The coronavirus or Covid-19 has caused unprecedented ripple effects across the world. It hit hard health sectors, manufacturing industries, retail, travel, trade, transportation, leisure, entertainment and others.
As a result markets are predicted to crash. Supply chains have been disrupted and stocks have tumbled. Investment plans for physical infrastructure development, including ICT, have come under review. Social and business activities are down!
While COVID-19 has grounded the economy to a halt in many corners of the U.S., the picture for 5G buildout could flourish long term, with cautions, says industry watchers.
5G may take a hit in the short and medium term, given the spread of COVID-19 globally, resulting in supply chain disruption, 5G hardware delays and general effects of the economic downturn.
However and in the long term, the necessity of fast connectivity has proven now more than ever to be essential to the survival of the economy and health sector.
With stay-at-home orders in place around the world, legions of employees are now working remotely and students are using distance learning. Thus, high-speed connectivity has become an essential infrastructure.
Is 5G behind the Coronavirus spread?
There have been conspiracy theorists about the supposed harm of 5G radio waves since the tech began gaining public attention. The basic idea is: 5G is more powerful than 4G or 3G, and is therefore dangerous to humans and animals.
Another theory is that the rollout of faster 5G internet is either causing or accelerating the spread of coronavirus. It’s hard to pinpoint the source of the theory but as the pandemic continues, the conspiracy appears to have picked up steam. International radiation watchdog the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) set new guidelines for 5G frequency last month and confirmed that the frequencies at which 5G will be deployed will be safe.
One of the theories hinged on a Facebook post claimed that Wuhan is where the coronavirus outbreak first began. It also claimed that this is where 5G began to roll out.
The post rested on the pre-existing conspiracy theory that 5G suppresses people’s immune systems. It was posted to an anti-5G Facebook group, and was subsequently marked by Facebook as misinformation.
According to Facebook, the post had just over 300 shares. Since then, the rumor picked up in some regions of the world. In the UK more specifically 5G towers have been burned out by some locals. However, all international certified sources are now affirming that this is inaccurate information.
Promoting Connectivity Long Term
Today, despite the burden of economic uncertainty, carriers and governments are trying to bolster connectivity. In March, broadband and telephone service providers in the US affirmed that, with the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. More than 700 companies vowed not to terminate service for customers who cannot pay their bills because of hardship given the effects of the virus. The same policy is also applied in many other countries as well hit hard by the Pandemic.
Additionally the Federal Communications Commission has also proposed a fund of $9 billion for buildout in rural areas that would otherwise not experience timely rollout of 5G.
Further, in the $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Congress in March, some $150 billion is allocated to states and local governments to help them weather drop-offs in tax revenue and the costs of fighting the pandemic. A second round of stimulus could provide infrastructure funding, which may also provide additional monies for 5G and additional broadband progress.
Challenges Still Ahead
Indeed 5G rollout has not come without its challenges. Security concerns about the 5G network have not been silenced altogether. The 5G ecosystem has inherited some vulnerabilities from 4G. And there are still significant concerns about whether the security industry can keep up with 5G.
In addition the US bans on Chinese carriers and 5G Manufacturers and amidst the outbreak of the global pandemic, things are surely getting more complicated. Greater emphasis on security and standards must be applied. They also need to be backed up with economic telecom policies and regulatory incentives that put a premium on quality and prioritize investments.
Future of 5G
A plus is that 5G is already showing promise to provide connectivity for critical resources during the pandemic. In Wuhan, China, for example, Huawei installed a 5G network in a specialist hospital in three days. 5G-enabled robots can assist practitioners in taking care of patients in the hospital and take measurements. This reduced the amount of time medical staff need to spend with infectious patients.
Also, in China, 5G has given tele-health service a boost. China Mobile, for example, opened 5G base stations in two emergency field hospitals — Huoshenshan and Leishenshan. They provided live broadcasting of the construction of these two hospitals in real time.
Singapore has also recently announced that it will keep its roll out of 5G on track despite the Pandemic.
The world of 5G is still promising a better future ahead. However, with a new perspective by the whole world facing this pandemic, 5G might now be serving other purposes. Given all these developments, it’s tempting to conclude that when the history of the current crisis is written, there will be a small but important footnote:
The COVID-19 pandemic sparked 5G’s coming of age. Though 5G, IoT, and advanced data science have been transforming the IT and Telecom sectors for some years now, it might have taken this crisis to highlight the necessity for increasing our data processing capacity.