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COVID-19 Highlights the Digital Divide

As the world struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the primary tools being used to combat the virus is isolation. Whatever the term – isolation, social distancing from others, stay at home or shelter in place - the net effect is to confine large swaths of the population to their homes.

Many companies are closed with employees working from home, and this is driving new awareness of, and driving home the impact, of the digital divide. A large percentage of those who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home are realizing they do not have the speed or Internet access required to be able to host webinars, run video conferences, or share large hundred MB files without waiting 30 minutes for them to upload. This capacity crunch is further exacerbated when schools close and children are using remote learning to keep up with lessons, watch YouTube or surf the social media at the same time parents are working. And, finally, when evening approaches and family members tune in to their favorite video content server such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, the connection is being stressed like never before.

 

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Aside from the stated capacity of the individual connection from a home to the cloud, the last mile, people are realizing that their 50Mbps connection is only 50Mbps under “normal” conditions and is hugely asymmetric with most of the stated capacity focused on the downstream. With the added strain of huge numbers of the stay at home workers on the existing network, cracks are appearing. xDSL connections of a few Mbps are not enough. 50Mbps from a cable system that plans on over subscription rates of 10 to 25 or 50:1 are collapsing under the load with end users seeing single digit Mbps speeds. Many people who thought they had high speed internet are finding they really do not. And this is for those who have purchased a fast connection from their provider, to say nothing of those who do not even the service offered in their territory. For millions of others this fictional 50 or 100Mbps access speed is not available to them period. They do not have a high-speed connection at all.

 

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The aim here is to highlight the mission critical role true high-speed internet access has today, and, when pushed, how it is not living up to what we need. As we learn hard lessons about COVID-19 and how we respond as a society, the flaws and weak points of our broadband infrastructure are being pointed out like never before.

At Siklu we believe the world needs gigabits, you need gigabits, and our products and solutions are designed to do just that. We work closely with Service Providers around the world who are upgrading or expanding their gigabit footprint to ensure delivery of true high-speed access all the time. Not just under “normal” usage but 100% of the time - even under serious loading such as from today’s quarantined populace.

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Fixed 5G wireless has an additional advantage in addressing this crunch – it can be designed, deployed and operational in a matter of weeks or even days. This is something fiber -- as good as it is in delivering broadband -- just can’t match. Fixed 5G solutions can be brought to bear right now – today.

We as a company are determined to do our part in supporting people everywhere in their need for true high-speed access, allowing people to work from home, play from home, stream video content from home. The better our broadband networks can serve the residential customer base, the more people can work from home and maybe in a small way lessen the economic impact of the pandemic. With over 100,00 links deployed globally, this is not something new to Siklu. We have and continue to be a leader in mmWave Fixed 5G access.

While building and expanding network capacities will not happen in a day, neither will the response to COVID-19 be over in a day, a week or even a month. We need to begin working on eliminating the digital divide for all people everywhere. And while it may be that COVID-19 has highlighted where we are and what we need to do, it is almost a certainty this will not be the last contagion we will have to deal with, when remote working will become the new norm long after this crises will be over. But if we start now, we can learn valuable health lessons and we can also prepare ourselves by delivering true high speed and mission critical residential connectivity.

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