5G Networks And Infrastructure: The Prescription For Improving Telemedicine

Share:  

By Kish Rajan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July announced its $100 million “Connected Care Pilot Program” to support virtual healthcare, or “telemedicine.” It’s an important program to bring high-quality care to our veteran, low-income, and minority communities — especially those living in rural and underserved areas.

The program’s success depends on reliable, high-speed wireless internet connections, as those who need the program the most disproportionately rely on mobile access. Specifically, 31% of Americans making less than $30,000 a year do not use broadband at home but own a smartphone, while 24% of black and 35% of Hispanic adults also predominantly rely on mobile to access the internet.

The new FCC program comes at a time when rural areas in particular are facing a healthcare crisis. The National Rural Health Association estimates that as many as 700 rural hospitals are at risk of closing in the next 10 years. Those fighting to stay open often slash services, such as women’s healthcare. Less than half of women living in rural areas are within a 30-minute drive of the nearest hospital offering obstetric/gynecologic services. That makes telemedicine services vital to the health of millions of Americans, particularly women.

Telemedicine allows patients to connect with physicians and other providers in larger cities, sometimes hundreds of miles away. It saves patients long and difficult rides in cars or ambulances and allows smaller clinics to offer specialist services such as psychiatry, rehabilitation, and prenatal care. In Beatty, Nevada, the only healthcare clinic within 60 miles nearly shut down last year. But thanks to a new fiber optic broadband connection, it continues to serve patients by connecting them to doctors in major cities like Las Vegas, located over 120 miles away.

Telemedicine has significant benefits in urban areas, too. It offers low-income, urban patients a way to access healthcare services more efficiently and at less cost than using an emergency room. It cuts wait times for appointments — a huge benefit as wait times have increased 30% since 2014. And it’s already been proven to significantly improve outcomes when used in urban schools. Telemedicine also benefits physicians by allowing them to see more patients faster and without the overhead cost associated with an office.

However, without high-speed wireless connections to allow for quality videoconferencing, telemedicine isn’t a viable option. It requires fast, reliable, and secure connectivity to ensure patients and doctors can see each other and communicate clearly — which is often a problem.

A big reason connections today are often sub-par is our communications infrastructure is too congested to meet current telemedicine demands — and it’s only going to get worse. Wireless data consumption has increased 238% in the last two years alone and according to projections, by 2020 more than 50 billion devices and 212 billion sensors will be connected to our wireless networks.

To deal with the demand today and to lay the foundation for the 5G networks of tomorrow that will allow telemedicine to reach its full potential, we must upgrade and densify our communications infrastructure by expeditiously deploying more fiber optic cable and densification devices known as “small cells.”

“Small cells” are small, inconspicuous wireless nodes most commonly installed on streetlights and utility poles that immediately improve 4G service by relieving strain on existing infrastructure, and will serve as the backbone for 5G networks by significantly expanding coverage and capacity.

While the immediate benefits of small cells to 4G networks can’t be ignored, enabling 5G stands to change lives. 5G promises to move data 20 times faster than 4G, and according to an Accenture report, has the potential to create $160 billion in benefits and savings. As it stands, we have no national plan for 5G deployment and state and local governments have thrown up barriers that have slowed infrastructure development that is necessary to make 5G a reality.

The primary problem is that the regulations and permit reviews required to install “small cells” are unnecessarily convoluted and time consuming. There’s no reason to have the same regulatory requirements for “small cells” that are required for a 200-foot cell tower. If we are to realize the powerful potential of telemedicine, policymakers at the local, state and federal level must be willing to streamline the approval and implementation of “small cells” that are vital to our 4G and 5G success.

As we become more dependent on fast data, it’s time to stop thinking of high speed internet as a luxury and start treating it as a requirement for full participation in today’s mobile world. The future of telemedicine and so much more depends on it.


Kish Rajan is chief evangelist for CALinnovates.

The Millennial Dilemma: Too Many Smartphones And Not Enough Bandwidth

Share:  

By Mike Montgomery

There is no denying that we live in a world dominated by “connected” technology. Since the internet was introduced to the public in 1990, the U.S. has been riding an unprecedented wave of innovation powered by the web.

It seems like a crazy concept at this point, but many Americans still remember using an encyclopedia instead of Google, plotting a road trip on a paper map instead of asking a virtual assistant for directions, and physically going to the bank to make a deposit instead of taking a picture on an app.

And while many of us still remember these “hardships” (wink, wink), explaining the “pre-internet” world to most millennials and Generation Z youths is equivalent to prior generations trying to explain to Baby Boomers what life was like before electricity – simply unfathomable.

Millennials are going to overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation in 2019 – officially making the millennial generation the driving force behind the US economy. This means that moving forward, the majority of the US population will have largely grown up in a world where connectivity has been an essential utility. The same way Baby Boomers have always expected the lights to come on when they flipped the switch, millennials and all future generations will expect to connect when they tap the screen of their smartphone.

The Pew Research Center says 100% of Americans age 18 to 29 own a cellphone, with 94% owning a smartphone. The numbers are nearly as impressive for those ages 30 to 49, where 98% own a mobile phone and 89% of those are smartphones. Further, nearly 30% of 18- to 29-year-olds have no internet connection at home and solely rely on mobile for internet access.

The frequency of use is also mind boggling. A separate survey from Pew found that 89% of smartphone users go online daily, while nearly four out of 10 18- to 29-year-olds go online “almost constantly.”

This insatiable appetite for connectivity has led to a 238% increase in data consumption over the last two years alone. Further, Cisco predicts that global mobile data traffic will increase to 49 exabytes per month by 2021 – a seven-fold increase from the average in 2016.

While the increased use of connected technology has certainly made our society more efficient, we are at a tipping point where our networks and infrastructure must be modernized to deal with the massive demand for data.

In short, our networks must be upgraded from 4G to 5G. 5G will be 20 times faster, handle 100 times the capacity and decrease latency 10 times compared to 4G. This increase in speed and efficiency will not only create a better smartphone experience, but also will ultimately allow 5G to enable innovations such as autonomous vehicles, drone delivery and more.

However, before 5G can become a reality, we must lay the foundation. 5G will require much denser networks and more connection points. Robust deployment of next-generation infrastructure known as small cells underpinned by fiber optic cable is a requirement for 5G.

In addition to serving as the foundation for 5G, small cells will help immediately relieve network congestion today, improving users’ immediate 4G experience. You may not know it, but if you have been to a major sporting event, rally, or concert and noticed your phone was still working despite the large crowd, you likely have already reaped the benefits of a small cell densification.

Despite being the adoption leader in mobile technology, the U.S. ranked 43rd in the world for mobile download speeds in the first half of 2018 – a big reason being slow small cell deployment.

Why is infrastructure deployment moving slower in the U.S.? As most things do, it starts at the local level. Far too many municipalities are actively impeding small deployment in communities with long wait times for permits, unreasonable fees and convoluted regulations.

The Federal Communications Commission took steps to speed up the permitting process earlier this year by streamlining the federal review process for installing small cells and voted again earlier this month to make additional spectrum available to support 5G networks.

But we need more help.

The FCC should move more aggressively to eliminate regulatory barriers to 5G and localities should do all they can to encourage 5G deployment by establishing a transparent and simple process for small cell deployment.

Getting 5G up and running as fast as possible and ensuring we have the best available 4G access in the interim is vital to the continued success of our country. The wireless industry alone contributes around $475 billion annually to the total U.S. GDP and supports 4.7 million jobs.

As our country continues to evolve and mobile-centric generations become the backbone of society, wireless connectivity will continue to grow in importance. As such, we must do all we can today to ensure we have the best available networks now and in the future.

The Key To The Future Of Self-Driving Cars: 5G

Share:  

By Mike Montgomery

It’s been six years since Nevada became the first state to allow self-driving cars. Since 2012, we have seen an additional twenty-one states pass legislation related to autonomous vehicles – including several bills in California.

While autonomous technology is still largely in its infancy, we’re still a long way from the imagined future of people sitting back and reading the paper while their car drives them to work.

In addition to the obvious convenience-oriented benefits, there are serious safety and economic implications tied to self-driving cars. In 2016 alone, 40,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents – with distracted driving or human error being the top cause. According to a report from Strategy Analytics, driverless-vehicles could save an estimated 585,000 lives.

Saving lives and limiting traffic accidents are undoubtedly the biggest benefits of autonomous technology, but the economic benefits can’t be ignored. The same report from Strategy Analytics, noted that autonomous vehicles could become a $7 trillion industry by 2050 and could save as much as 250 million hours of commuting time around the globe.

Considering the massive benefits of self-driving vehicles, the natural question becomes, “where do we currently stand?”

In short, we have seen some progress over the past 6 years. Today, a driverless eight-passenger van is making the rounds of downtown Las Vegas, and similar shuttles are popping up around the country. Uber is testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh and Waymo, a Google spinoff, is offering self-driving taxi rides in Phoenix.

However, there are still more than a handful of barriers to broad deployment.

Let’s start with the less concerning reason – public perception. The self-driving car industry isn’t developing at the anticipated pace, at least in part, due to consumer angst. A recent AAA survey showed that 73% of American drivers say they would be too scared to ride in an autonomous vehicle, up from 63% a year ago. The uptick in apprehension is likely due to some recent high-profile mishaps, but overall the mistrust of the new technology is largely emotional and not data driven. Nonetheless, this is still an issue facing the industry.

Writing in Fortune, Eric Ellis of consulting firm Kotter, says that in order to overcome this reluctance, autonomous car companies have to slowly earn peoples’ trust. And while most people may not acknowledge it, we are already giving more control to our cars through lane departure assist, blind spot detection and self-parking features.

It is likely that autonomous vehicles will follow a similar adoption and perception cycle as the smart phone. When Steve Jobs released the first iPhone 11 years ago, there was no shortage of skeptics. Most infamously, former Microsoft CEO and current Clippers owner, Steve Ballmer said of the iPhone, “[t]here’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” Much to Ballmer and other skeptic’s dismay, by 2011, 35% of the population owned a smart phone and today a whopping 77% of the population uses a smart phone.

This leads us to the bigger problem — our communications infrastructure needs to be modernized. Specifically, we must deploy next generation wireless infrastructure to support the colossal amount of data required to power autonomous vehicles. For self-driving cars to be able to react appropriately, they must have instant access to information about the environment and be able to share and receive information with other self-driving cars on the road. The average autonomous vehicle will use around 4,000 GB of data a day.

While today’s 4G network can support a small amount of these vehicles, self-driving cars cannot be deployed at scale until our networks are made much denser, and ultimately transition from 4G to 5G. Obviously, having a self-driving car “buffer” or “lag” like a video download on a mobile device is not an option.

Infrastructure upgrades, particularly network densification via small cells underpinned by high-capacity fiber optic cable, are crucial to making our autonomous future a reality. You see, small cells will serve as the backbone and fiber will serve as the life-blood for future wireless networks such as 5G. According to tests conducted by technology giant Qualcomm, 5G will be 20 times faster, support 100 times the network capacity and reduce end-to-end latency by 10 times. This type of speed and efficiency provided by 5G is the key to the future of self-driving cars.

However, small cell and fiber deployment, much like autonomous vehicle progress, is not happening fast enough. The reality is, we will need thousands of small cells connected by thousands of route miles of fiber for our mobile networks to reach their full potential.

Prioritizing communications infrastructure buildout now is not only fundamental to speeding the adoption of self-driving cars, but enabling countless innovation that stand to make our communities smarter and safer through the power of 5G.

The Immediate Answer To Connectivity Problems Is Under Our Noses (And Seats)

While Americans wait for 5G to roll out, we have a real, immediate need for increased capacity, says Mike Montgomery, and a practical means for achieving it: small cell antennas.

Share:  

The benefits of 5G are obvious: lightning-fast video downloads, zero-lag streaming playback, fewer dropped calls, and the capacity needed to create truly smart cities.

But while the switch from 4G to 5G is exciting, writes Mike Montgomery of CALinnovates, this technology is still years from rolling out. In the meantime, he says, we have a real, immediate need for increased capacity, and a practical means for achieving it: small cell antennas.

As their name implies, these 4G-boosting devices are small enough to sit on utility poles, traffic lights and even under the seats at stadiums. And, as Montgomery points out, they’re essential for laying the groundwork for 5G. So what are cities waiting for?

Read the rest of Montgomery’s post here.

Small Cells For The Win: Powerful Connectivity During Major Events is No Longer a Wish List Item — It’s Now a Must

Great connectivity is no longer optional at sports arenas. Now it’s time for the rest of America to catch up.

Share:  

By Mike Montgomery

When the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers tipped off earlier this month in front of 20,000 fans at Oracle Arena, there were at least 20,000 (likely more) wireless devices in the audience. Those lucky enough to have scored the golden ticket didn’t hesitate to text, post on social networks, browse the web and yes, even stream live video during the game. And make no mistake about it, users expected that their messages, posts and videos would process without a hitch.

As anyone who has been to a sporting event, concert, rally or even a large graduation ceremony recently can attest, the absence of even a single bar or two of connectivity can be a frustrating experience. Networks quickly get bogged down when thousands of people with thousands of devices compete for the attention of the local communications infrastructure.

The most extreme example of this is the Super Bowl. In 2015 Verizon handled 7 terabytes of data at Super Bowl XLIX. In 2017, that number was up to 11 terabytes.

Stadiums use a hodgepodge of different methods to deal with the increased traffic. Today, most stadiums (including Oracle) have Wi-Fi — others work with communications companies on temporary solutions around large events.

Recently, we have seen stadiums take a more progressive and effective approach by installing antenna systems made up predominantly of a network of small cells — discreet nodes that can fit under seats or in the rafters. These antennas help build a more robust network inside the arena, specifically densifying the network by adding much needed capacity to deal with increased demand. That’s what U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis did before the most recent Super Bowl. Verizon upped its small cell count to 1,200 from 900, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, and AT&T and Sprint each deployed 800 small cells.

As demand for data grows, these tight-knit small cell networks must be expanded beyond stadiums and venues. Data traffic grew 238% over the last two years driven mostly by video and social networking. Further, traffic per user in North America is set to grow from 7 gigabytes today to 22GB by 2022.

The good news, small cells are already popping up in cities across America. Communications companies are investing heavily in small cell deployment understanding that our infrastructure is the bedrock of present and future connectivity. You see, not only do small cells add much needed capacity to power our current networks, but they are the key to ushering in the era of 5G – which will allow data to move 10 times faster than the current 4G network.

The bad news, largely due too unnecessary and dated regulatory red-tape, antennas are not being deployed quickly enough —a big reason the U.S. currently lags both China and South Korea is the race to 5G.

Just as the Warriors solidified themselves as the basketball dynasty of this generation with their clean sweep of the Cavaliers, America must establish itself as the technology dynasty of this generation by keeping us connected today and winning the race to 5G tomorrow — both of which start with infrastructure.

 

 

 

America Can’t Afford To Drag Its Feet On 5G

Share:  

“Cities such as Sacramento and Long Beach in California are aggressively moving forward with 5G,” writes CALinnovates’ Kish Rajan. “These emerging cities may find themselves attracting the Googles and Amazons of tomorrow as larger cities drag their feet on 5G.”

That foot-dragging isn’t just potentially bad for local economies, contends Rajan; it’s also a threat to America’s global competitiveness.

To date, the U.S. has been the global leader in innovation – in large part due to our leadership in the wireless space – but there’s a real risk America will lose our position to China and South Korea if we lose the race to 5G.

The economic benefit of leading the move to the next level of network speed and capacity is not fiction. History shows that 5G will provide tremendous economic benefit. America led the way on 4G technology, resulting in $100 billion in economic impact. We took that lead position from the European Union, which had been ahead of the game on 2G. Losing that front-runner status led to job losses and contractions in the telecom hardware and software industries in Europe.

We can’t afford to have the same thing happen in the U.S.

Read Rajan’s full story here.

Unblocking 5G: New FCC Rules Make it Easier to Build Fast Networks

Share:  

By Kish Rajan

The Federal Communications Commission last week voted to kick-start 5G wireless networks in the United States by exempting them from some reviews that hinder installation.

It’s about time.

So far, the U.S. lags far behind the world leader — China — at getting 5G networks up and running. “There is a worldwide race to lead in 5G, and other nations are poised to win,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel acknowledged in January. It’s an embarrassing place for the country that invented the internet. But more than that, our hesitancy to streamline the process for installing vital infrastructure is costing us money, jobs and security.

Today, we’re coasting along on 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks. Experts warned as far back as 2011 that 4G would be maxed out within four years because data demand was growing too fast to be accommodated by 4G bandwidth. And it’s not slowing. In the U.S., data usage will be seven times greater in 2021 than it was in 2016. By 2020, more than 50 billion devices and 212 billion sensors will be connected to wireless networks. All this data is making 4G networks crowded, slow and spotty.

The annoying buffering while streaming video, the random dead zones and the snail-like pace of sending photos over text can be attributed to our inefficient and overwhelmed 4G networks. The more people using it, the slower it goes, which is why it’s often difficult to do anything on your phone in Los Angeles unless you’re on Wi-Fi.

5G networks are much more efficient at using spectrum. They’ll increase capacity 100 times or more over 4G and be able to move data at least 10 times faster, allowing for all sorts of real-time applications. And that’s just the beginning. 5G is vital to improved safety, reliability and economic development.

According to a 2017 Accenture report, smart cities and Internet of Things (IoT) improvements led by 5G capabilities have the potential to create $160 billion in benefits and savings. Then there’s the economic boost of building 5G networks. Accenture predicts that 5G could result in $275 billion in investments, create 3 million new jobs nationally and grow GDP by $500 billion.

Small cells can be easier and cheaper to install than traditional cell towers, but they rely on density to provide fast, reliable data service. A college football stadium, for example, needs 40 to 60 cells to provide full coverage. Unfortunately, building a 5G network isn’t as easy as it should be because there’s no federal standard. That means each state and municipality has its own series of complicated, confusing and contradictory rules covering installation.

Industry is prepared to deploy hundreds of thousands of small cells on utility poles throughout the country. But it can take as long as a year, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, to navigate through cumbersome local and state regulations designed to govern 200-foot cell towers. These unobtrusive small cell solutions simply should not be compared to traditional cell towers.

The FCC ruling is a good start, as it will eliminate some of the repetitive and unnecessary review processes. In fact, Accenture estimates it will save $1.6 billion. But states need to get on board, too. It’s in their own best interests and those of their constituents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of American households now are cellphone only, which means they rely entirely on wireless networks for service. That explains why 80 percent of 911 calls are mobile. 5G networks will be a boon to first responders — and the people seeking help.

In California, despite being the national epicenter of innovation, we’re lagging behind. Last year a bill that would have helped the 5G industry was stopped due to concerns from local municipalities about installation of the cells. While local governments’ concerns most certainly need to be addressed, we can’t allow the 5G conversion to become mired in red tape.

It’s time for California to embrace 5G technology. As the world’s sixth-largest economy, California cannot simply keep pace with the rest of the country; it must instead set the national and global example. Let’s get to work.

Kish Rajan is chief evangelist for CALinnovates.