How the communications industry saved the economy and the world during COVID

Shut down but don’t shut up

Jon Peddie

As the industrialized world shifted into work at home and subsequent business shutdowns, the expansion, or even, the explosion of virtual meeting technologies, made it possible. Programs and applications such as Zoom, WebEx, Google Meet, Amazon Chime, Teams, and others have proven viable and vital.

Virtual conferences have saved relationships, marketing plans, and numerous collaborative-based projects for business and family meetings. And, it was as if it was just there. Turn on a switch, get a video conference. Zoom was introduced in 2011. Stanford University was its first customer in late 2012. And in 2013, the service was officially launched after the company raised $6 million.

In 2011, ISPs delivered 87% of advertised speeds (weekdays from 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm). DSL was the primary delivery mechanism then, and fiber was still building out. Standard definition video was transmitted at 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps. High-quality video, full HD (1080p), demanded 5 Mbps.

In 2020, video conferencing was using from one to one and a half Mbps for video conferencing, which was/is very efficient. HD still consumed 5 to 8 Mbps, but few people used HD. And for critical projects that need 4k video, the rate jumped up 25 Mbps.

Video conferencing statistics and studies on remote work in 2019 show that the global remote workforce has increased by 140% since 2005.

Sometimes the apps sputtered, and occasionally a link would fail, but for the most part, the quality of service (QoS) of the network was stable and reliable. AND WE TOOK IT FOR GRANTED.

Can you imagine how chaotic life would have been when the shutdowns started if they were accompanied by shut-ups?

The world owes a debt of thank-yous to network designers, suppliers, builders, and maintainers. Companies that we deal with like Qualcomm, Nokia, Cisco, and Google are among the many who made this modern miracle happen. It wasn’t a Manhattan moon-shot style program, just enterprise trying to react to existing conditions and anticipated demand. Sometimes government subsidies and loans were involved, but mostly not.

So, when we were sent home, all many of us had to do was load an app (if we didn’t already have it), look at the camera in our PC, and say hello.

As a result, enterprise carried on with minimal interruption. The productivity of people increased since they weren’t wasting time and morale in commutes. Most families benefited from being able to spend more time together, and the environment greatly benefited. Many retail establishments shut down, some permanently, and that raised the unemployment level. It may never come back, nor will the daily grind, the environment killing, and soul burning daily commutes come back for everyone every day. Life and enterprises will behave differently. And as it changes, those changes will be enabled and enhanced by the communications network. We will conduct borderless and time-zone free collaboration. The concept of always on and always connected takes on new meaning for consumers as well as enterprises.

So, this is a thank you letter to the communications industry that enabled and empowered us to embrace the new normal we are entering. Thank you, Comm-Ind.