Improving America’s Infrastructure;What ItMeans for Telecom

With the pent-up demand for U.S. infrastructure projects and the trillions it will take to improve infrastructure, what are some of the new skills telecom engineers might need?

First let’s consider the U.S.’s infrastructure problems. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues a comprehensive assessment of American’s 16 major infrastructure categories. In ASCE’s Infrastructure Report Card, packed with state-by-state assessments and analysis, the ASCE’s grade for the United States was a“D+”.

Using the American A to F school grading format, the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card reported that whilethere has been some incremental progress toward restoring American’s infrastructure, the overall grade hasn’t improved since the last report was issued in 2013.

Most people think of bridges, tunnels and roadways when they hear about infrastructure improvements and projects. But equally important is the improvement to our electrical grid and telecommunications system as we become more dependent on wireless communication and sending huge amounts of data around the world. One instance of improving the telecom landscape is the use of small cells for wireless transmission. Unlike the installation of huge towers we’re used to seeing, there’s a movement to install small cells in neighborhoods.

Alphonso Jenkins, New York’s deputy commissioner for telecommunications planning, is a former Alcatel-Lucent solutions architect with more than 25 years experience in planning, designing, deploying and optimizing wireless networks. He is now focused on helping the city use its physical assets to enhance wireless service with small cells, according to RCR Wireless News.

Trillions in Infrastructure Spending

The ASCE estimates there’s a gap of more than $2 trillion between projected current funding and the $4.59 trillion needed to improve U.S. infrastructure to a “B” grade by 2025.

To put the spending required for projectsin the United States into a global perspective, the Global Infrastructure Hub (GI Hub), said $94 trillion is needed for global infrastructure investment by 2040. To close the spending gap, annual global infrastructure spending needs to rise to 3.5 percent from 3 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), according to the GIHub, a G20 initiative. The report details how much each country needs to spend on infrastructure to 2040, which sectors need it the most and how far they are from meeting these needs based on current spending trends.

Telecom and Engineering Skills

Some industry observers think telecom engineers will be making a shift from knowinghardware to virtual functionality. Antonella Corno, senior manager of product strategy and learning at Cisco, saidthe “speed of this change should not be underestimated – it is unprecedented and requires focused skill development that will benefit businesses in the short and long term,” according to RCR Wireless News.

Corno addedthat some of the skills engineers will require include knowledge of Software-Defined Networking (SDN), which automates network management, as well asNetwork Function Virtualization (NFV), a technology that plays a key role in the digitization of the network, he said. “Both allow organizations to gain a competitive edge when completing digital projects.”

Telecom giant AT&T announced its plans to increase its education of its workforce in NFV, SDN and the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, according to RCR Wireless News. AT&T wants its employees and new talent to be “more versed in terms of its software needs, including greater expertise in network functions virtualization, software-defined networking, security, data analytics and the “Internet of Things” all running in an open source software environment.”

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