The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised COVID-19 as a pandemic and almost all countries in the world have been affected by it one way or another. Many countries like Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the UK have declared full or partial lockdown and people are advised not to leave their homes unless necessary. In this difficult time, the UK announced a list of professions as key workers who will remain active and serve the society during the lockdown. This list includes doctors, pharmacists, National Health System workers, police and security forces, and telecommunication networks engineers/workers. Motivated by this, in this article we will have a look at the role of telecommunications and 5G during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will also look at the potential of beyond 5G networks in reacting to similar situations.
While the healthcare system, nurses and doctors are at the frontline of fighting the pandemic and protecting patients, others have to stay at home and maintain social distancing. This means that many people need to work from home using internet-based technologies. At this point, it can be argued that the load is mainly on the fixed networks which connect homes. However, this does not reduce the importance of cellular networks, but emphasizes on key design challenges of 5G and its different verticals. Figure 1 shows use of 5G technologies for considered verticals such as healthcare, education and retail during a Pandemic situation. In this lockdown situation, reliability, availability, and resilience of the cellular network are very important. To better justify the point, we first review the position of these three crucial industries/verticals during the COVID-19 lockdown and then we discuss some relevant mobile communications technologies.