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FCC increases network capacity to keep up with work-from-home demand

The FCC has given networks T-Mobile and Verizon access to extra spectrum to keep everyone online

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With millions of people now working from home in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the FCC is giving cell carriers access to extra mobile internet spectrum to keep everyone online.

First the FCC opened up more access to the 600MHz spectrum for T-Mobile for at least the next 60 days. Now, the commission has done the same for Verizon, providing customers with extra capacity to maintain their internet connections.

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Not just a move to help keep home workers online, but the extra spectrum was also requested by carriers in a bid to provide a stable connection to the education and healthcare sectors, and for self-isolating coronavirus patients and the elderly to stay in touch.

A rapid increase in data demand has been seen worldwide, as businesses tell staff to work from home if they can.

T-Mobile said this week how it has removed data caps for all customers and removed all costs from calls made to countries most impacted by the coronavirus COVID-19.

Vodafone, the world's second-largest mobile operator, said this week that the coronavirus has caused data traffic to surge by 50 percent in some markets, and 30 percent overall. The British company announced a plan this week to maintain network service and provide enough data capacity for critical government functions across Europe.

While work communication tools use very little data, a growing concern is the use of high-quality streaming video and gaming services by those stuck at home in isolation.

For the UK in particular, the launch of the 4K video streaming service Disney+ on March 24 could put networks under increased strain, as could new educational programs to be produced by the BBC after schools close nationwide this Friday.

In a bid to lower the demand for data, European Union commissioner Thierry Breton called for content providers like Netflix to lower video quality from 4K and HD to standard definition. "To secure internet access for all, let's switch to standard definition when HD is not necessary," he tweeted on Wednesday.

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