By Oliver Rowe, Managing Director, Fusion Communications
The Covid-19 pandemic triggered an unexpected, rapid migration to digital technologies and services, and recent data shows we vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.
While the pandemic has been a profound societal and economic crisis, it has underscored the vital role of connectivity in everyday life and has put a renewed focus on the UK telecom sector.
Reliable connectivity has become more important than ever before, but is this acceleration towards digitalisation permanent, and what does the future look like for communication and connectivity solutions post-pandemic?
Here are 5 predictions for what lies ahead.
- Zoom and remote working are here to stay
Love it or loathe it, following the pandemic Zoom and video conferencing will be here to stay. A report from the business found that nearly three quarters [73%] of organisations are considering a flexible remote working model following the success of remote collaboration over the pandemic-enforced lockdowns.
Therefore, the substantial demand placed on home broadband and mobile networks throughout the last 12 months is set to continue. Seamless remote working requires more than reliable connectivity, and telecom companies will continue to play a fundamental role in catering for long term increased reliance on digital services.
- A rise in equipment leasing and SIM only plans
Mobile phone leasing for businesses has seen a significant uptake in the past five years and throughout the pandemic, owing to the rise in hardware costs and the availability of cheaper, more flexible SIM only plans. This is something we can expect to see continue with the increase in home working, as companies will need to find affordable yet reliable ways to provide their teams with phone connectivity.
Many companies don’t want to commit to lengthy deals given the fluctuating state of business, and a SIM only offer provides more freedom and a lower cost per user.
In addition, as more firms are realising that rather than being tied down into a contract with a device or set of devices that may quickly become obsolete, with a SIM only plan they will always have access to the latest functionality.
- Changing customer expectations
Our new reliance on connectivity has inevitably created a shift in customer expectations and it is likely they will continue to expect more, not less, from their mobile and broadband providers moving forward.
Telecom operators have a critical role to play in helping businesses adapt to the new normal and will be expected to go above and beyond tackling their immediate connectivity needs. They will need to take a holistic approach to customers’ requirements, taking into account last-mile optimisations, home WiFi coverage and access to effective and timely support services.
Covid-19 has increased the demand for rapid communications, and customers will continue to expect service issues to be addressed as quickly as possible. Shifting the customer promise from speed to reliability will be paramount.
- Climate change
The Covid-19 crisis has heightened businesses’ focus on sustainability, and more are attuned to, and value, operators’ sustainability credentials. As demand for connectivity continues to skyrocket so too does the energy consumption of operators, and they will need to demonstrate they are prioritising their environmental goals.
Vodafone is already targeting 100% renewable energy use by 2023 and aims to halve its carbon footprint over that same timeframe. It already generates 8% of its electricity in the UK through wind power, and recently secured planning permission for its first solar farm, which will provide all the electricity for its data centres.
With the introduction of new 5G networks, which will use up energy like never before especially when used with higher frequency bands, we can expect to see even more environmental commitment from the UK’s telecommunications firms in the years to come.
- Network capacity
Now that, broadly speaking, operators are providing good enough speed to meet businesses’ needs, the next few years will be all about capacity. The lockdown period has illustrated the need for robust communications networks that have adequate capacity to cope with both unexpected spikes in demand and long-term shifts in behaviour and usage.
The 5G roll out will be vital in ensuring the UK’s telecom network infrastructure is future ready but deploying 5G and making sure there will be enough capacity to cope with demand could see network cost double for operators, raising important questions about the investment strategy and future profits for mobile players. Even if they delay 5G investments, they will need to increase infrastructure spending to cope with growing traffic.
Telecom operators are at the forefront of businesses’ social and economic life in the wake of the pandemic and, as firms’ needs and requirements evolve with the crisis, operators have a critical role to play in helping them navigate the ‘new normal’ smoothly.
The acceleration of new technology and our reliance on connectivity is only set to continue and networks that fail to advance risk being left behind.