One of the big problems as the Pandemic continues to spread and make going to work and school risky is that a large percentage of homes don’t have adequate wired network coverage. When I say adequate, I mean they have the bandwidth not only to handle sharing files and doing email but to do the ever more critical video conferencing we are defaulting to for personal interaction.
Let’s talk about that this week.
The Need For Reliable Wireless Broadband
When we pivoted to working and learning from home, nations didn’t have time to assure those homes were adequately equipped to handle the load. Some homes didn’t have broadband connections, some had them, but the networks weren’t provisioned properly for the resulting load, and finally, wired networks tend to fail. Employees could miss meetings, and students miss classes as a result.
In my case, I was in a critical meeting the other day with a new client, and right at a critical point, the network in half the city went down, knocking me off the call and damaging the relationship. By the time I’d rigged a wireless modem and got back on the call, everyone was long gone. And most people don’t have wireless modem fallbacks right now and, if they did, it would be like me with the older 4G technology.
Now I’ve been mostly focused on school and business, but with the COVID-19 outbreak and hospital saturation in areas that are considered hotspots, a lot of patients are electronically connected to their healthcare providers. Many will have 4G fall back connections but, once again, with limited bandwidth, this could slow the transmission of data, and COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, which means a provider may have only minutes to respond to prevent brain damage due to lack of oxygen or death.
Lenovo just recently rolled out an affordable system for virtual rounding, which allows a patient, either in a hospital or remote, to have virtual contact with their caregivers. This solution not only increases the number of patients a caregiver can handle by around 2.5X, but it keeps the caregiver and the patient safer both from the illness the patient has and from anything the caregiver might pick up.
Healthcare isn’t the only area that is dependent on a reliable network. Security systems are increasingly using cameras so that sites can be remotely monitored. But, once again, if the network goes down or doesn’t have adequate bandwidth, the result won’t do the job, and the site and security staff will be exposed. And with 5G security cameras and battery backup disconnecting the cameras becomes far more difficult for an attacker to accomplish.
Now I’m dancing around this, but 5G is far more than just bandwidth, if fact for most, that isn’t even the most critical feature. 5G has increased security (important for both healthcare and security), it has greater coverage at the edges (4G tended to fall off sharply at the edge, 5G is much better). Also, combined with millimeter-wave (how it will be deployed in most of the US) it gets far better coverage indoors which is essential for medical monitoring equipment.
With the Pandemic continuing to spread in the US, it has never been more critical that we have a fast way to get broadband to homes. Pulling fiber and copper cabling is just not practical at speed, but with 4G towers being rapidly upgraded to 5G, this may be our quickest path to getting the bandwidth we need where we need it. And our needs are diverse from health monitoring equipment, to security, to video conferencing. Our needs continue to grow as we move to mitigate the ever-increasing risks we face due to the Pandemic. In the end, as fast as 5G is coming, we need it to move faster so that our kids can keep up with their classes, we can keep up with our work, and, if the need arises, we can be cared for at home because, in many places, there are no more beds in the hospitals.