I started writing this post a year ago in March 2020, intending it to be a follow-up to my article What is 5G and why should we care? Then the world fell apart amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And most of us have had to adapt to a changed environment — at work and at home — and a lot more stress over the past few months.
Governments and organizations have also had to adapt. Funding organizations in most Canadian provinces along with the federal government realigned strategies and funds to find solutions to fight COVID-19 and help Canadians.
Something else became extraordinarily clear to me: I realized that many 5G applications that we thought might be interesting or fun to have, and that would begin appearing in a couple of years, are becoming extreme necessities.
The coronavirus outbreak and the corresponding rise in both remote work and education is increasing network demand, advancing the need for more robust and reliable networks. With the corresponding upswing in demand for streaming entertainment at home — TV, movies — the need for stronger networks and new technologies such as 5G has advanced by at least a couple of years, if not faster. Rural communities are especially hard hit because they don’t even have 4G, whereas many cities have deployed 5G. It’s been unfair and challenging for many people outside urban centres. Federal and provincial governments have made deployment of high-speed Internet in remote communities a priority going forward and, hopefully, we can expect this to kick in in 2022.
For the City of Terrebonne, new technology is first and foremost a way to improve the services we offer to our citizens, but first we need to analyze the impacts and the actual advantages.
Rémi Asselin, Director, IT Services, City of Terrebonne
Municipalities are also going to be the beneficiaries of better 5G connectivity, according to an article by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), a global association working toward the development, implementation, and maintenance of technology-centered products and services:
“Next-generation 5G wireless technology has the power to transform local communities into smart cities. With help from sensors connected to 5G networks, local officials would be able to collect data that would tell them how to improve air quality and prevent wildfires, traffic lights would be able to ‘talk’ to each other in order to reduce traffic, and farmers would have insight into how to increase crop yields. Unfortunately, 5G networks pose challenges for local communities. In order to deliver the lightning-fast Internet speeds promised by 5G networks, ‘cell sites’ need to be erected closely together (about 500 feet apart over long distances). This means the roughly three-foot-tall antennas will need to be fixed to buildings, telephone poles, and other infrastructure.”
Of course, there will be other examples that will appear, propelled by the way our world has changed in such a short period. The challenge now is that network capacity is tight for all the demands we are making on it, so we will need to deploy new equipment — quickly — to meet both our immediate and future needs.
They include not only telecommunication service providers’ improved antennas and increased data centre capabilities, but also: edge cloud computing solutions, powerful computers, and automation tools to orchestrate large numbers of machinery and sensors; computers and accessories to enable immersive experiences for consumers, gamers, and shoppers; and connected health solutions and services to proactively detect and monitor health conditions, just to name a few. In 2026, the market is estimated at US$1.307 billion.
Picture : My last in-person 5G event on March 11, 2020 at Centech-ETS. That same day, WHO was to officially characterize COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Center: Eric Larochelle, CEO Larochelle Groupe Conseil. Right: Claude Carrier, Director Engineering, Global Advanced Service, Ciena.