Bringing in a new era for telcos post COVID-19

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Abhishek Soni explores the capabilities that are a must for telcos to adapt to for success in this ‘new normal’

Given the quick spread of COVID-19 and an increase in countries imposing restrictions on movement, our daily lives have required more time at home and more usage of data for work and leisure, resulting in a significant impact on the telecom sector.

This move has forced telcos to rethink their business models and strategies. They have had to turn to digital products and services to ensure critical business functions are impacted as little as possible and customers continue to receive adequate services. Now with organisation adapting to this change as their way of life and some business re-opening, the c-suite is re-strategizing and revisiting plans to ensure business continuity.

This article explores how the c-suite in telecommunication companies are focusing on increasing network resiliency and reliability for the consumer while also looking at how COVID-19 may impact their planned investments.

Communication Service Providers as the enablers of a new normal

COVID has posed a macroeconomic challenge in front of us with direct impact on economies, societies, businesses and households. Demand for connectivity and communication might be at all time high with social distancing being a key preventive measure. This has increased the onus on technology, communication and digital enablers to be agile and decisive, not just to ensure readiness to cope with this unplanned surge of demand but also still keeping customer experience at core.

It’s no surprise that telcos are focusing on increasing network resiliency and reliability for the consumer as organisations moving to remote working has significantly increased, introducing a ‘new normal’, impacting the network usage and data consumption. This sudden, exponential increase in consumption (which wasn’t forecasted by the industry) has significantly increased the demand for network readiness and resilience.

While the enablement of this ‘new normal’ would be a key opportunity for telecom in terms of growth (revenue) as well as expansion, this new normal also brings a huge demand for better capacity planning, and customer experience management, which adds pressure and is causing the c-suite to worry about being able to continue services that are not interrupted.

Recovery through digital transformation

Owing to this, the c-suite is keen to latch on to the accelerated transformation of traditional to digital, across industry sectors. To be prepared for the future, c-suite will also be looking to reprioritise their IT investments and accelerate their digital agenda to accommodate complex journeys and enhance the customer experience.

Cloud to the rescue

With offices, schools and public places shutting to contain the spread of the virus, there’s a shift to remote working and hence, there is an increased use of video and teleconferencing. With this kind of change, telcos are facing a heightened demand of scalable infrastructure, applications and services without the operational overhead to support the new business models. This is pushing the c-suite to accelerate its digital transformation agenda and ensure an IT environment that allows scalability without cost pressures. In this case, a move to the cloud-based IT may answer many questions that the c-suite may have, as it is not just scalable but also ensures business continuity. The case will be further heightened by “cost pressure” which most of the industries would be facing and variable pricing that cloud models can support.

Security remains top of mind

Companies are moving quickly to add production capacity and maintain effective operations while they shift work to different locations. Remote work could increase security and infrastructure risks for CSP’s as well for the customer. Some elements of telecommunications work cannot be easily duplicated remotely — or in some cases at all. Such moves increase exposure to cyber threats because business-continuity measures, such as backup servers, are typically not as secure as normal production systems. They can lack the latest security patches and undergo less-rigorous testing. Remote workers are also vulnerable because they’re more likely to use less-secure networks, such as home or public WiFi, and phishing attacks against employees often increase during times like these. One of the major concerns for the c-suite, cybersecurity is one of the top concerns. In fact, recent research has revealed that one in two companies feel that they cannot secure home office environments properly.

Telcos can do their part by fortifying their own security protocols, rapidly improving where needed and ensuring their customers have access to the best possible defence against cyber threats. In order to address these heightened network challenges, organisations must ensure that applications that hold sensitive data are accessed securely, and that company-issued devices can be remotely wiped clean in the event of a breach or loss. Putting in place continuous monitoring of devices is also critical. Here, tools like Augmenting Identity and Access Management (IAM) are critical as hackers with stolen credentials will attempt to access important data. For highly regulated sectors, such as financial services, healthcare and critical national infrastructure services (CNI), this will be an important area to consider during the current situation. Ensuring multi-factor authentication and reviewing single sign-on for critical applications will help improve security.

As the industry continues to provide critical infrastructure in the immediate term, it needs to look forward and understand how to meet the changing needs of consumers, businesses and wider society post-COVID-19. This pandemic is a pivotal moment for the telecoms industry, and is likely to increase public awareness and policymakers’ acceptance of the ways in which communications technology can not only keep us entertained, informed and in touch, but help us stay safe.

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