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Coronavirus Will Test WiFi Networks, Make 5G More Popular

Cox Communications enterprise infrastructure architecture leader Parminder Singh, Verizon global team leader Shane Clemons, QTS Vice President David McCall and DC BLOX chief strategy and connectivity officer Jeff Wabik.

The coronavirus outbreak may be a good thing for the demand of 5G internet in major cities as more companies require employees to work from home.

As the pandemic spreads even further, internet and WiFi systems will be truly tested by a spike in demand from millions of people working remotely. That could be the demonstration the much-vaunted 5G needs to prove its worth, QTS Vice President David McCall said during Bisnow's data center conference last week.

“I think it's an unbelievable opportunity,” McCall said. “I think it's going to change the world.”

While it is being rolled out by the major telecommunication companies, 5G is still limited in where it is offered to both consumers and businesses. As more people work from home and more schools close down over fears of the coronavirus, current internet systems will be tested, especially in communities that are served by lower bandwidth cable and copper-wire connections, given that 70% of bandwidth is gobbled up by streaming and social media sites like YouTube, Netflix and Skype.

“The weak link in the chain, where the system could get overloaded, is going to be the home broadband network,” Gartner Research Vice President Lisa Pierce told Fortune. “People will hit congestion, just like a highway, where the speed goes from 60 miles an hour to 20.”

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Despite the gradual rollout, many panelists at Bisnow's event were bullish on the potential for 5G.

“I think both 5G and 10G are going to play a vital role in the advancement of our economy,” Cox Communications Leader Parminder Singh said. “I believe that, [for] both the public and private sectors, the advancement of these technologies are important for the economy.”

Verizon also is focused on delivering 5G to consumers and is aiming to bring it into homes without the use of physical connections, global team leader Shane Clemons said.

Cofluence CEO Bill Winsininski, Exide Technologies global head of IT infrastructure Mohammad Zahid, Digital Realty Trust Director Wes Jensen and Ntirety CRO Kevin Smith.

As more cities strive to become smart cities — having infrastructure connected to the internet — latency will become more of an issue, and that will propel 5G's popularity, Digital Reality Trust Director Wes Jensen said. It will also put cloud computing and data storage front and center in importance as a way to deter data from being delayed in its delivery between points.

“So high-latency produces congestion when you're sending a ton of data,” Jensen said.

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DC Blox Chief Strategy and Connectivity Officer Jeff Wabik said latency is a paramount issue for his company, to the point that he said he physically walks the path of the fiber to ensure that nothing is blocking the wires that would delay data by milliseconds.

“You never really know where your packet is going to go to get from point A to point B. I need to know how many inches of fiber there is between point A and point B,” Wabik said. "If you don't know where the photons go because you don't know where the fiber goes, you could be in for a rude awakening."