Fibre: For the connectivity we need during COVID-19 and beyond

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“We may speak different tongues and adhere to different creeds, but we are made of the same stuff. We are one human race. Fight. Unite. Ignite. And let our singular resolve be: never again.” Had Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO, said these words in any usual G20 gathering, they would have been met with thunderous applause ringing ear to ear. This time, though, it was met with soft claps followed with deafening silence. These words were spoken at the Extraordinary Virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit, that was convened virtually, with leaders from world’s major economies looking to find ways to dismantle challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not the usual times

The two-hour summit – or what can be called a high-powered conference call – gave us a perspective on how things have changed. Instead of being the centres of attraction at high-level summitry, global leaders have now been confined to their homes and are finding virtual ways to connect. The fate for commoners is not any different. More people are working from their homes and glued to their computers than ever before. Social media platforms are buzzing of images of conference collages with smiling people exuding courage from tiny windows. If socialising is an art, it just got beheld on a digital canvas, and ubiquitous and uninterrupted Internet connectivity seems to be the artist behind it.

The rise in demand of bandwidth

Internet is perhaps the thread professional lives of millions of people are hanging on right now. With technology being relied upon for work, learning, recreation and what not, the Internet usage is up 50% in some parts of the world. In a recent article, Vodafone claimed that it has “already seen data traffic increase by 50% in some markets.”

On the other hand, the future at this time has become more unpredictable than ever before. If the global workforce working remotely record significantly higher productivity during this time, the remote working may become a preferable norm. If all these things become the new normal, the bandwidth demands of tomorrow will only be going to be more daunting.

Fibre to the rescue

Fibre is perhaps the most scalable, secure and cost-effective option to transmit large volumes of data, uninterrupted for years. The importance of a solid fibre footprint in an economy is rated far higher in trying times like these when businesses need to keep employees safe as well as maintain the connect with customers. Countries with recent network upgrades and expansions are not only holding up as bandwidth demand increased, but are also in a good position to prepare themselves to leverage emerging technologies. The economies who are still lagging behind can take a note of this and invest in expanding their fibre footprint once situation becomes less daunting. Below are the few steps telecom and information technology ministries can take during downtime to prepare for a better fibre footprint:

  • Strategize comprehensively for fibre footprint expansion and make the government an active investor in it. The role of the private sector, on the other hand, can be more focussed toward leveraging the fibre for developing and delivering innovative applications for various sectors.
  • Create a high powered governing/advisory groups that can set the direction for roll-out. Relevant ministries, provinces and leading industry CEOs can advise to support the expansion and remove bottlenecks
  • Address regulatory issues and ironing a few wrinkles to make it easier for telcos to aggressively roll-out fibre networks once situation improves.

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