The Future of Connectivity
We’re at the dawn of a new era of connectivity. Remote work has become commonplace, and for some of us, it may become a permanent part of our lives. E-commerce is the new afternoon at the mall. Video calls are a way of life, both in the professional and personal realms. With digital connections standing in for face-to-face ones, far more of our lives are conducted through a digital medium than ever before. Fortunately, a new generation of connectivity is emerging to keep us together—no matter where we are.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a set of digital trends that have been emerging for some time, and the speed with which society has adapted is astounding. Recent research cited by advisory firm KPMG found that “daily fixed broadband consumption increased approximately 3GB” in the midst of the stay-at-home orders.1 Mobile broadband consumption has soared as well. Research by Ericsson uncovered that consumers reported a 25 percent increase in mobile broadband use. That’s no surprise since work, school, doctor’s visits, and entertainment went almost entirely online, but these changes may prove more enduring than the virus itself. Ericsson also found that 60 percent of working people in the US expect to switch to video conferencing even after the crisis is over. Forty percent of students plan to continue to take classes online, and nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that telemedicine will remain more popular than a traditional doctor’s visit.2
While current global networks are holding up against the demand, even stronger connectivity is on the horizon, and that will power a yet more connected future. Central to this is 5G connectivity, the new mobile network that is rolling out right now. 5G uses millimeter wave frequencies, which have much greater bandwidth than waves used in previous mobile network generations. Data travels much faster over 5G—download speeds range from 1 gigabit to 10 gigabits per second—with latency as low as 1 millisecond. Ten times as many devices can be connected to a 5G network at one time when compared to 4G, and still the network is 100 times more energy efficient.
5G has another advantage. While it is only one network, it can be divided up into various slices, each optimized for a particular purpose. This increases the carrying capacity of the network and enables each use to have the ideal part of the network to work with. Some applications, such as autonomous cars, will need the ultrareliable, low-latency part of the network. Factory controllers, Internet of Things applications, and smart-city applications may need a low-power slice. Entertainment, VR/AR, and mobile broadband will consume a high-bandwidth slice. The new network architecture, high bandwidth, and low latency of 5G make a whole new world of connectivity possible. Imagine a world of smart cities filled with truly autonomous vehicles and smart factories. Consider the promise of widespread connected devices, advanced and connected healthcare, and a landscape of virtual and augmented reality for work and leisure. And all of it can be tapped into anywhere.
Building out the 5G network raises significant challenges, and new infrastructure will be needed to make it a global phenomenon. These higher frequencies do not travel long distances and can be easily blocked. Installing seamless 5G coverage requires a network of base stations and small cells in place of the big 4G towers that currently dot the landscape. Realizing the capabilities of 5G technologies requires infrastructure that maintains the highest degree of signal integrity, so that data can travel unencumbered. Teflon™ fluoropolymer’s superior thermal and electrical properties allow for consistent signal transmission, which, together with trends in network computing, allows for data and computing resources to reside closer to the network with more responsive scalability. This will be realized by the creation of a new generation of small, high-quality, flexible, and rigid circuit boards and data cables with improved performance that keep the data flowing. It also means substantially upping the number, capacity, and speed of data centers—particularly those located at the network edge—where computing can be done quickly and reliably.
Powerful networks require the power of chemistry.
Fortunately, responsible chemistry is well on the way to tackling these challenges. Teflon™ fluoropolymers are essential to the production of error-free flexible and rigid circuit boards. Those boards will show up everywhere from smartphones to smart factories and from inconspicuous antennas to those nearly ubiquitous data centers. More data means more heat, which contributes to hotter data centers and more stress on infrastructure. Driverless cars will find reliability paramount, as connections cannot lapse, and data cannot go missing. Teflon™ fluoropolymers shine here by ensuring a clear, reliable signal. They are inert, have unique dielectric properties, and have unparalleled resistance to cracking and damage from thermal cycles—and that keeps data flowing from antenna to data center and back to users.
This new era of connectivity creates new challenges for chemistry, and Chemours is prepared to meet them. Our rapid prototyping capabilities and advanced testing facilities, paired with our commitment to partnership with customers, are bringing forth the next generation of Teflon™ fluoropolymers. These new materials are specifically designed for the widespread antennas, the burgeoning and hyperefficient edge data centers, and the surge of circuit boards the 5G revolution will require. And best of all, we’re ushering in this new world of connection with responsible chemistry, placing a premium on lowering emissions, fostering diversity, empowering our workforce, being good neighbors, and creating a sustainable life cycle for our essential products.