5G Networks And Infrastructure: The Prescription For Improving Telemedicine

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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

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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 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.

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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 Cell Antennas Could Give Big Boost To Long Beach Internet Access

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Greece Odyssey 263

Small cell antennas about to start springing up in downtown and northwest Long Beach, bringing with them the prospect of faster and stronger internet access.

Irvine-based Crown Castle, which already has installed 19 small-cell antennas in Long Beach, plans to add dozens more, a move that officials hope will help bridge the city’s digital divide.

The Press-Telegram has the full story here.