The COVID-19 pandemic is a catalyst that will accelerate the implementation of advanced applications within many industries

In today’s world, most interactions between individuals, customers and employees are taking place digitally as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is mandating shutdowns and restricting movements. This situation highlights the critical need for businesses to go digital or remain behind their competitors and risk losing market share. We have seen schools moving to fully online learning or digital classrooms, grocery stores shifting to online ordering and delivery, and hospitals providing telemedicine or remote services. Now, and in the future, we can expect more businesses to shift toward digital and implement new applications with advanced technology to overcome the challenges from the impact of COVID-19 and remain relevant in a resilient market. Businesses leading in digital transformation are relatively less vulnerable to the disruption of the pandemic. They are in a better position to compete against digital laggards and gain a bigger market share. This digital shift isn’t new and is already underway; the pandemic has simply brought attention to and accelerated digital transformation implementation.

As we see more businesses shift to digital, it adds strain on the current network and systems of many industries. In addition, COVID-19 showcases the importance of widespread, high-speed broadband infrastructure and connectivity, thus pivoting the deployment of the next-generation 5G network. We see this within the healthcare, education and public sector industries, where 5G will be the key to enabling new applications that are not possible with the 4G network. While the current network can meet the basic data transmission requirements, there is a need for upgrading the network in terms of bandwidth and reliable connectivity. Thus, it is highly crucial to support the incorporation of future advanced applications within many industries.

COVID-19 has put unprecedented pressure on meeting the demand within the healthcare industry, and the ability to meet patients’ needs has become more critical than ever; however, healthcare systems are currently struggling to keep up. The high speed, reliability and capacity of 5G networks will enable new advances in healthcare technology. In Thailand, the telecommunications service provider AIS provided 5G-enabled robots to monitor and care for patients during the pandemic. The robots help reduce risk and physical contact while overcoming the healthcare labor shortage in the country.[1] Similarly, in South Korea, telecommunication service provider SK Telecom developed 5G-powered autonomous robots to battle COVID-19. In addition to the 5G interface, the robot applications developed also included artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous driving capability and Internet-of-Things sensors. 5G’s low latency will enable the robots to realize their full potential and perform tasks beyond what they did previously.

COVID-19 has caused local governments and authorities in many countries within Asia-Pacific to utilize 5G technology to combat the spread of the disease, bringing about new ways of conducting surveillance and patrol in public areas. In particular, 5G technology opened up opportunities for the use of drones—an unmanned aerial vehicle. In China, 5G-powered drones equipped with voice broadcast systems are deployed to broadcast health warnings and conduct aerial patrols in public areas.[2] In Malaysia,[3] more than 10 units of drones equipped with heat-sensing technology and speakers have been deployed to control and monitor the public, which is useful in providing contactless temperature screening of large crowds. Drone application is dependent on a wide range of technologies, including power storage, wireless communication, sensors and AI. Drone applications are typically reliant on cloud computing to perform AI tasks; therefore, a reliable internet connection is required. While 4G networks offer decent download and upload speeds, the network can’t handle the large amount of devices while supporting high speed and low latency; this is where 5G will play a role.

COVID-19 has disrupted the education industry as students can’t attend physical classes. To maintain some sense of normalcy throughout the pandemic, the education industry has conducted its operations digitally. As facilities are closed and the disease is still spreading in Japan, students have utilized robots to walk the stage virtually for graduation. In China, schools have implemented 5G remote education that includes Cloud Video Distance Education and Live Distance Education,[4] which helps avoid mass gatherings of students and reduces the risk of infections. Ultimately, the applications are harnessing cloud capabilities, and with 5G’s high bandwidth, it will enable schools to save massive amounts of data that will be generated as a result of remote learning.

Without a doubt, 5G can be a game-changer for many industries. Implementing the network could provide benefits, including cost-effectiveness, improved productivity, efficiency and increased revenue for businesses. The industries that will benefit the most from 5G are those heavily impacted by COVID-19 in terms of increasing demand for applications and services. These industries include healthcare, education and the public sector. The use of digital or virtual applications and remote services within these industries will become the norm, and 5G will be a priority for data-intensive applications. Besides that, 5G will enhance the existing applications and create new ones by bringing more innovation to market.

As many industries will continue to demand reliable connections, 5G’s network capabilities will be essential to meet the requirements of future applications. The COVID-19 pandemic is a catalyst that will accelerate the implementation of new applications within many industries, and these applications are propelling the deployment of 5G networks.






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