COVID-19 has magnified the importance of digital technologies like no other world event. International lock-downs have accelerated the rise of several existing trends, such as remote working, video conferencing, online shopping, and online entertainment. This has had a significant effect on the demands placed on broadband by both consumers and businesses.

With the vaccine rollout and light now in sight at the end of a very long tunnel, what is the future of broadband post-COVID 19? In this article, we discuss how broadband has performed during the pandemic and how it’s likely to evolve.

How has broadband coped with COVID-19?

Despite initial concerns, the UK’s networks have coped well with increased demand during the pandemic. For example, Ofcom’s UK Home Broadband Performance Report recorded minimal adverse effects on Internet performance during the lock-downs.

The pandemic has slowed the progress of the 5G rollout, however, partly due to its impact on worldwide supply chains, and partly due to the UK Government’s refusal to allow Huawei to supply the country’s networks with 5G technology.

The digital divide

The pandemic has also highlighted the digital divide that exists in society. The Internet and access to digital devices has been more important than ever for keeping in touch with friends and family, working, accessing services, and obtaining up-to-date information in a fast-changing situation.

People can be ‘digitally excluded’ for a variety of reasons, including lack of access to devices or infrastructure, insufficient technological skills, or a lack of motivation. Age, location and socio-economic status are a few of the factors that play a role in this. This exclusion can lead to difficulty in accessing support or financial help, medical appointments, education, and more. It can also put individuals at a higher risk of cyber-crime such as fraud and misinformation.

Inequality of broadband access is a challenge for individuals, businesses, and governments around the world. Access to broadband is one of the key enablers of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and efforts to bridge the digital divide will continue beyond the pandemic.

Countering the impact of COVID-19

The pandemic has affected every aspect of our life, from the economy to our social lives. The impact of the lock-downs has been severe and it will take years to recover from the financial and social fallout. Technology will play a central role in the recovery, with home working and remote education likely to continue in many countries. COVID-19 has also impacted how many businesses operate and plan for the future. Several organisations have turned to Cloud-based services to help them continue to run their operations off-site, for example. And businesses are increasingly looking to technology to improve efficiencies.

The future of broadband post-COVID 19

Trends we expect to persist beyond the pandemic include:

Shift to the Cloud

Cloud storage and resources can dramatically extend the capabilities of an organisation’s network, as data and applications can be stored and hosted remotely. All you need is a fast and reliable Internet connection to use the Cloud from any location — at home, in the office, or on the move!

Growth of the Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT is big news and will continue to be so for the next decade. Connected IoT devices are forecast to increase globally to over 30 billion by 2025. The IoT affects a wide range of industries, from energy to healthcare. Broadband is obviously a key driver for IoT innovation, especially in areas that involve voice or data communications.

AI and automation

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are making huge strides in industry (in areas like manufacturing) and in consumer goods. From a consumer perspective, for example, AI technology exists in smart home devices and voice assistants. Broadband is a crucial element in delivering these technologies!

As this article shows, the role of broadband post-COVID is only set to grow. Recent events have emphasised our reliance on technology, and Internet access is vital in keeping society and the economy running.