pressure, COVID-19 put on the nation's wireless networks, the country’s wireless network players ensured all Americans were connected all the time.
- The COVID-19 requirements to work from home have led to an increase in network traffic over wired connections, but the demand is not uniform in all formats. For example, the values for telecommunications equipment for the broadband/wireless category have remained stable; however, the values for equipment serving venue segments have declined because of the pandemic.
- In the wireless carriers space, companies have been competing for the wireless spectrum, while they have struggled to increase their subscriber bases have been challenging. The appetite for more spectrum is evidenced by the industry's "competitive auctions and merger and acquisition attempts."
- Overall, U.S. companies should expect the demand for data and traffic to continue rising because of the new home-based workers. Moreover, a wireless company witnessing a surge in demand for mobile data sees the correct technological trend in the space.
WiFi 6 — Still Coming Soon
- In 2019, Forbes predicted that the combination of 5G and WiFi 6 working in concert would build an excellent end-to-end fusion of ultra-fast connectivity for home and office. Moreover, WiFi 6 is poised to offer download speeds up to three-times faster than the current WiFi 5 speeds.
- In April 2020, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to open the new WiFi 6 band of spectrum for use by devices that support that technology. At the moment, it is still unclear how the technology may work.
- Nevertheless, Americans are confident with the new technology as they wait for the first devices that support WiFi 6 to launch later in 2020. In this regard, wireless carriers should be experimenting with this technology to determine how it works.
- WiFi 6 has been poised to become a game-changer in the wireless sector as it lowers latency than older WiFi technologies using more sophisticated technologies like OFDMA (orthogonal frequency division multiple access).
- Overall, a company in this sector should be focusing on the WiFi 6 technology to remain abreast of these technological advancements, and if possible, testing the technology.