Why connectivity is now more critical than ever

Why connectivity is now more critical than ever

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

4G and smartphones have transformed our lives

Over the last decade, 4G connectivity, smartphones, and apps have transformed the way people live and work. On average, adults spend over three-and-a-half hours using smartphones every day – often looking at their phones more than 150 times per day. From banking to social networking, home delivery to gaming and our daily emails, it is hard to find many areas of our lives not impacted by mobile technology.

Connectivity has never been more critical

The outbreak of COVID-19 has increased our reliance on mobile and broadband technology even more. During the lockdown, keeping connected has enabled our healthcare services, and other key workers respond to the pandemic, for people to stay in touch with their loved ones and for tens of millions of us to work remotely.

According to a recent survey by Ernst & Young, people are increasing the number of connected services they are using. Since the start of lockdown, 29% of consumers have used TV streaming services such as Netflix more frequently. 30% of people are reporting an increase in home working via collaborative applications such as Microsoft Teams, while 35% of people are making more mobile phone calls.

Broadband providers and mobile network operators are perceived to be coping well by approximately 75% of their customers, with only around 5-7% voicing negative complaints. When Ernst & Young asked consumers what their broadband or mobile provider should be prioritising to help with the COVID-19 outbreak, the top consideration was ‘ensuring reliable and resilient network performance.’ A measure that Cornerstone, the UK’s leading mobile services company, is proud to enable for tens of millions of UK customers.

Mobile network operators have contributed significantly to the response to the virus at local, national, and global levels. They have ensured the availability of sufficient network capacity while continuing vital infrastructure work such as upgrading masts, improving network coverage, and addressing poor signal areas.

Growth in connectivity usage will continue

No matter how we end up emerging from this crisis, the trend of increased demand for digital connectivity will only continue. For example, now that the possibility is proven, millions more workers are likely to continue to rely on remote working to increase productivity, improve their work-life balance, and be able to encourage greater diversity in the workforce.

Equally, hospitals and medical experts will want to connect in real-time with their patients to diagnose and treat disease at the first point of contact to improve patient care. Manufacturers will leverage robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and superfast connectivity to enable the remote management of production lines.

For consumers, streaming services will continue to evolve into exciting new formats, such as augmented reality (AR), with major consumer electronics groups launching their versions of AR glasses in the next few years. Similarly, gaming has evolved beyond the console into the cloud, evolving as a community, thanks to live events such as eSports.

5G networks are critical to driving economic recovery

Staying connected has become a defining feature of the modern economy and a significant trend of the 21st century. And so 5G will prove fundamental to fulfilling the potential of digital connectivity, helping to drive forward the economy after the COVID-19 outbreak.

The West Midlands is committed to playing a leading role in 5G and fibre connectivity

The West Midlands has long been a global leader when it comes to innovation. The Midlands not only paved the way through the industrial revolution but, to this day, has continued to explore and be at the forefront of new technologies. It has now emerged as one of the global leaders in the 5G revolution. 5G’s low latency (ability to process high volumes of data in real-time), increased capacity (ability to support more devices at once), and speeds of up to 10 times faster than 4G, make it a critical technology for the enhancement of so many public services.

Upgrading the existing West Midlands networks

Throughout the crisis, while supporting the 5G roll-out plans already in place, mobile network operators have also managed 4G capacity, enabling many in the region to work from home by providing the necessary capabilities for video conferencing etc.

With 5G rolling out across the UK, most people continue to rely on 4G networks to provide the fast speeds required to keep them connected.

How the West Midlands is driving connectivity innovation

West Midlands 5G has engaged with the seven local authorities in the region as part of its Infrastructure Accelerator project.

As the name suggests, the project is accelerating the roll-out of 5G and fibre to help bring forward the faster speeds, lower latency, and greater capacity for this new technology. By making access to public assets easier, helps mobile network operators improve their network coverage where they need to. Ultimately, the region will benefit from the social and economic upsides that 5G can bring.

The team is working hard to break down barriers by facilitating collaboration between local authorities and the operators. Obstacles are being removed, making the roll-out of 5G smoother, quicker, and more affordable.

As part of the project, the team has developed a Connected Map, a tool that has mapped out the region’s local authority assets suitable for mobile network infrastructure. Together with existing coverage plans from mobile network operators, West Midlands 5G has created a powerful asset to accelerate the deployment of 5G across the region and close existing 4G coverage gaps.

This interactive tool enables local authorities, mobile network operators, including their partners MBNL and Cornerstone, to review their priorities and plan for the future together.

Paul Mountford, Head of Planning & Regeneration at Dudley Council, said: “From my perspective, the added value from WM5G to-date has been acting as a critical friend and providing access to specialised support where we have lacked expertise or capacity in dealing with the requests from mobile network operators for infrastructure upgrades.”

Heather Clarke, Digital Co-ordinator at City of Wolverhampton Council, added: “WM5G’s Infrastructure Accelerator team have provided us with a range of support, including workshops on key issues such as understanding the Electronic Communications Code and its implications, and facilitating our discussions with mobile network operators.”

Juliette Wallace, Business Planning and Property Director at MBNL, added: “Working with WM5G has been wholly positive for providing education, expertise and advise to councils in relation to the new Electronic Communications Code. WM5G has been instrumental in facilitating dialogue between operators and councils.”

Sean McHenry, National Planning and Community Manager at Cornerstone, added: “WM5G’s engagement has provided the opportunity to explain and outline the benefits of modern connectivity from an independent perspective. Local authorities now place more emphasis on the public benefits of 5G and connectivity, which supports our planning applications.”

Cornerstone looks forward to our continued partnership with WM5G to enable businesses to continue innovating, growing and thriving with 5G.