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2021 Technology Trends

To say that 2020 was unpredictable is putting it mildly. One year ago, as we were making predictions on what the next 12 months would bring, very few IT and business leaders could have foreseen the effects the COVID-19 pandemic would have on the world. It’s been an unprecedented health crisis that’s resulted in increased demands for bandwidth as schools transition to remote learning, employers encourage remote work and healthcare facilities increase telehealth visits.

Tech Predictions in 2020

Last year, we anticipated that 2020 would see the continued proliferation of 5G and data center growth, more telecom mergers and the increased use of artificial intelligence. These trends kept pace with our expectations. Most major carriers have a significant portion of their 5G networks built out and data center leasing capacity is at a record high. Notable mergers in 2020 include Microsoft acquiring Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch and Verizon acquiring BlueJeans Network, a videoconferencing specialist.

As the digital transformation era throttles forward, many hot topics like 5G and cybersecurity will continue to take a front-row seat in 2021. Meanwhile, additional trends that support the increased demand for bandwidth have come to the forefront.

Whether 2021 will be as unpredictable as 2020 remains to be seen, but you can rest assured that DQE will be here with unmatched, reliable service no matter what the year brings. Here are some of the trends we’re keeping a close watch on in the coming year:

5G Network

The fifth generation technology for broadband cellular networks has been rapidly expanding across the globe in recent years. While most major carriers have a significant portion of their 5G networks built, the process is far from being complete. More devices connecting to networks is driving demand. By the end of 2020, investments into 5G infrastructure are estimated to reach $8.1 billion, which is on pace to exceed total investments into 4G by 2022. The network that promises access to more data with faster connectivity will continue to rely on fiber in fronthaul and backhaul networks to deliver.

Edge Computing

With the rise of more devices being connected to networks comes the need for enhanced connectivity in order to support enterprise use of data-intensive and latency sensitive applications. A large part of the edge computing paradigm involves shifting the gravity of data away from the large Tier 1 markets into Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas. Edge data centers are typically located further away from large data aggregation centers and closer to where activities take place at the edge. Global Market Insights estimates the edge data center market will experience a compound annual growth rate of 23% between 2020 and 2026. Like traditional data centers, edge data centers will rely on fiber to distribute data at the edge and give tenants low latency access to cloud services, cloud cores and other edge facilities.

Remote Work

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 7% of the U.S. workforce worked remotely, but employers nationwide transitioned to remote work when shutdown orders attempting to curb the spread of the virus caused offices to close. Whether businesses will return to the same office habits they had prior to the pandemic remains unknown, but evidence shows remote work will continue on some level. Studies have shown telework can improve job satisfaction, increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles. Smaller cities are reporting an increase in population since the beginning of the pandemic, attributed to teleworkers migrating.

For the businesses planning to bring workers back to the office, upgraded connectivity options will be necessary to leverage the efficiencies promised by the latest technologies, creating the case for businesses to invest in fiber networks now. Adding fiber attracts tenants to commercial office buildings. For employees who do remain remote, fiber providers like DQE will play a role in supporting carriers and ISPs with the infrastructure needed to help them serve end users working remotely.

Healthcare IT

The use of technology is allowing caregivers to be safer and more agile as they deal with high-stress situations, monitoring and treating patients both in-person and remotely. Healthcare IoT devices, including wearables, sensors and connected devices, minimize the amount of physical contact needed, which has become important within facilities treating patients with COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Artificial intelligence (AI)-driven tools, like chatbots that aid with responding to customers, and diagnostics and imaging devices have gained popularity in recent years. Industry experts expect healthcare IoT and AI to continue trending upward in 2021, which impacts bandwidth demands. However, all healthcare IT trends can only perform as well as the fiber networks that power them.


With more opportunities for connectivity, comes more opportunities for information to get into the wrong hands. A recent study by CrowStrike showed there were more intrusion attempts in the first six months of 2020 than in all of 2019. Cybersecurity will remain a top focus of business and IT leaders to protect the records and data of their customers and employees. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) mitigation services will continue to be important as businesses look to strengthen their IT infrastructure. Learn how all businesses can benefit from DDoS Mitigation Service.

Conclusion on 2021 Technology Trends

Only 2021 knows what it will bring! However, we’re pretty certain these technology trends will influence the fiber optic network industry significantly in the coming year. The use of fiber optics is key to delivering the speed, connectivity capabilities and secure networks that come with the 2021 technology trends. Throughout the year, DQE will remain committed to delivering fiber-based services that allow businesses across Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to fully leverage 5G, edge computing, remote work and learning, healthcare technologies, risk mitigation services and anything else 2021 brings with it.

Tags: 2021 Telecom Trends, 5G, bandwidth, cybersecurity, DDoS Mitigation, Edge Computing, fiber optics, IoT