Tech Trends in a Pandemic World

Bowling Green, Ky (August 11, 2020) –In the second half of 2018, Connected Nation highlighted several technologies that had the potential to impact connectivity and how we use it. Now that we are halfway through 2020 and the impact of COVID-19 on the world and technology is starting to become much more apparent, let’s look back at those technologies and discuss the progress and likely impact moving forward. 

Edge Technology (Edge of Network Computing & Data Centers):

In the COVID-19 world, the need for edge technology is growing. The explosion of activity going from in-person to online from home has put a spotlight on edge technology. Being able to distribute resources to customers, employees, students, and so on is made more efficient through edge technology and helps ensure that the data is readily available. 

Having reliable and quick data access can be very important for those working from home (plus everyone enjoys having reliable access to their favorite movies!). School districts around the country have to lean heavily upon virtual curriculum, and much of this is provided through several curriculum publishers. Having the ability to push that data and resource to a local edge computing center near a district that is accessing it can be crucial when you consider the number of students that are utilizing those tools daily. Tech Today: Edge of Network Computing and Data Centers.

5G:

5G deployment in the U.S. began with many smaller pilots (sometimes a few city blocks) in 2018, with several larger cities starting to gain access to 5G from AT&T and Verizon in 2019. This year has brought us the finalization of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger and what looks to be a competitive race to transition the nation to the next generation of wireless technology. 5G deployments from the major carriers will be a little different from one to the next, as they each work to utilize the spectrum they have and optimize their networks to make the most of the current infrastructure. Some large carriers are already talking about nationwide coverage. 

Some of the current deployments advertised as 5G are a hybrid in-between deployment of technologies being promoted as a flavor of 5G. Many of these deployments are also advertised as nationwide; however, they certainly still have holes in coverage, primarily in rural areas.

The awareness of the need for ubiquitous high-speed internet has heightened in the COVID-19 world, and more attention and scrutiny of these networks will almost certainly be a part of the future of 5G deployment. The potential for these networks to bring ultra-high-speed to urban and suburban areas is exciting, but implementing 5G technology in rural communities in lower frequency spectrum could deliver speeds in rural areas that are rare — and it could be one piece of the puzzle to closing the digital divide. Tech Today: 5G Explained

AT&T AIRGIG & TV Whitespaces:

Two technologies that we examined in 2018 were AT&T’s AIRGIG technology and whitespace wireless technologies. While these two technologies may still have promise, it seems that much of the excitement that surrounded their development and deployment has slowed. 

AT&T AIRGIG completed a few pilot deployments, and there were requests for manufacturers who might be able to assist with building the necessary equipment, but there’s been very little news since then.Whitespace has had an off and on history in its development. Given some of the hurdles associated with gaining the necessary spectrum, development of other wireless technologies, and now the pandemic focusing a lot of funds toward network buildout, it’s likely that efforts are being focused elsewhere to expand broadband networks. Tech Today: AT&T AirGig

What’s Next:

There’s a race to find solutions to the connectivity need that exists not only in the U.S. but globally, and there is an unprecedented amount of funding in the U.S. to make that happen. It’s likely we’ll see an accelerated growth in fiber networks in order to serve the customer with fiber directly or to provide the necessary infrastructure for hybrid networks using both fiber and wireless technologies. Facebook recently discussed a robot that they’re working on that can autonomously hang fiber on existing powerlines (https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-built-a-new-fiber-spinning-robot-to-make-internet-service-cheaper/.

SpaceX launched its first manned rocket during the pandemic, but it was the launch of their low-earth-orbit satellites that gave them the necessary practice and confidence. SpaceX claims its satellite internet platform will help solve many of the connectivity issues that the world experiences. While only time will tell how much this technology can help, there’s a considerable focus on it, including competition from Amazon’s project Kuiper.

Amid this global pandemic, our lives look considerably different, and we are leaning heavily on connectivity and technology to create a new normal and calm some of the disruptions. We’ll come back to this again to see what new technologies have come along, or how clever we can be in implementing the technologies we’ve already got.

About the Author: Wes Kerr is the Connected Nation Director of Community Solutions. He helps ensure the implementation of Technology Action Plans developed for communities through Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program (Connectedsm) and works closely with clients and stakeholders to provide solutions that will help them meet their technology goals.

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