5G, the fifth generation of mobile technology or cellular technology, promises to provide a significantly more connected environment, with ultra-low latency, high performance and speed, efficiency, extended bandwidth, and reliability. For users and businesses alike, the standard has been widely lauded, affecting practically every industry, from healthcare to transportation.
But as onshore and offshore software engineers continued to roll out and leverage 5G, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The virus has disrupted the entire world – and not in a good way. In fact, some skeptics connected the two phenomena. For example, one conspiracy theory supposes that the eventual coronavirus vaccination will contain tracking chips powered by 5G and that the entire pandemic is the brainchild of the tech gurus of the world to force the adoption of the technology.
As laughable as this is, it’s true that there is a connection between COVID-19 and 5G – if only in the way that the pandemic has affected all facets of life. Coronavirus has made its mark on 5G, just as it has on every niche and industry. So, what exactly is its impact on this cellular technology?
An Increased Need
In some ways, the timing could be fortuitous for 5G. Major providers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile began rolling out the technology, largely in metropolitan areas, during 2019. As many countries, states, and cities around the world shut their doors and forced citizens and visitors to stay inside, internet usage has skyrocketed — unsurprisingly. Having whetted the public’s appetite already, the need for 5G has become even more apparent.
In Wuhan, China (the original site of the COVID-19 pandemic), a robot-staff hospital opened in March. The Smart Field Hospital was aimed at protecting and relieving healthcare workers. Many technologies, from AI to the IoT, got combined to turn this facility into a thing of the future. 5G, of course, also played a role: when patients entered the hospital, 5G thermometers detected people with a fever and notified human staff members.
The healthcare sector isn’t the only field 5G will impact. Now that so many people are working from home – as well as having virtual meetings remotely – reliability and greater connectivity are paramount. 5G offers both of these important qualities, making work more feasible in nearly any industry imaginable.
One casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic is a distinct lack of socialization. In order to protect themselves and their loved ones, people are forced to keep their gatherings extremely small and maintain social distancing protocols. That means many people are turning to other forms of entertainment and ways to pass the time.
Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, and Hulu have been a favorite wind-down activity for years, but now, viewers are relying on them more than ever before. With greater broadband usage, the need for a high-performance network is clear. 5G is the answer to this demand.
While COVID-19 has presented some challenges to 5G – we’ll get to those below – it hasn’t stopped carriers from plugging away at their rollout. In fact, the Swedish company Ericsson recently predicted that twice as many people would have access to 5G than they did around the same time in 2019. These numbers won’t be very high in North America and Europe, but the rollout has been increasing in China.
This comes at the heels of providers across the world offering greater coverage for their services, even to those who can’t afford them, all as the result of the pandemic. The Keep Americans Connected Pledge, which many carriers signed, urged providers to help Americans maintain connectivity by making WIFI hotspots open to anyone who needed to use them, among other measures.
The need for reliability and access, as well as the greater capacity that comes with these qualities, has prompted providers to work toward rolling out 5G more quickly.
Of course, as with every aspect of our world, 5G has been adversely affected by COVID-19, too. Some carriers wonder how quickly they can expand their networks. Given how costly the endeavor is, many don’t see it as a priority right now, especially considering the economic impact of the pandemic.
Moreover, the pandemic has slowed operations in many areas, with some supply chains halted entirely. This, too, will cause a lag in the 5G rollout.
As we slowly adapt to new circumstances and a different world, we’ll most likely see 5G become a staple in many countries. Given the need for stronger, faster, more reliable networks, especially at a time when most individuals are counting on the internet to get them through the day, the demand for 5G will become even clearer, and carriers around the world will rise to the challenge to meet it.