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Telecoms industry has weathered the 2020 storm – survey

The industry professionals participating in Telecoms.com’s annual industry survey have shown plenty of resilience and optimism in a year overshadowed by COVID-19.

There is no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on many businesses in the telecoms industry. Over four in ten participants in this publication’s signature annual industry survey admitted that their businesses had been negatively impacted by COVID-19. But at the same time, two-thirds of them believed the telecoms industry as a whole has performed rather well. They were even more confident in the industry’s growth prospect for next year, with three-quarters predicting a positive outlook for 2021.

It is probably no surprise that 5G has been identified by the survey participants as the industry’s top investment priority. Nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents also selected 5G as their own companies’ investment priority. Commenting on the survey results, Dr Sameh Yamany, CTO of VIAVI Solutions said, “when it comes to 5G, less haste more speed would be the recommendation. To improve time to revenue, it has never been more important to verify and validate your network and services prior to launch and continue to assure and optimize as the network grows.” He also warned that the road to success in 5G would not be without challenge. “With so many complex components, evolving standards and new verticals, Testing, Measuring and Assuring will help operators deliver on their 5G business opportunities and goals,” Yamany added.

The industry’s resilience in the face of the pandemic probably manifested the best in the business world’s commitment to digital transformation. Three-quarters of survey respondents said their digital transformation investment has either maintained or increased during the pandemic. For Martin Morgan, VP Marketing of Openet, this was definitely good news. “Service providers can monetise the 5G experience: 56% of the survey respondents felt that mobile customers would pay a premium for a guaranteed 5G quality of service for a range of services.” Meanwhile he also believed that, to convert the potential into real business return, “service providers will need to look at their BSS and OSS stacks. In 5G there’s the need for 5G policy and charging functions to be tightly integrated to service catalogs in BSS and also to the 5G network.”

Another investment priority, selected by half of all participants in the survey, was fibre deployment. Broadband connections have probably gained more importance this unprecedented year than any time before due to the increased demand from both remote work and digital content consumption. “To cope with the significant increase in traffic, network operators and governments around the world have been working to make connectivity services reliable and stable – by investing to expand the capacity of existing network infrastructures and support new fiber rollouts,” commented Stephanos Thomopoulos, VP for Telecom Accounts Service Provider Sales EMEA of CommScope. But service providers also face challenges, not the least the pressure on cost level and ROI. “This may be the reason why over a third (36%) said total cost of ownership and speed of deployment of fiber access networks requires the most attention,” Thomopoulos added.

As the demand for connection grows, so do the threats to the network security. There are new types of attacks on the communications networks, but there has also been visible increase in the more conventional modes of cyber-attacks, like those on DNS services. “Telecom operators are going through multi-dimensional changes – hardware to software, 4G to 5G, hybrid cloud adoption – and as a result the attack footprint is growing rapidly. Security needs to fit into this fast-changing environment without sacrifice; it should become part of the design and help ensure application functions perform well and are always available,” said James Feger, General Manager of Service Providers at F5.” Many new attacks are increasingly similar to attacks on IT systems, including those on cloud applications and infrastructure. Therefore, “public cloud providers should partner with security companies to offer the tools that telecom operators are used to and really need when facing sophisticated threats that could hinder application availability. Defending only against volumetric attacks isn’t enough,” Feger added.

Edge computing is another technology domain increasingly catching the industry’s imagination. Though edge computing doesn’t rely on 5G to happen, the ascendency of 5G will surely bring edge computing closer to reality, especially for those telecom operators aiming to serve the enterprise market. “This means bringing the intelligence, decisions and actions closest to the sources, i.e., what is purported as edge,” commented VoltDB, a company specialised in intelligence at the edge. However, not all enterprises are facing the same level of challenges. “Quite often, the maturity of the enterprise also dictates how deep their transformation is going to be and how disruptive this transformation will be to the status quo business,” the company said. The good news coming out of the survey was that, more than eight out of ten respondents said their organisations would likely rearchitect their business processes to leverage edge and edge intelligence.

In general, the annual industry survey has shown that, despite all the adversity, the telecoms industry has stood firm and has passed one of the sternest tests the industry has ever faced with rather satisfactory marks. With the recent encouraging news of vaccine breakthrough, we may be one step closer to the end of the storm and there may actually be a golden sky.

The full annual industry survey report including all the survey data can be downloaded for free here.

 

 

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