We have seen many times in science fiction books and movies, that a deadly virus has caused a pandemic and disrupted the world! But these fictions have given us a sneak peek of an almost identical real-life scenario. Nobody saw a global crisis of this magnitude in the form of COVID-19 approaching and causing so much destruction of life and lifestyles of people across the globe. As India and the rest of the world grapples to cope with the ever-increasing challenges and worries of a COVID-19-forced-work-from-home scenario, here are three thoughts that stand out. True advent of ‘digital’ across sectors Lockdown due to COVID-19 has not only altered the lives of just work and workplaces but has also re-defined the world of education, health-care consultations, world of entertainment, the world of information sharing and communication, to mention just a few. To share an instance, during early days of March 2020, a conference by a senior astronomer in Tucson, Arizona hosting over 150 participants who were flying in from different countries was cancelled at the last minute. Owing to the immediate support he received from his tech team, the entire conference was made virtual using Zoom and Bluejeans almost overnight. Attendees from across the countries and continents could easily dial in and participate, during sessions, on all five days of the virtual conference. This isn’t an isolated trend. Due to the current scenario, several meetings all over the world, some with more than 1000 attendees have been successfully converted to virtual meetings and conferences overnight. In addition, as you read, teachers around the world have started uploading study content online, so students can use the virtual learning platforms to consult with their teachers, speak with their classmates, and stay connected through this period of isolation. In short, live virtual classrooms are being set up right from students of preschoolers to post-doctoral scholars, the story remains common.
Doctors are consulting with OPD patients online using digital platforms. Families who are separated by distances, are conducting video calls with their loves ones to keep a constant check on their health and to stay connected during such times. There is a huge population of people who suddenly have a lot of with the extra time on their hands. These people are discovering the joys of online video streaming (OTT) on YouTube, Netflix, Hotstar, Hulu, Sling TV, HBO Now, Amazon Prime, Zee5, etc.
Rise of video consumption platforms and its impact on networks Voluminous video content is being transmitted out, using the available broadband network with much of this data is being simultaneously consumed across multiple mobile devices. The questions that arises is -Is this the most efficient solution or technology available? Of course not! This is not the most efficient way to navigate this space, as the systems are overloaded and overburdened.
Even prior to the coronavirus lockdown in India, video traffic occupied more than 70% of mobile network traffic, overburdening the network, causing a reduction in the call quality and increasing the overall cost of network for the mobile operator. In the current scenario, with many people working from home and using home broadband network to stream OTT on their devices, even those networks and services have started getting choked. Netflix has already announced that it will be only streaming content in Standard definition (SD) quality to reduce the traffic in the network. Converging Broadband and Broadcast networks Advocates have been creating hoarse noise about the merits of deploying 5G Broadcast, an innovative solution based on a converged Broadband and Broadcast networks. This innovative data transmission solution has been designed to provide an enriching user experience to users across devices. A fifth-generation data transmission innovation, the 5G Broadcast solution has been developed to let multiple devices to access voluminous data simultaneously, via a single broadcast and intelligently direct and route traffic across the network. Some of the big advantages are the fact that 5G broadcast will ease out on the network congestion; improve user experience while streaming; provide a smart data pipe for content; monetize broadcast spectrum and provide live streaming on-the-go sans data caps. This new way of delivering content using ‘cellularized’ Broadcast network also relaxes the excess burden on OTT platforms by minimizing the unicast streams that need to be created to deliver content to every single device. This also provides a platform to convey critical emergency alert messages directly to mobile phones and other devices, including TV screen etc using a much more competent Broadcast network, rather than a Unicast network.
Important ‘Call to Action’
One of the most crucial reasons why an impactful and cost-effective solution has been left in the lurch is because of the lack of understanding and reluctance of the stakeholders to change the rules of the game by deploying such network that put the broadcast spectrum to good use. This spectrum is owned by traditional broadcasters across the world (some private and in some cases they are the government-owned entities) and they don’t necessarily comprehend the ‘mobile’ game very well. If they make up their minds to come out of the traditional broadcasting mindset, not only they can put Broadcast spectrum which is a valuable natural resource to good use for the benefit of the public, but they can also produce tremendous amount of economic benefits for themselves and the government.
As they say, broadcasting actually ‘multiplies’ your network capacity while unicast divides it. With lockdown scenario moving out of the realm of fiction into the world of reality, the shift from traditional broadcasting to 5G Broadband will not left to be a choice, but will definitely become vital. The sooner we get on that bandwagon, the better for all of us.