COVID-19 has forced us to quickly change our ways of working and living, and this has been made possible by internet connectivity. Going forward, both connectivity and Industry 4.0 will be critical to Canada’s long-term economic success. While Industry 4.0 will drive productivity, efficiency and flexibility across the economy, it will rely on advanced connectivity networks such as 5G.
Right now, there’s a window of opportunity for Canada to more firmly leverage 5G as an investment catalyst. But this will require cooperation across government, the telecommunications sector and broader industry.
The report defines Industry 4.0 as “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices using modern smart technology. It leads to the end-to-end digitization of all physical assets and integration across the value chain using Internet of Things (IoT) hardware, software and connectivity.”
According to PwC, the high quality of Canada’s connectivity networks allowed industries to quickly adapt to digital ways of working during COVID-19. This, combined with Canada’s health and fiscal policy response, supported Canada’s economic activity showing more resilience than the average of its global peers. In addition, the report notes that of course, Canadians’ social well-being during COVID-19 has been supported by the ability to use connectivity for work and school and entertainment. “These uses of connectivity significantly increased overall broadband consumption in Canada, with daily average broadband usage increasing by 43% (Q2 2020 compared to Q2 2019) during the first lockdown period.”
PwC observed that Canada’s overall average mobile download speed (which was 71% higher than the average of global peers pre-COVID-19) maintained its leading position relative to peer countries, despite the significant increase in demand.
According to PwC, COVID-19 accelerated 6 key trends having implications for connectivity and broadband-enabled use cases:
- Shifts in population centres: The rate of population growth in large urban centres is expected to slow down due to increasing unaffordability in large urban centres and increased viability of remote working and learning.
- Shift in relationship and entertainment preferences: Increased social media, video streaming and video chat usage habits are likely to persist post-COVID-19.
- Shifts in business operating models: Employers are expected to accelerate digital transformation and automation plans to increase business resiliency, respond to future disruption and manage increased costs from localized supply chains.
- Shift to localized supply chains: Supply chains are expected to continue to trend towards onshoring to protect against geopolitical and unpredictable disruption risk.
- Shifts in service preferences: Preferences for virtual services are expected to continue to increase, as COVID-19 has exposed consumers and businesses to new virtual service offerings.
- Shifts in consumer purchasing habits: Canadians are expected to continue to increase eCommerce activity and their preference for digital service channels.
PwC examines the impact on connectivity of these trends and the implications for bandwidth usage and network densification.
Looking across the G7, plus Australia and South Korea, PwC says “governments have enacted policies and regulations across six key levers that incentivize and facilitate private investment in the deployment of 5G faster and in different ways than market forces would likely dictate.”
- Spectrum timing, allocation and costs
- Network investment incentives
- Rural network subsidies
- Regulatory standards
- Research and innovation funding (technology development)
- Vertical industry application funding (technology adoption)
The report looks at each of these, and each country’s use of these policy levers, in much more detail.
“Through cooperation between government and industry on 5G and Industry 4.0, Canada can support the mid to long term success of the economy, while providing the telecommunications networks required to meet the connectivity needs of Canadians’ economic and social lives post-COVID-19.”