The COVID-19 pandemic has caused humanity widespread economic and social hardship. Virtually every industry and market sector has been affected by shutdowns and restrictions. As we have socially distanced from family, friends, and colleagues, telecommunications has helped us stay connected.
The pandemic has revealed the indispensable social and economic role telecommunications plays in our lives. Reliable digital connectivity during the pandemic has been critical for sustaining social interaction. As vaccines are rolled out, and the world begins to move back to a semblance of normalcy, the question becomes: Will we retain the communications habits that we adopted during the pandemic? Capgemini Engineering sees this as a coming reality.
Throughout the pandemic, we have witnessed the arrival of next-generation connectivity. As demand for bandwidth, high-speed data, cloud services and, most importantly, the internet have surged, communications service providers (CSPs) have responded. According to IDC, the telecommunications industry has been one of the most resilient sectors during the global economic slowdown caused by the pandemic1. Despite a decline in growth, CSPs have been quick to adapt and are now focused on efficiency improvements to offset the negative impact and achieve operating EBITDA growth.
COVID-19 is the catalyst for the strong growth projections in digital services and connectivity. CSPs will play a vital role in supporting critical systems and improving organizational productivity. Businesses and consumers alike have embraced online digital practices as digital connectivity becomes a cornerstone for a sustainable, inclusive pandemic recovery. Network reliability, customer experience, price, security, and flexibility are all requirements for CSPs.
5G and edge computing are important business levers for communications companies. However, the need to upgrade infrastructure and increase network capacity has delayed 5G deployments and dampened capex planning. The upgrades are necessary prerequisites for networks to integrate 5G, support edge applications, and upload 4K Ultra HD movies and other massive content files in a matter of seconds.
Consumers will be an important market for CSPs to recoup 5G deployment costs, but businesses will contribute the lion’s share. For the last 30 years, operators have prioritized the telecom market’s customer segment. But 5G is changing things, and operators are bullish about the enterprise market. The average end-user will enjoy faster mobile internet, but the corporate sector will leverage 5G to improve productivity and create new products and services. As edge computing expands, the number of connected devices will increase, and real-time ultrafast data transfers will become a reality. Post-pandemic factory equipment will integrate data connectivity, artificial intelligence, and smart processes managed in the cloud.
A look back on the recent past’s communications infrastructure reveals bulky mobile towers, excavation of many miles of city streets to lay new wiring, and installation of infrastructure. Although it will continue to serve users, much of the future infrastructure will be virtualized and defined by software.
As CSPs reboot capex and next-generation networks grow, human life will change. Cities will become more intelligent and connected. Conglomerates that deploy sophisticated infrastructure will become the norm. And there will be no more hassles with taxi drivers because they have been replaced with autonomous vehicles. In the coming years, it won’t be just autonomous cars. The average factory-floor machine tool will be connected and autonomous. Waiting for your dinner? Look outside the window; it’s a drone with your pizza.
Of course, the ubiquitous penetration of technology and accessibility to data will pose challenges for security. Regulation, content moderation, and privacy protection will challenge the business models of Big Tech. Computing will get faster, more intelligent, and require more optimized energy from green networks.
We are experiencing a paradigm shift. The pandemic has revealed the importance and value of technology. But what comes next? 6G, quantum computing, virtualized workspaces, and other advances will dominate research and development in the tech space. The pandemic pressure test that the telecommunications industry endured has rendered it more resilient and better equipped to face the challenges ahead. New consumption patterns will outlast the pandemic and generate new markets and opportunities.
The future is here.
Allard Sylvain Group Strategy & Marketing Director, Communications
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