In late 2019, I began writing my first book centered on the life-changing potential of networking. As a technology analyst covering networking over the past several years, I have traveled far and wide to meet with infrastructure providers, customers and developers across the world. It may come as a surprise, but as it currently stands, only half of the human population has connectivity. That’s a mind-blowing factoid for us in the connected world, where many take Internet access for granted (including me). Can you imagine a world without streaming video, ride-sharing apps, access to near real-time news and online banking? The realization that so many others do not have access to these life-changing benefits gave me a new directive: learning, through travel, how infrastructure providers are helping bridge this global digital divide. While the pandemic put those plans on hold, I hope to begin my fact-finding journey in 2021. Today I wanted to provide some more background on the writing project titled “The Human Network”.
Critical challenges in extending connectivity
Extending connectivity to underserved areas is not without its difficulties. It is no secret that operators are spending billions of dollars and euros to deploy next-generation 5G networks. The economics dictate that carriers start in highly dense population areas, in order to recoup these infrastructure and spectrum investments, before pushing outwards. Further complicating matters is the ballooning cost of licensed spectrum due to governmental policies. While there is a long way to go, the United States has begun to address this with the launch of CBRS/ OnGo. I’ve written about OnGo before, and if interested you can find that article here. Governmental subsidies to incentivize carriers to build out rural coverage should also help in the long run. I fully expect these same efforts will occur in other parts of the world.
Four regions that will particularly benefit
Bringing connectivity to underserved areas of the world can dramatically improve societal well-being, raise prosperity through job creation and bring quantum-level advances in “AgTech” that improve food production and access to food stores. I have decided to focus my travel next year in four regions: the African continent, India, the Amazon and rural America. I plan to travel with Cisco, HPE/ HPE Aruba and Nokia, chronicling each of these infrastructure provider efforts to bridge the digital divide. I believe it will be the most profound business travel I have ever embarked upon, and I look forward to sharing my learnings through the book and, possibly, a film documentary.
Access to connectivity has changed our lives in so many ways. As wireless networking continues its advance through cellular and Wi-Fi modalities, theoretically, its cost should decrease and its scale should increase. Networking is rapidly becoming more disaggregated, virtualized and software-defined. These advances should allow infrastructure providers and operators to find new and innovative ways to extend connectivity to underserved areas. I am excited to come along on the journey and help identify these opportunities. Stay tuned!