“Sometimes, firmware updates and sitting closer to your router simply won’t do”
As industries and businesses across the globe embrace the ‘new normal’; a situation seeing millions of workers now seeking refuge in their own homes to conduct the day-to-day operations of multinational organisations, we can’t help but wonder about the sustainability of current home Wi-Fi solutions, writes Seán Keating, CEO, Vilicom.
Businesses across every sector have had to adapt operating models with minimal prior warning in order to ensure continuity and to save further damage to national economies. And, while empty office spaces in previously multi-tenanted skyscrapers currently lay only as dormant shells, the biggest changes have undoubtedly happened at home. With many workforces across the world now in a position of working from home for the foreseeable future, and schools and universities remaining closed, our own homes have evolved into hubs of online activity.
In 2019, the strongest numbers on record were displayed for daily unique internet users: with statistics peaking at 45.1 million each day in the UK alone. But with this mass-scaled venture out of traditional office environments, can our current home Wi-Fi solutions keep up with the demands of our new world?
Before the worldwide lockdown came into effect, only an estimated 7.9 percent of the global workforce were to be considered remote workers. And while working as a digital nomad is undoubtably on the rise, it remains far from the norm, and many people unprepared for this new way of working may not even consider the longer-term effects on their home broadband offering. Single person households may get by with off-the-shelf solutions; but residencies of three or more will most likely feel the strain when it comes to bandwidth and connection speeds.
Homes with two adults working remotely – their average days consisting of several video calls, connections to vital web-based tools, plus perhaps streaming your favourite tunes for some personal motivation – traditional means may suffice. But with kids taking school lessons via Skype, playing on games consoles, chatting with friends and posting on social apps, plus streaming movies, music and TV shows, your bandwidth has the potential to quickly bottleneck down to unusable speeds.
According to research conducted in 2019, the average UK household enjoyed download speeds of 54.2Mbps, with upload rates of just 7.2Mbps – figures a long way from reflecting the promises advertised by many fibre service providers boasting symmetrical broadband packages.
But a solution in this scenario being overlooked by many is mobile connectivity. Can mobile data usage plug the gap for UK residencies lacking in ‘superfast’ 24mbps+ speeds or users who only have access to encumbered connections?
There are some quick-fix solutions to explore, such as plug-in range extenders, staggering devices between 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, or analysing the average speeds of your connection with web-based diagnostics tools, these don’t tend to present the most sustainable solutions in the longer term. And sometimes, firmware updates and sitting closer to your router simply won’t do. This is where sufficient in-building mobile coverage could present the key in keeping home workforces connected and up to speed in our new world.
Early adopting countries trialling 5G have already experience huge increases in average download speeds: seven out of the eight-current leading 5G countries have shown average increases of between 127mbps and 270mbps over traditional connection types.
While 5G still seems some way off from mass consumption, we shouldn’t rule out our current abundance of robust 4G mobile options available. In Ireland, the Health Services Executive has already adopted a mobile-first method: distributing a huge quantity of 4G dongles to its staff to ensure robust connectivity as they support the vital operations of the health service remotely.
With evidence now pointing towards many businesses reporting increased productivity from employees thanks to the active benefits associated with working from home – be it less time commuting, enjoying a better work/ life balance or more time with family – the results are now proven and many multinational companies have alluded to embracing remote working policies moving forward. To this end, and with such huge positive impacts on the working and domestic lives of employees, insufficient technology shouldn’t ever represent the constraint or limitation to offset adopting this new way of working.
Perhaps it’s also time for mobile network operators to do away with antiquated ‘minutes and texts’ bundles and introduce more data-first deals. This modern working landscape we now all find ourselves in, if nothing else, highlights the necessity of mobile data over thousands of unspoken monthly call minutes. Are these deals even viable in this new age? If there was ever a shift in demand, it’s now. Forget free installation of landline phones, network providers need instead to focus on how we can mobilise connectivity services, giving dexterity to working through our new world’ and beyond.