Parag Naik, Co-Founder and CEO, Saankhya Labs

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted life and lifestyles of people across the globe. Government has enforced lockdowns to curb the spread of the deadly virus. Work from home is the new reality for many businesses as they struggle to operate during these uncertain times. Schools and colleges are conducting online classes to complete their syllabus; social distancing is the new norm in grocery stores and e-commerce companies are making Covid-safe deliveries to their customers.

Here are a few of the technology trends in the field of communication which are poised to redefine a post Covid-19 world…

Virtual meetings
With lockdowns, and travel restrictions, face-to-face meetings and huddles will need to be redefined. Industry will experience an increase in virtual meetings. Already, applications like Zoom and Google Meet have seen a sudden spurt in usage. From meetings with only 4-5 participants, to huge international seminars and conferences with thousands of participants all have already moved online. This trend is likely to continue in the post Covid world as people maintain social distancing etiquette.

Online education
Post the lockdown, a large chunk of academia has gone online. Schools, colleges and coaching centres are conducting online classes via video conferencing. Dedicated education apps have witnessed a huge spurt in growth as students are learning concepts on their mobile phones. A few colleges have also conducted tests online. It is expected that some of these trends will continue in the post Covid period as well.

Owing to increasing demand for faster and higher bandwidth networks in light of remote working, 5G might get adopted faster. 5G provides greater quality of service based on the network ‘slice’, which caters to a particular service type, such as IoT, low latency applications etc. For example, for a remote surgery use case, where low latency is a critical parameter, 5G can perform better than the current networking solutions.

Shared spectrum
Even before the pandemic, video occupied over 70 per cent of the content transmitted over the mobile network. This will rise exponentially in the post Covid world and will overburden mobile networks which are not designed to handle such load. To prevent network congestion and improve user experience, the communication companies will use ‘shared’ spectrum. Dynamic shared spectrum such as TVWS, CBRS give additional coverage and capacity. Spectrum can also be shared between two different networks, such as broadband and broadcast. One such example is Saankhya Labs’ 5G broadcast. This is a fifth generation data transmission innovation which is a convergence of broadcast and broadband spectrum.

AI/ML-based communication
When communication is being done using shared spectrum AI/ML systems will be continuously monitoring the load on the various networks. Based on the data type, network load and number of users these systems can help networks make a decision to choose the most optimum parameters to deliver content.

With more data being transmitted, the mobile operators would have to ramp up their network infrastructure. Ramping up physical infrastructure is very costly so many operators will opt for virtualisation to reduce the capex and opex. For example, RAN virtualisation is adopted by many network operators which separates the network functions from the hardware. This gives scalability, elasticity and lead to a more flexible, agile and cost-effective network. Virtualization also will lead to diaggregation and open network architectures.

Rural broadband
Covid-19 has changed the demographics of cities. The lockdown followed by the loss of jobs has triggered a reverse migration from cities to villages. It is not certain how many of them will chose to return once the pandemic scare has passed. However, it is envisaged that the migrant population will take back some city amenities, such as 24-hour internet connectivity, which will lead to a greater demand for high speed internet connectivity in rural areas as well. Many innovative wireless technologies can provide faster and cost effective alternatives to current optical network solutions. One such example is IEEE802.22 based Fixed Wireless Access technology which utilises unused UHF spectrum and can be used for middle and last mile network coverage.

IoT solutions
We will see the use of “Smart” devices in “Smart” homes. For example, “smart” refrigerators will take stock and order groceries online. Such devices will require regular software upgrades which will be transmitted via the internet.

Remote sensors and monitoring solutions
Slowdown in travel will ultimately lead to proliferation of remote sensors and monitoring solutions. These will be installed in remote areas like agricultural fields, oil rigs, remote factories and warehouses, mines etc., and can be controlled and monitored from a central location.

Satellite based asset tracking solutions
In many places across the country where mobile network connectivity is patchy, there will be an increase in remote asset tracking solutions. This is because movable assets such as trains, trucks, fishing boats, etc continuously move in these areas. In such cases, satellite connectivity will be used to send and receive data from a central control location.