The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how the telecommunications industry can withstand monumental change. As people were forced to go remote, there has been a wave of demand for mobile and home broadband connectivity and bandwidth. Whether it’s streaming in-home entertainment, contacting a loved one or maintaining business operations, telecommunications has become pivotal in these challenging times. And despite the challenges of a sudden, unprecedented and high scale demand for connectivity, US networks have delivered. This is a significant milestone for telecommunications, firstly in gaining consumer trust and secondly to gear up for the rollout of 5G.
Gartner predicts that worldwide 5G network infrastructure revenue will reach $4.2bn in 2020, recording year-over-year growth of 89%. Pegged as a game-changer across many different industries, demand is likely to surge over the coming years, and telecommunications companies will need to manage this substantial change in traffic. 5G has also faced some resistance to its rollout – from concerns over long and expensive implementations, to its limitations, and even worries over public health and safety. The last year has helped telecoms calm these doubts, as well as demonstrate the many potential use cases for 5G. And this will pave the way to early adoption – here I explore why.
The value of superfast connectivity and high broadband width
The pandemic has shown the inevitability of a digital world, and the role that quick, seamless connections and high bandwidth can make in improving our day-to-day lives. The value of 5G will be more apparent today than it ever has been before, pushing back on resistance. In addition, knowing that the telecommunications industry can handle a demand change of that scale, and giving customers the reassurance that they can access vastly improved connectivity without compromising their security, will facilitate the expansion of the network.
Lockdown has also revealed a lot of new use cases for 5G and the general role of telecommunications in the future, which will accelerate adoption. Industries like healthcare, retail and education already had strong use cases for 5G and going remote will have only made this need more clear.
For example, online education – already projected to be a $350 billion industry by 2025 – will have skyrocketed over lockdown. From video conferencing in real-time to e-learning software and apps, this is an industry where low-latency and reliability is essential. There are also strong indicators for in-roads for AR and VR in education, both of which are vastly improved with 5G and edge computing.
Its value will have also been made clear to businesses that could not so easily go remote, such as manufacturing. Manufacturing, logistics and operations are experimenting with technology such as robotic process automation (RPA), AR, AI and digital twin technology to deliver results at a distance and boost efficiency. This technology, which either augments or goes beyond human intervention, will be vastly improved by fast, reliable 5G.
It’s important to underline that 5G isn’t the only telecommunications technology that companies may be empowered to adopt following lockdown. 5G is for many enterprise businesses the gateway to edge computing.
Edge computing creates a faster, hyper-personalized and more interactive experience, that when combined with 5G leads to a superior user experience. Edge computing lends itself to tech that requires low latency and high bandwidth, such as AR, VR and video analytics which perform better when processing and rendering is done instantly, or in places where speed is of the essence – like robotic process automation (RPA). Edge computing also gives businesses the choice on latency, bandwidth and data sovereignty requirements, meaning much more flexible and customizable content and product creation.
With 45% of IoT-generated data stored, processed, analyzed and acted upon close to or at the edge of networks in the next three years, early adoption of 5G and edge computing will be pivotal to competitive edge. Speed, resilience and customization are all key for sectors that are trying to retain customers and maintain productivity during harsh market conditions. And even when it stabilizes, if people continue to work remotely and spend locally, the market will need to adapt.
What’s next for telecommunications?
Of course, the flip-side to this refreshed enthusiasm for more sophisticated networks and connectivity is that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of getting 5G right. At the moment, the communications industry is effectively propping up the US economy by keeping us all connected. Covid-19 has thrust the telecommunications industry into the spotlight, and now it is under pressure to continue delivering. Under lockdown, telecommunications must continue to develop its own offering and press on – which is lucky as lockdown actually presents a lot of opportunity.
With millions of people at home, switching between devices and connections, there’s potential to understand the nuances of consumer behavior and use patterns better than ever before. And that goes for re-evaluating internal processes and models too, such as the need for retail space when customers have adapted to lower-cost digital channels for sales and support, or the strength and flexibility of the supply chain to continue product development and launches. As we come to understand more about 5G, its capabilities and limitations, we will also see new applications for its use and a growth of network, infrastructure and equipment vendors – and the telecommunications industry must be ahead of the game on this.
As more industries wake up to the potential benefits of telecommunications, the sector has a fantastic opportunity to capitalize on its success with managing the crisis. The telecommunications industry has proven its value by keeping the US afloat during an incredibly dark and challenging time – and as things become a little brighter, that value is unlikely to be forgotten. And with so much game-changing technology currently in development, such as 5G and edge computing, telecoms could be the sector that changes all others.
How is your telecommunications business faring under lockdown? Do you think this is the beginning of transformation in the industry, and what do you think the knock-on effects will be for other sectors? Let us know your thoughts – and if you’re prepping for the future of telecoms by boosting your workforce, let us know how we can help get you ahead. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss!