If “necessity is the mother of invention,” (COVID-19) has forced many around the world to rethink our daily lives from work to school to entertainment.
In response to travel bans, school closures, and recommendations not gather in large groups and keep our distance from fellow humans to limit the spread of the virus, many people have turned to digital tools to keep some semblance of normality. It’s been imperative to digitally transform our places of work and education to be able to operate effectively.
So what have some of these adaptations looked like and how has the TMT (Technology, Media and Telecom) industry responded?
Ability to Work from Home
Employee safety has become paramount. Even companies that were resistant to the concept of a distributed workforce have been forced to allow working from home, so work can still be done while taking precautions to halt the spread of the virus. According to a survey by Workhuman, only a third of people in the United States worked for home before the pandemic.
While the ability to work from home is a benefit many employees value, many companies lack the technology infrastructure structure to offer that capability without some sacrifices to “business as usual.” However, one unexpected outcome of COVID-19 is that companies realise the benefits of fast-tracking digital transformation.
Amongst TMT infrastructure organisations, anything up to 95% of their own staff are now working remotely. Those that are responsible for working on physical infrastructure however are not able to do so. They’re still needed to go and visit locations to maintain and repair infrastructure as needed. This has required the need to develop new safer ways of working, to maintain social distancing and to protect employees working on the front line.
Many of us take for granted the services that we rely on that allow us to work from home, but we must pause for a moment to thank everyone behind the scenes that is allowing the services to keep operating during these extraordinary times.
With many people either working from home or furloughed, the demand on networks has been enormous with traffic up in some countries by 40% in a matter of weeks, by comparison networks tend to see 30% growth over a year. We are also seeing unprecedented growth in latency-sensitive applications during business hours. A 300% growth in teleconferencing apps in the US (e.g., Zoom, Skype) and a 400% growth in gaming (with kids being at home!) have been reported.
Content Delivery Networks (CDN’s) such as Netflix have seen an explosive demand for content over the last few months, though production of new content is a challenge due to set closures. Whist many businesses have seen a downturn during the crisis, Netflix have bucked the trend, actually growing their revenues.
Mobile networks for example have had a particularly challenging time. Typically, these networks are focused on major city areas where the majority of the capacity is required. With more people working remotely or enjoying leisure time outside of the cities, the suburban and rural areas are under intense pressure, though coping remarkably well.
Access to cloud services has also seen significant growth as more people seek to access these services remotely. This has led to a big increase in the demand for shorter term bandwidth and direct access to cloud services such as PCCW Global’s Console Connect.
Events Going Virtual
Along with many in-person conferences being cancelled worldwide in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, some are switching them to be virtual events.
Conferences are a trillion-dollar industry and have been a critical way to exchange ideas and build professional relationships. Some companies are trying to bridge the gap between in-person events and virtual ones with platforms that combines video, networking, and more to try to capture the benefits of networking at an in-person event and the content and tech of virtual tools.
The virus outbreak has pushed conference organisers and business owners to think outside the box, to provide compelling alternative options in the interest of public safety. This push could also result in innovations for the future with how people meet and interact better virtually.
The TMT industry itself has been greatly affected by the forced cancellation of many events such as Mobile World Congress. But, the industry itself has played a pivotal role in helping to enable the growth in virtual events, all of which rely on reliable infrastructure and connection tools.
Preparing for the new normal
Some parts of the world are now starting to come out of their lockdown and into what may become the ‘new normal’. The crisis has caused many companies and people to think about what exactly this new normal will look like.
A survey conducted by Capacity Media amongst ICT professionals suggests that two-thirds of people want things to change. They like some aspects of the new way or working such as working from home. Remote working is certainly easier than it’s ever been with cloud meeting and team collaboration tools. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are embracing this technology and have seen the benefits.
Going forward though, the industry expects work from home rates to become more prevalent, though it’s likely to return to more normal levels in the longer term. For example, people might go on rotation and not go in the office all the time. It’s perhaps too early to tell if this will mean bigger infrastructure investment in areas closer to homes rather than cities but expect providers to look at ways to maximise the existing infrastructure and getting the most out of it in the short term.
The survey also acknowledges that for many, the current crisis is causing business to suffer. However nearly 40% are seeing new opportunities and are actively looking at ways to monetise them. For example conducting more customer virtual visits rather than visiting them physically. It avoids the need to travel so much and actually enables people to ‘visit’ customers more regularly. Great for customer relations and a significant saving on travel that can go straight on the bottom line.
Development of further technology and sustainability is also apparent. The demand for data centres for example is fuelling a growth in wind power as providers look at ways to grow their business whist improving their environmental credentials.
One thing is for sure, with the world economy taking a big hit, all businesses face a challenge adapting to the new normal. Those able to adapt and pivot to digital transformation will be better positioned for the future. The TMT industry will help rebuild and develop our world, delivering new technology and improved reliability whatever the new normal looks like.
Find out more about how the TMT sector is responding to the Covid-19 pandemic by watching the recent Capacity Media Keynote