As COVID-19 has shown us, bandwidth is everything.
More people are cooped up at home, which means an increased use of remote technology and digital devices. From video conference calls and e-learning to gaming and IoT devices running all the time, having the proper capacity is just as important as a connection itself. As remote work, telehealth and distance learning continue into the fall, what does network demand look like? As new technology comes on the horizon, will networks be ready? And what has the pandemic taught us about bandwidth now?
At the latest Fiber for Breakfast live video series, two experts discussed how fiber will be essential to bring us into the next phase of technology, our new “remote-normal” way of conducting business from home and how providers need to start addressing the bandwidth issue now.
“When you look through the data, we see what’s important: We will need fiber either at the edge or very close to the edge to support these applications,” said Jeff Gavlinski, marketing director for Calix. “Fiber is going to be paramount to the success of adopting these applications going forward, and certainly symmetrical service is necessary and critical.”
According to data provided by Calix, digital and video applications take the most amount of bandwidth right now. For HDR video and cloud gaming, both can require up to 100/100 mbps individually. Latency is impacted at those speeds. Couple that with other applications in the house, which even if they require less mbps but still run concurrently, can all add to demand for bandwidth while creating capacity issues inside a single household and across a community network.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As society adopts more virtual reality, augmented reality and advance robotic applications, that is going to create a larger demand in bandwidth. He estimates those will require multiple terabytes of data to run.
“That’s one thing I get concerned about,” he said. “If you look at [the impact] across a network in aggregate, how do we accommodate thousands of homes doing this all at the same time?”
The answer is building futureproof network architectures, said Sanjay Udani, technologist and vice president of public policy at Verizon. Providers are going to look to building networks that have larger capacity then what is currently required.
He pointed to an example in the early 2000s when Verizon was building out Verizon Fios initially. Many questioned why they needed to build out fiber to the home networks that were much more expensive than other options, but it proved to be the smart choice. When they built the network, there was no such thing as internet video, streaming services and expansive cloud gaming. Speeds that seemed extremely fast during that buildout are now considered standards.
“There’s always been skepticism—‘Do we need that much bandwidth?’” Udani said. “Will there be a demand for it? Will there be use for it? But now we’re deploying 5G to the home.”
He said Verizon’s 5G network is built 99.9% on fiber. Not only does that network support today’s next gen applications and networks, but without that fiber, we would be unable to produce needed excess capacity. And while that isn’t an issue now—the fiber and 5G networks are more than equipped to handle the data needs people have today—they’re more concerned about the applications running across the network 10 years down the road.
“The long-term impacts in technology is going to be massive,” he said.
The pandemic proved this to be true. While people were at home, Verizon reported a 257% increase in online gaming, a 1,200% increase in online collaboration and 8 billion text messages per day across its networks. It also highlighted the importance of remote access to a network. During natural disasters, Udani said Verizon brings trucks in to help bridge connectivity issues. But what happens when everyone needs to keep their distance?
“We had to come up with completely new ideas,” Udani said. “The challenge with this pandemic is it turns around everything we prepare for in other disasters.”
Being able to access the network remotely, such as dropping off equipment for the customers to install themselves using video calls, has made connectivity possible during these times. Many network providers are adopting similar tactics, and plan to continue using these contactless delivery models even after the pandemic stops.
Moving forward, it will be important to ensure not only that everyone has access to internet, but that the bandwidth capabilities are there too.
Join us for the next Fiber for Breakfast live video series on July 29 at 10 a.m. ET. The topic: Fiber for Vertical Infrastructure - In Building and Outdoor