Telecom in a COVID World

It has now been about a year since COVID-19 began wreaking havoc. Any discussion of COVID-19 vis a vis the telecom industry is trivial in comparison to the loss and devastation that the virus has brought to so many. That said, the one-year anniversary is as good a time as any to look back and see how the pandemic has affected our behaviors and the industry’s ability to respond to this new reality.

COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of our lives, from the way we work to the way we enjoy our time off. Among the telecom-related changes that the virus has brought us, perhaps the three most significant are:

  1. A greater focus on increasing internet bandwidth
  2. Accelerating 5G deployments to provide a high-speed internet alternative
  3. Improving household internet with fiber-to-the-home (FTTH)

Increasing Internet Bandwidth

According to OVBI, broadband network traffic has increased by over 50 percent in the past year. There are a number of reasons for this. With students learning remotely, adults working remotely, and social distancing restricting people to virtual connections, it seems like we are living almost entirely online.

This has placed a heavy burden on the network at every point, from household broadband internet to cellular data, urban networks, and internet hubs. Network operators are experiencing unprecedented levels of traffic that have persisted over the course of the past year, especially in the past six months. This has brought bandwidth concerns to the forefront. Network operators are looking for any method to improve bandwidth and reduce latency.

Accelerating 5G Deployments

Another way to address this issue is by promoting 5G infrastructure. A mature and developed 5G network can help alleviate the burden currently placed on wired networks. By its very nature, 5G will provide increased bandwidth and lower latency than 4G.

Moreover, there are many rural areas that lack connectivity altogether. COVID-19 has made it painfully obvious how important internet access is in remote locations. Information flow is critical in a time of pandemic. 5G is an increasingly attractive method for deploying internet in remote locations, rather than laying broadband wired internet.

As a result, since the beginning of the COVID crisis, operators have advanced their 5G plans and taken steps to initiate the deployment of 5G equipment.

Providing FTTH

When it comes to the burden on home internet, fiber-to-the-home via a passive optical network (PON) is an attractive option for those experiencing a strain on their current broadband internet. With multiple users on the same home network, and with each user using more bandwidth than ever before, traditional home internet may no longer suffice. In fact, video conferencing requires high upload speeds as well as download, something that is very rarely offered by ISPs. Although 5G is a viable alternative for limited use cases, there is ultimately no replacement for a fully wired connection in the home. Fiber may be the best answer.

Ethernity Offers Solutions

Ethernity’s FPGA-based SmartNICs enable all of these technologies. FPGAs handle networking functions better than CPUs, providing higher bandwidth and lower latency without adding significant cost to the network. That makes them ideal for both improving bandwidth of current broadband networks as well as enabling true 5G. When it comes to FTTH, Ethernity’s SmartNICs are designed with interfaces that handle PON networks by serving as an Optical Line Transceiver (OLT) or Optical Networking Unit (ONU).

The pandemic has disrupted our lives with terrible consequences throughout the past year. While there are few silver linings to the COVID cloud, we can hope that Ethernity’s solutions can help bring the post-COVID world improved internet and cellular data.

By Brian Klaff