Staying connected with 5G

Micron Technology | April 2020

The way that we live, work, learn and play has shifted dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we navigate these uncharted waters, all of us must reimagine ways to stay connected at work, with family and with our social groups. Fortunately, a growing array of technologies, including the new 5G network, can provide much-needed connections with others — and help all of us to feel less isolated.

Today, families are using video chat applications to hold virtual weekend gatherings. Strength and conditioning coaches are streaming daily workouts from their garages to motivate healthy behavior. Educators are turning to a variety of technology tools to deliver live lectures, upload video sessions and share whiteboard lessons with students. And for the elderly and those who provide care for them, connectivity technology is critical.

Courtney Combe, a psychiatric physician assistant, not only moved to 100% telemedicine visits with her patients during this COVID-19 pandemic, she also moved her two-year-old daughter’s birthday party to videoconference. “Not being able to have an in-person birthday party was harder on the grandparents than it was on my daughter.”

For Combe, the important thing was to create a special experience for her daughter. While extended family attended only via computer screen, the decorations, birthday cake and presents were like any birthday party under normal circumstances. “She’s not going to remember her second birthday party,” Combe goes on to explain, “but we recorded the video call when the family sang “Happy Birthday,” and we took lots of photos that she can look back on. It’s pretty cool that we have the technology to easily pull off a virtual party like this.”

“It’s pretty cool that we have the technology to easily pull off a virtual party like this.”

Courtney Combe

Exercise coaches are using virtual technology to connect with and encourage people, no matter their physical locations. Noelle Lyon, a nationally certified group exercise instructor, says the ability to teach virtually is a big help for her students.

“I would say that 100% of my students are much more apt to have someone guide them through an exercise routine than they would be to try and do it themselves,” Lyon said. “Teaching online was different for me, but it was fun. I went about my business and taught the class, and every now and then, I would ask individual participants to say something. It was nice to feel the camaraderie through digital cyberspace.”

Musicians have turned social media into virtual venues to remind us all that music can uplift our spirits and connect us in ways that in-person concerts never could. Singer, songwriter and drummer by trade, George Hrab of Pennsylvania has begun livestreaming performances in lieu of a postponed tour. Hrab observed a huge shift in the relationship between audiences and artists, who traditionally are separated by physical barriers and security guards at concerts. He explains, “It can be a very intimate thing,” knowing that performers will see what you’re typing to them in real time.

For isolated older adults who prefer living in their familiar homes, technology can be a boon — allowing for easy connectivity with loved ones and providing access to health care via telemedicine. Many are using social media, messaging and videoconferencing to maintain the human connection that is so essential despite the current obstacles. And increasingly, seniors are turning to telemedicine to receive a wide range of health services from their doctors without having to travel to a health care facility.

“Teaching online was different for me, but it was fun.”

Noelle Lyon
Nationally certified group exercise instructor

Acceleration of technology makes it possible

All these examples of staying connected and engaged during times of isolation are made possible by technology that didn’t exist even just five years ago. Imagine what this isolated lifestyle would be like if the COVID-19 pandemic happened in 2005 when smartphones didn’t exist, video chatting was crude and basic, and online services were just beginning. Additionally, the world’s cellular network was still on 3G back then, and our cell phones had very limited capabilities beyond voice calls.

The rollout of 5G, the fifth-generation cellular network that features downloading speeds reportedly 100 times faster than that of 4G (and about 500 times faster than 3G), is accelerating performance in a time that needs connectivity and bandwidth more than ever.

To understand how “staying at home” is affecting the network, let’s look at some numbers from Comcast Cable, one of the United States’ largest video and high-speed internet providers. According to Comcast, voice over IP (VoIP) and videoconferencing use were up 212% and VPN traffic was up 40% during the March 1-30, 2020, period when the spread of COVID-19 led to sheltering-in-place practices.

This dramatic increase in network traffic is requiring the communications industry — from internet service providers to data center infrastructure companies — to add capacity and engineering resources necessary to handle spikes and shift in use patterns. Ultimately, the amount of user data is exploding worldwide, putting strain on networks to store and move this data without performance bottlenecks.

The expanding role of memory and storage

To keep vast quantities of data moving efficiently for worldwide connectivity, cloud servers and the networks that glue them together need a lot of memory. Today’s cloud services offer virtually infinite amounts of capacity to satisfy our escalating needs for video-, audio- and livestreaming. The need for memory is only going to grow, both in the cloud and at the edge, as up-and-coming technologies (like artificial intelligence and virtual reality) become more prevalent in data centers and even in personal devices.

For connectivity applications to continue providing quality user experiences, they must use the combination of both the cloud and the intelligent edge to process massive quantities of data in real time. With 5G, the amount of data generated from user devices accelerates, requiring even more data to be stored, moved, processed and secured efficiently.

Micron has long been at the forefront of memory and storage technology, and we hold that place today with our powerful, fast DRAM memory chips, as well as our high-density NAND flash memory. We are committed to helping keep the world’s 5G connections flowing by delivering memory innovation and engineering expertise to our customers and partners.

Knowing that Micron is doing our part to help everyone tune into the world outside our doors, even when we’re staying indoors, provides us with a sense of empowerment. And when we can’t visit the people we love in person, technology can act as a second set of eyes and ears, increasing connections and perhaps easing our worries.

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