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John McGrath, CEO of Advantage Engineers, joined The NEDAS Live! Podcast virtually this week to talk to host Steve Yapsuga, Co-Chair of the NEDAS Advisory Council and North American Director of Sales for Comba Telecom, about today’s telecommunications infrastructure industry. Most notably, this discussion centered around COVID-19, one of the most talked-about events across the world and throughout every industry. 

As a 25-year wireless and fiber network veteran, McGrath has seen many trends come and go across the space, and nothing quite compares to what’s happening now in the midst of a global pandemic. Exploring the implications of this event, Yapsuga mentions the widespread — and perhaps permanent — impact this event has had on businesses across North America and across the world. When it comes to his own team at Advantage Engineers, McGrath observes, “I’m super proud of our company. They did an amazing job of pivoting to continue to serve the customers from a work-from-home environment.” He adds that he believes they have been fortunate due to the fact that they’re in an industry that provides professional services to wireless and fiber optic carriers, making their work critical no matter the situation. The one issue he does foresee: acquiring equipment and materials to continue that work. 

While supply chain impacts and remote work policies may be — and hopefully will be — short lived, McGrath notes that some changes may stick around. He wonders, “Are people going to travel as much? Will this impact the way people do business? I think it might.” He continues, “It may result in people having less office space and being more intentional about connecting with people that they work with.” However, the changes might not be all bad. Focusing on communication, while it requires more effort now, can create better synergies for the future. So, how is McGrath’s team handling those communication changes and challenges that come from distance? The same way many teams are adjusting — by implementing daily team calls to keep groups, projects and tasks on track despite the lack of a central office. 

From a holistic infrastructure industry standpoint, however, Yapsuga contemplates if the rising demand for fiber and small cells to support 5G will become more frantic in response to current interruptions and the desire to avoid them in the future. McGrath agrees that this pandemic will increase the speed of deployment due to the fact that everyone moving to remote and virtual environments is creating strain on networks that was previously unseen. He adds, “I also think it has [revealed] the fact that not everyone has high-speed internet at home or can get it. Particularly in a learning environment, there are a lot of kids who don’t have that.” 

This topic of broadband equality is an issue that has long plagued the communications industry and the world, and it’s being brought to the forefront of many minds during this time. As stated, when everything is going online, it means that those who go without are at a distinct disadvantage. This disadvantage becomes particularly dangerous when adults can’t do their standard work duties online or children cannot complete their virtual schooling from home. Hopefully, COVID-19, while devastating now, can serve as a catalyst for positive change that will bridge this digital divide, better preparing us for any unexpected events that may come in the future. 

To listen to this episode in its entirety, please click here

To read the previous blog about NEDAS Live! Episode twelve, please click here. 

To learn more about the NEDAS Live! Podcast or submit yourself for consideration to appear on an episode, please click here