The COVID-19 Tipping Point

If there is a silver lining in the COVID crisis, it’s that it is both showing the limitations of the world that was, and the promise of what it can be.

It’s a scary thought for some—antennas anywhere and everywhere—and conspiracy theories have already begun to emerge. Conspiracy theorists, primarily led by the social media proclamations of a pop star, have linked 5G to everything from COVID to cancer. However, in reality 5G cellular sites emit very low energy waves: 63,000 times less energy than a ray of sunshine. We mustn’t let speculative fear impede our recovery. There is simply too much at stake.

Imagine if we were already working, living, and leveraging critical services remotely—such as shopping and medical—before COVID descended upon us. What if we could dynamically shift resources to ship or manufacture critical protective gear, as some new, emerging platforms now are? What if our home and virtual offices were already in place? What if our children already had virtual classrooms set up at home? What if our housing projects, homeless shelters, and nursing homes all had the access to critical wireless infrastructure to ensure these vulnerable populations would not be left isolated or behind? Think about how drastic a change our response as a community could be and the impact that would have been with the right tools, technologies, platforms, applications, and networks of the future in place.

But 5G presents more than a promise of future connectivity. It presents the promise of employment, economic prosperity, and enterprise productivity, and these are promises we cannot afford to ignore. Qualcomm reported that 5G’s global economic output will create 22.3 million jobs; that’s nearly the number of people currently unemployed in the United States. These are jobs in construction. Jobs in IT. Jobs from new businesses created by entrepreneurs who will imagine new use cases for 5G networks. It means more administrative workers in municipalities and telecommunications companies processing applications and ensuring that these sites are safely deployed. It means more network engineers optimizing radio and fiber networks. From the Local(3) IBEW 19-year-old training as a splicer, to the 55-year-old retired school teacher turned civil service employee, to the 40-year-old engineering manager—these are our friends, neighbors, husbands, and sisters looking for and finding work. For our children, 5G promises access to education. Live in the wrong zip code? Can’t afford that college halfway around the world? What if it could come to your home and be delivered at a fraction of the price? 5G means jobs today and opportunity tomorrow. 5G promises a path to economic security. In the short term, this is seen in the opportunities for electricians and construction workers preparing the pathways for cell sites.

But the industry is in the early innings of building out the infrastructure to support 5G. There is a massive amount of physical construction and investment that needs to be done to build these out. The latest estimates of the required investment are in the billions of dollars. This will be ultimately done through shared infrastructure that carriers can collectively leverage, and now is the time to start laying the foundation for our future.

The Silver Lining

If there is a silver lining in the COVID crisis, it’s that it is both showing the limitations of the world that was and the promise of what it can be. It’s forcing us to envision a better, safer world. What if, during the world-changing events of in the past, we took to the time to ask if we were making the world a better place for the future?

This is just the beginning, we have the technology, and now is the time to start envisioning and shaping the world in which we want to live. We get to define how much time we spend at home, at the office, and how we interact with the people and products we've come to depend upon. Now is the time to imagine, invent, and transform.  We have passed the tipping point, and it's time to look to the future and mold it into what we want it to become.

As we all bravely embrace our new world, we will find that we will become more connected. The planet will be greener. Our houses will become more our homes and the center of our lives. Parents will be more engaged and work alongside their children. We will spend more time playing and working together, less time commuting and at the office. It won’t be the same. There will definitely be challenges along the way. But in the end, we will be more connected to the activities, people, and things we need and love.


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