Throughout the pandemic, popular platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts have not only kept us learning, playing, and communicating – they have quite literally kept the world economy afloat.
All of this has been made possible by a robust broadband infrastructure that kept the communication going even in the face of increased internet use of up to 40% in general and an amazing 300% on videoconferencing applications. This phenomenon underscores a fundamental point: in today’s society, a broadband connection is no longer an option; it’s an essential.
So how exactly has videoconferencing changed our society over the course of the pandemic? And what does a future of superfast internet mean for the further development of these platforms? Let’s take a look.
Exponential growth in business and education
Even before the pandemic, videoconferencing was already a part of the daily lives of millions, but growth has exploded under Covid. According to a recent study commissioned by Zoom, the crisis led to nearly three times the number of employees working remotely, with a corresponding increase in the use of videoconferencing solutions. And not only are more people using videoconferences, they are also spending more time on them: from three to five times more.
Many of these changes promise to become permanent. In the healthcare sector, some 67% of companies are considering a move to a remote-work model post-pandemic. In the technology industry, 84% of businesses surveyed agree that videoconferencing solutions will continue to be essential for operations. Overall, 70% of managers consider themselves more open to remote working models than before the crisis.
The education sector has also experienced profound changes due to COVID, with a more than triple increase in the use of videoconferencing solutions, overall. And with the government recognizing that broadband is a critical need for students to succeed during the pandemic, new funding has allowed partnerships between broadband providers and organizations around the country to ensure that low-income students get connected, signing up more than 12,000 schools in the period of only a few months. These partnerships, coupled with a $290 billion investment in infrastructure and technology by broadband providers over the past 20 years, have been crucial in expanding access to broadband at this most critical of times.
AR, VR, and AI
With a future of 10G internet on the horizon, videoconferencing is poised to make a giant new leap in two areas: AR and VR. AR stands for augmented reality, in which real-world views are “augmented” by computer-generated information, such as in the game Pokemon Go. Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, takes the next step and creates a whole new world for you to step into.
Thanks to a combination of AR and VR, videoconferences will soon escape from the flatland of two dimensions to embrace a three-dimensional reality. This will mean that, instead of sharing a dialogue across a screen, a hologram of the person you’re calling will be able to join you in your own room or a VR destination of your choosing. Virtual conference participants will be able to meet and interact holographically across whatever distance, while virtual shows and concerts will make you feel like you are right there in the venue. In 2017, for example, French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon held a rally in two cities 300 miles apart thanks to holographic technology.
Then there is AI, short for artificial intelligence. Thanks to AI, you will be able to control all aspects of meetings by voice, generate automatic transcripts of your videoconferences, or, if multiple languages are involved, translate speakers on the spot. Instead of scrambling to send invites, share documents or line up interpreters, AI will allow conference organizers to focus on what’s important: the content.
High speeds, low latencies
But here’s the thing: in order to function properly, these technologies require both high speeds and low latencies, something that can only be provided by super-fast internet. The 10G internet of tomorrow can become a reality, but only if we continue to invest in connecting the 13.4 million Americans who continue to lack access to broadband while increasing speeds for all. Otherwise, we risk shutting out future generations from the innovations they will need to thrive. To learn more about other emerging technologies that super-fast internet is bringing into our homes, read our related article here.