Cradlepoint: ‘COVID-19 is transforming wireless tech in education, healthcare’

Moving forward, education and healthcare will lean on wireless technology more heavily, says Cradlepoint CMO

One of the primary challenges of battling COVID-19 is delivering reliable connectivity to the millions of students now attending classes from home. While the virus is affecting every single one of us, it can’t be denied that under-privileged communities, where the students are used to searching for internet connections at the public library or a friend’s house, are being disproportionally impacted. With workarounds like those no longer viable, companies like Cradlepoint are stepping up to fill the connectivity gaps, which the company’s Chief Marketing Officer Todd Krautkremer told RCR Wireless News, are “all over the map.”

To address this devastating need, Cradlepoint is delivering internet to these communities via school buses equipped with cellular-connected routers and Wi-Fi access capability by parking them in students’ neighborhoods and open, public spaces, like grocery store parking lots. But the buses are only part of the solution.

“Our approach is a combination of using the school buses with Cradlepoint routers as hotspots […] and taking Cradlepoint solutions and deploying them at convenience stores and libraries and other locations so they can radiate connectivity around the community.”

And in some cases, he added, school districts are shipping Cradlepoint units directly to students’ homes to provide dedicated connectivity for schoolwork.

“They’re going beyond school buses to allow people to connect,” he said.

While Cradlepoint doesn’t have direct visibility into the number of deployed buses, Krautkremer estimates that it’s in the thousands.

“About 35 or 40 different school districts have deployed Cradlepoint, many of them in their buses or as community hotspots,” he elaborated. “And when you think those districts have anywhere from 20 to 50 to several hundred buses, it’s easy to see how that number is in the thousands.”

Speaking more broadly on the current climate, Krautkremer stated that cellular networks, because they’re built with more scalability and flexibility, are holding up “very well.”

He pointed out that, as a response to the virus, cellular companies are receiving additional spectrum to provide more surge capacity.

“They’re able to do that a lot faster [than a cable provider]because the spectrum is very dynamic and fungible,” he said.

And generally speaking, cellular is accustomed to surge environments. Just take a concert or sporting event, for instance. Even under normal conditions, cellular networks come face to face with environments in which a few towers are supporting lots and lots of connections.

“If you’re a cable provider,” reasoned Krautkremer, “it’s a little bit harder because you have to dig up and plant in the ground to put more capacity in.”

Looking to the future, Krautkremer is optimistic that this pandemic is forcing us to finally address the connectivity gap for under-privileged communities that has always been there.

“When a compelling need intersects a compelling event, that’s when transformation happens,” he stated. “This need has been around for a long time. What’s been missing is the compelling event that forces people to act now and break down whatever barriers that kept them from doing it before.”

Like education, healthcare is poised to undergo a lasting transformation as a result of COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, Krautkremer said healthcare was moving in a more wireless direction, one that took healthcare from a place people go to get services to one that brings those services closer to communities with mobile sites and at-home visits, whether physical or virtual.

Now, the healthcare industry is being forced to recognize the value of delivering services in a distributed fashion at temporary locations.

“This is the way healthcare will be delivered in the future,” commented Krautkremer. “If we embrace it, then the ability to respond to crises like this one becomes much easier because we have this whole new modality of distributed healthcare.”

Going forward, Krautkremer anticipates that healthcare organizations will lean on wireless much more heavily and that they will all have a pandemic response plan that allows them to quickly establish remote treatment and test centers.

“And the only infrastructure that can support this transformation is wireless,” he claimed.

“It’s been true,” he concluded, “that every time a wireless technology, in capability and economics, crosses over that of a wired equivalent […] wireless always becomes the preferred option. [Cradlepoint] believe[s], and what carriers believe, is that 5G will create that crossover point. With the speed, capability, latency, breadth of use cases and the economics of wireless with exceed that of its wireless counterpart, and when that happens, the market will tip.”

“We believe that this pandemic is going to cause organizations to realize that that crossover is underway and to demand the acceleration of it,” he said.

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