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Here’s how Covid-19 has forever changed our need for connectivity

Here’s how Covid-19 has forever changed our need for connectivity

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has upended the way we live in so many ways that it’s shaping up to be the kind of world-altering event that rivals the two world wars, the Great Depression, the fall of the Soviet Union, 9/11 and the rise of the internet.

It’s still far too early to predict how it will affect everything, especially after vaccines eventually provide us the potential to return to “normal.” But as we enter a new year it’s safe to say the world likely won’t simply snap back to the way it was. Following such an upheaval, some of the trends that have accompanied our Covid-19 lives are here to stay.

This is particularly true in our industry of communications. After a year of working from home, remote learning and social distancing, the quality of our connectivity has never been more important, or at more of a premium. Whereas high-speed internet and ubiquitous cellular coverage was once considered a luxury, or a welcome benefit, it is now regarded as a necessity in most developed countries. Maybe not to the degree of food or shelter, but enough to guarantee us access to essential education, employment and company.

People around the world now depend on the telecom industry and its various products more than ever. But with increased reliance come higher expectations.“Good enough,” or “best effort,” internet access is no longer good enough and the Covid-19 reality has revealed not only the necessity of this ecosystem but also its stress points.

In the pre-pandemic era, a home internet failure was once regarded as a mere annoyance or a source of frustration for geeky gamers. Now it’s a major mainstream disruption that cuts us off from society. That state of mind is unlikely to change even when herd immunity allows us to venture more freely and safety back to the outside world.

The reality of Covid-19 living is providing a wakeup call to the global telecom industry. The understanding that quality and reliability of internet connectivity is not universal has the potential to almost de-commoditize the whole market. We used to live under the illusion that basic internet connections would always be available and good. We no longer can take that for granted. The strain on the system has doubly acknowledged both its dire need and its glaring shortcomings.

People don’t just want connectivity anymore because it’s convenient. They need it because it’s essential and they need it now, triggering a whole new set of challenges. Several countries have experienced nationwide network failures. With the increased traffic in residential areas, we’ve all experienced the toll on our download speeds and video quality. It’s like a balloon that has suddenly been blown full and we’re discovering all the holes in it.

This is the key benefit of 5G, highlighting the importance of data quality and reliability as opposed to mere volume. It’s more than making the internet faster, it’s making it dependable for large numbers of users at the same time. In other words, it’s not just that we need the water to flow faster, we also need the pipes to be wider.

This trend was already underway as we embarked upon the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Covid-19 just supercharged it and provided us with a historic chaos test.

Now each home customer is his or her own IT center with multiple users and multiple needs. This customer expects to have the tools to manage his or her own bandwidth. Gone are the days where we could wait on the phone for an hour for a support system operator to solve our problem. We now demand an immediate solution to complete our schoolwork, to do our job, to access our healthcare provider and to stay in touch with our family.

This new reality provides a huge opportunity for companies like Nokia to shape our world.

A century ago, during the last “raging 20s,” we encountered a similar groundbreaking transformation following the last major global pandemic when the internal combustion engine, electricity and the telephone changed our world. This time it’s the coronavirus, not the Spanish Flu, and it is communications networks that are leading the way in its wake.

Connectivity requires not only the physical infrastructure, but the software to meet the demands placed on the network. That means using the cloud and virtualization for a larger scaled network along with automation to manage and ensure services are delivered with the highest possible availability.

In the past year alone, we’ve adopted new ways to work, commute, learn, teach, shop, dine, entertain and meet our most basic human needs to connect.

Software and infrastructure have been a vital part of building networks that connect the world, helping us to solve the challenges we face as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and others that are still yet to come.

Aron Heller

About Aron Heller

Aron Heller is the lead writer for Bell Labs, Nokia’s renowned industrial research arm, where he tells the story of technology and the people behind it. He previously filled a similar role for the company’s Cloud and Network Services business group. During his lengthy journalism career, Aron was the long-time Jerusalem correspondent for The Associated Press and an adjunct journalism professor and sports broadcaster. He’s covered ten Israeli elections, four Mideast wars, dozens of other major world events and has been dispatched to assignments across five continents. A certified baseball coach and umpire, Aron has also been known to cite obscure quotes from cult comedy films.

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