The modern world of telecommunications is experiencing what’s known as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR), characterized by advances in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, biotechnology and the Internet of Things (IoT), among other categories. This merging of the physical, digital and biological worlds is affecting just about every type of industry, causing dramatic changes in production, management and corporate governance.
“We are in the midst of a digital transformation, with individuals and businesses alike adopting new technologies that improve life and business outcomes,” says Mike Louden, regional vice president, Comcast Business, which has more than 1 million residential and business customers in New Jersey. “Whether it’s a working parent using their smartphone to unlock the door for a child who forgot their key again, or doctors from across the globe consulting on the same diagnostic image moments after it was taken, the telecommunications industry is enabling that transformation through secure, high speed connectivity and cloud solutions.”
Comcast has, in fact, delivered a number of transformative products in recent months to service its 58 million customers across 39 states. Last October, the company became the nation’s largest provider of Gigabit Internet, giving business customers quicker access to videos, images, reports, invoices and records; connecting more users in real time; processing multiple card transactions faster; and running cloud-based apps, services and backups simultaneously. Comcast has also extended its reach into the $4-billion US business TV market with Xfinity Stream app, a streaming video feature that brings programming to waiting rooms, employee break areas, lobbies and other common areas.
Comcast also made Xfinity X1 for television available to businesses, launching a specialized version for hospitality customers with easier search and navigation, voice control and a picture-in-picture sports content companion with statistics and other data.
Comcast Business has made strategic investments – including $13 million in 2017 to build out its fiber network in New Jersey and Greater Philadelphia – with particularly positive response from such areas such as Jersey City, Mt. Laurel, Holmdel and Princeton, the company says. Small businesses can use: WiFi Pro, which allows customers both public and private WiFi and allocates bandwidth as they need it; Connection Pro, which provides up to eight hours of 4G LTE backup in the event of an outage; and SmartOffice, which lets owners stay connected with their businesses via remote video surveillance.
And the biggest news for mid-sized and enterprise customers is Comcast’s award-winning SD WAN solution, which enables businesses to transform from legacy processes to full automation. SD-WAN, used over the Comcast Business ActiveCore Platform, gives IT the ability to monitor and manage networks from their smartphones and replaces most network hardware with software-based controls so businesses can prioritize the broadband traffic they want in order to achieve the best network performance.
The biggest news from Verizon revolves around 5G, the next-generation wireless technology that promises to be markedly faster than previous generations, with massive bandwidth, greater opportunities for connectivity and improved network reliability – while supporting breakthroughs in AI, robotics, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, manufacturing and IoT. Verizon, whose operational headquarters is located in Basking Ridge, has made a significant investment over a number of years in fundamental assets for 5G, and last October, it became the first wireless provider to launch a 5G commercial product with its 5G Home broadband internet service that’s now available in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.
More recently, Verizon became the first communications company in the world to unveil a commercial 5G network with a commercially available 5G upgradeable smartphone, and in early April, the company turned on its 5G Ultra Wideband network in certain areas of Chicago and Minneapolis accessible with the 5G moto mod (an accessory that allows a Motorola moto z3 smart phone to connect to the 5G Ultra Wideband network). It plans to deploy 5G in more than 30 US markets in 2019 and will roll out 5G Home broadband internet service in some of these markets as well.
For businesses and consumers, 5G technology could eventually mean a world with peak data rates of 10 Gbps and self-driving cars or warehouses with automated robots moving at hundreds of miles per hour, transmitting data and reacting to changing information instantaneously, the company says. For example, Verizon 5G should ultimately support up to 1 million connected devices per square kilometer, 10 to 100 times more devices than is supported by a 4G LTE connection. In addition, 5G’s support of mobile connections at up to 310 miles per hour could enable significant advancements in high-speed rail systems, aviation and drone programs, while the 5G Ecosystems and Innovation team is looking at ways this technology can revolutionize industries such as finance, manufacturing and the medical profession, the latter of which will have access to data-intensive information, like full-body scans, in seconds.
“We’re building our 5G network to deliver the full potential of 5G so businesses can drive enhanced productivity, create new revenue streams, respond more quickly to changing business dynamics and deliver better value to customers,” says Tami Erwin, president of Verizon Business Group.
AT&T is also putting many of its eggs in the 5G basket, announcing this past February that its standards-based, mobile 5G network was live in parts of a dozen cities – including Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas and Houston – with at least nine more being added this year. The company, whose New Jersey headquarters is in Bedminster, says 5G will create significant new economic opportunities and better experiences for retailers, hospitals, manufacturers, public safety entities, banks and many other businesses.
Between 2014 and 2018, AT&T invested more than $130 billion in the US, including capital investment and acquisitions of spectrum and wireless operations – more than any other public company. Its fiber network connects more IoT devices than any other provider in North America and addresses more than 3 million businesses, both large and small. In March, the company announced it had become the first US carrier to reach mobile 5G speeds surpassing 1 gigabit per second – which is equivalent to downloading a two-hour HD movie in 20 seconds – and will continue to test and roll out the latest 5G technologies.
And when 5G becomes the operational standard for US businesses and there’s a massive amount of data traveling across networks, AT&T says it will be ready to combat the accompanying cyber threats through its software-defined network (SDN), which is powered by the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). Each new city that joins the AT&T 5G network will launch with cybersecurity standards, including protection proxies, Home Network Authentication and Subscriber Identity Privacy. “On the first day 5G is fully deployed, we’ll be able to detect threats and respond to threats in near real-time, patching vulnerabilities and helping prevent attacks from being successful,” the company says.
Founded and headquartered in Holmdel, Vonage is carving out a unique space in business communications by using cloud communications to improve how business gets done. Vonage Business Cloud (VBC), its fully-integrated cloud communications platform that uses a microservices-based architecture, helps businesses collaborate more productively and better engage customers across messaging, chat, social media, video and voice channels. In March, the company announced Number Programmability on VBC, building on the Nexmo API Platform and giving users the ability to customize communications systems with just a few lines of code. Number Programmability allows developers to programmatically route calls, enable chatbots, and enhance both internal collaboration and external engagement with customers, leading to better employee and customer experiences.
Also from Vonage comes the launch of CX Cloud Express – an extension of the Vonage Business Cloud – designed on a single stack to simplify IT and improve customer, agent and employee experiences, the company says. CX Cloud includes advanced voice capabilities, such as IVR and skills-based routing, which streamlines the agent and admin experience, allowing mid-sized companies with hundreds of employees to experience both the unified communications and contact center functionality that only much larger companies had access to in the past. In short, Vonage customers can now use a single platform to address all of their needs when it comes to communications, contact center and communications APIs.
“At Vonage, we believe that businesses win on customer experience, which ultimately relies on the quality of interaction between your customers and employees,” says Omar Javaid, president of the API Platform Group, Vonage.
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