At the moment, a lot of things have been said about 5G technology, which is positioned to power the majority of the elements we will see during the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).
However, 5G is still at its infant stage and is only available in select cities in developed nations. This means that 4G, which is still being rolled out widely by carriers across the globe, is the one that is providing lifesaving connectivity during the COVID-19 pandemic right now, and when communities need it the most.
4G or LTE is reportedly used by 52 percent of the world’s mobile devices. To this end, it is the first 4G tech that has demonstrated the innovative initiatives through supporting communities during the Coronavirus crisis that has affected Earth in equal measure.
What’s more, the pandemic and its associated elements such as lockdowns have presented humanity with big challenges. Nonetheless, people, nations, and organizations are rising to these setbacks, often through evolving telecoms capabilities.
At the same time, the new era has come with opportunities, which innovators have leveraged thanks to 4G connectivity.
“Until 2025, LTE will continue to do the heavy lifting,” said Henry Calvert, Head of the Network 2020 Future Network Programme at the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA). “Our 4G networks will remain key… They will continue to be important for the next five-to-seven years,” he said.
Calvert, who was at the 2020 GSMA LTE conference added that LTE was come to the fore in the provision of telehealth and telemedicine as well as expanding network services to hot spots to support the ill through hospitals and other healthcare institutions.
Other than supporting health services, LTE provides for the data and connectivity needs of the new lifestyles taking shape since the pandemic started and enforcement of the lockdown.
In particular, mobile operators report that the use of data has increased by more than 70 percent per customer during the pandemic, driven by online services and consumption of on-demand video services like Netflix, which recently reported adding 15,8 million subscribers in a year – more than double expectations.
“There has even been a call to on-demand video providers to reduce the quality of video they’re deploying and encourage people to use standard-definition rather than high-definition TV to preserve the capacity in the networks for online education, online health, and online businesses,” he said.
“As transformation continues it’s been focused on expanding 4G capacity,” he said. “But the 5G transformation is clearly going to be needed in the future to meet online demands.”
In this period, 4G networks have played an instrumental role in supporting contact-tracing apps, which then locate and alert the contact of infected people remotely. The arrangement still protects the privacy of users.
The same LTE networks have also helped provide free data to support contact tracking to do as much as possible to ensure that infections aren’t spread any further.
It has been stated that the technology is so critical that it must remain the priority infrastructure over the short term while communities try to overcome the pandemic.
“Our GSMA intelligence groups show that there will be a short-term dip in 5G deployment,” said Calvert. “But that will quickly recover to normal levels. We still see launches of 5G networks, as we now know that delivering on the data demand that has been met by our LTE networks can only get better with 5G.”