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3 Emerging Applications that are Front and Center After COVID-19

Ron Tellas

If there was any doubt before 2020, COVID-19 put those doubts to rest: We rely on technology and wireless to live our lives.

In many cases, people who had access to devices and reliable connectivity were able to get what they needed despite stay-at-home orders and overnight shifts to remote working and learning. For people who didn’t have this access, a recent Cities Today Institute roundtable revealed that the pandemic is accelerating U.S. cities’ plans to get everyone connected.


Network connectivity has undeniably become a utility. Whether it’s during an emergency or just in everyday life, connectivity is as vital as public transportation, disaster response, water and electricity.


Now that our reliance on technology is obvious (if it wasn’t before), new applications are rising to the surface. 5G, edge computing and Wi-Fi deployment were well under way before COVID-19, but they’re now even more essential as we support the new demands of education, healthcare, business, manufacturing and more.


Application No. 1: 5G

In a 2020 Verizon survey of 700+ technology decision-makers, 73% say they already know which 5G applications will be most beneficial to their businesses; 70% believe 5G will help them accelerate recovery from COVID-19 challenges.


Why? The simple explanation is that 5G provides the communication fabric to manage heavy levels of connectivity, latency and simultaneous usage. It allows mobile networks to operate on a variety of frequencies, guaranteeing lower latency. 5G significantly improves data capacity and throughput. Compared to 4G speeds, experts predict that 5G transmission speeds will surge by at least tenfold. Upload speeds will also support faster, more dependable content sharing.


A few real-world examples of where and how 5G can be used:


  • To integrate augmented and virtual reality in stadiums and arenas, as well as in Esports applications
  • To monitor crowds in real time for increased safety
  • To support faster data transfer between first responders and emergency sites
  • To support telemedicine and remote health monitoring devices
  • To track supply chains in real time to keep up with inventory demands


Application No. 2: Edge Computing

When data is needed, it’s typically transmitted to a central network housed in a data center. After that data is processed, it’s then sent out to devices (laptops, smartphones, etc.).


With edge computing, devices can gather and process data in real time instead of delivering it to a central network first. When data processing takes place closer to users, speeds inherently improve. Processing data at the network edge shortens the distance that data must travel. It also reduces congestion while enhancing application and service performance and dependability. Finding ways to move data closer to the edge will also reduce latency—an important component of faster performance.


In the same 5G survey we mentioned earlier, 76% of technology decision-makers also said that mobile edge computing was important to business.


A few real-world examples of where and how edge computing can be used:


  • Low-latency access to other devices on the same network, such as in Industrial processing lines or autonomous vehicles
  • To support retailers as they manage inventory in real time and deploy services like touchless checkout and curbside pick-up
  • To support secure and private access to data like MRI or CT scan results by keeping data on the premises


Application No. 3: Wi-Fi 6/Wi-Fi 6E

There have been two new introductions to the world of wireless that are prolific amid COVID-19. And they both support ITU initiatives, which are 5G mobile technology initiatives.


Wi-Fi 6 was made for crowded venues: airports, stadiums, campuses, high-rise hotels, etc. It allows lots of users and devices to stay connected at the same time so they can stream ultra-high-definition movies and use bandwidth-intensive applications.


An extension of Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E isn’t a faster version of Wi-Fi—it’s essentially an addition to Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi 6E uses 6 GHz frequencies while Wi-Fi 6 uses 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Previously, 6 GHz wasn’t allocated for unlicensed Wi-Fi use like the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands were. Opening up access for Wi-Fi means clean, unused bandwidth. But the only devices capable of utilizing the 6 GHz band will be the ones equipped with chips and radios needed to operate in it.


A few real-world examples of where and how Wi-Fi 6/Wi-Fi 6E can be used:


  • To alleviate the congestion that causes dropped signals
  • To support lower latency for video calls and virtual computing
  • To support constant connectivity in stadiums and arenas


Supporting These Vital Applications

The only constant is change—and, as these new applications develop, the way we live, work and play will change. But the technology will only be as good as the cables and connectivity used to support it.


That's why Belden continues to develop robust fiber and Category 6A systems to support 5G, edge computing and Wi-Fi 6/Wi-Fi 6E applications. These infrastructure solutions support higher information capacity and bandwidth as we continue to rely on more data and increased connectedness.


What else are you noticing in terms of how COVID-19 is impacting networks and data centers? As we come across other ways our industry is shifting amid this pandemic, we’ll continue to keep you informed.