“The safety of the people shall be the highest law."
– Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher born in 106 BC
As India, like many other countries, went into lockdown to fight the spread of COVID-19, the health and safety of the people was the top priority. Services like healthcare, government services, banks, academics and supply chains took advantage of digital channels to quickly respond and serve a population of more than one billion human beings. The switch happened almost overnight, people adapted, and many lives continue to be saved. A similar approach is happening around the world as virtually every nation struggles to protect its people and effectively manage the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.
We recognize that all of us will be dealing with this situation and its impacts over the longer term. We also understand that there may be more such pandemic cycles or other global events in the future. But we as a global society, must remain undeterred and committed to moving forward—in other words, we must be resolute.
The Need to Digitally Connect Individuals, Communities & Nations
There are 1.4 billion people alone in India, 7.8 billion people in the world. In extraordinary times with lockdowns and “sheltering in place” mandates, as we work and play from home, consuming large amounts of data--how can we all stay connected? A mesh of wireless networks needs to be built that connects individuals and organizations with services that enable them to work remotely or collaboratively in small groups, a network that can handle unprecedented levels of data transfer and streaming services.
Currently, there are close to 3.5 billion mobile connections to date. And when you consider that one hour of a live webinar requires 30-100 MB data transfer, standard definition (SD) quality video conferencing needs around 700MB data transfer, with full HD requiring even more. To give you an idea of usage, the US citizen uses an average of 5GB or data per month, India consumes on average of over 11GB of data per month, and Finland tops the chart with an average of 17.4 GB per month*. And these users and data transfers are only going to rise as the world adjusts to a new normal of a global remote workforce.
Redesigning the Wireless Ecosystem for Heavy Traffic
How can technology enable the adoption of an alternative and more sustainable operating structure for a society to thrive in during times of extreme disruption? 5G wireless communication technology is part of the answer to this complex question. 5G has the ability provide the necessary communication fabric to handle heavy connectivity, throughput, latency and concurrent usage demands.
However, to take advantage of all that 5G has to offer, the services ecosystem underpinning the experience of a fully digitally altered interaction needs a redesign based on these considerations:
The rise of intelligent machines: Interlinked smart devices, ubiquitous computation, and augmented reality technologies help ensure users are hyperconnected and can perform tasks remotely without constraint. But these new technologies also increase the bandwidth requirements significantly. The good news is that a 5G network backbone can easily take care of the additional bandwidth for a smart home or a remote workplace.
Staying local: Regional services providers greatly amplify the individual choices that are available to consumers globally. Several platforms are available offering wrapped services over a layered ecosystem of services involving intelligent machine-to-machine (M2M) and human-to-machine (H2M) communications. Those services are consumed by intelligent devices, bots and other applications to provide a better customer experience. However, as more such service providers are entering the market, the demand for network will also increase and they will have to rely on 5G to deliver.
The networking glue: It is extremely critical to have a network-wide visibility and segmentation, centralized policy management and orchestration, and hybrid WAN management for underlying communication fabric of this order. Two important tools that make this possible are Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV). Providing an abstraction over physical hardware, NFV greatly accelerates the development of services while giving flexibility to roll out new networks or manage existing networks. SDN is an architectural approach that leverages NFV to centrally manage large and complex networks without having to manage network hardware and the associated proprietary drivers. These two tools combined will allow management of the 5G network across a single control panel.
How “safe” are the current safety nets? As we remain hyperconnected, we expose our identity, our preferences, our demand for goods and commodities, and personal details in exchange for conveniences. In a digital society, we will be under continuous surveillance, like it or not. With 5G, more personal data is exposed via more devices, which can be controlled by providers--so security becomes more important than ever. Several providers are working on enhanced 5G security, but the current trend is toward adoption of a multi-layered security approach, where each layer in the fabric needs to be individually secured. The biggest challenge from this approach is establishing the security and trust within diverse populations and gaining universal acceptance and adoption.
There is an old Persian saying – “This too shall pass.” There is a beginning, a middle and an end to what we are currently experiencing. History tells us that out of chaos there is often new opportunities. Opportunities that force us as a society to respond, be resilient and resolute until we find ourselves learning, playing and communicating in a whole new 5G world.
Worldwide monthly mobile data usage (excluding M2M) in 2018, by country(in GBs per SIM):
Number of smartphone users worldwide from 2016 to 2021: https://www.statista.com/statistics/330695/number-of-smartphone-users-worldwide
The safety of the people shall be the highest law -> “Salus populi suprema lex esto”: