We live in testing times. For telecoms operators, the COVID-19 pandemic is throwing up challenge after challenge. These range from a major mismatch between network configuration and the new traffic patterns, to physical attacks on 5G infrastructure and elaborate forms of fraud devised by a new breed of bad actors. At the same time, under-employed customers are querying bills and questioning their tariff plans.
Perhaps the most significant of these challenges is the almost overnight shift in traffic from city centres and corporate campuses to suburbia, where white-collar staff now do almost all their work. Designed to cater for armies of commuters, mobile networks suddenly need to accommodate large numbers of daytime calls in residential districts. Similarly, in the broadband market, all the traffic that once travelled through fibre-optic networks connecting office blocks in urban areas is now having to squeeze through DSL lines connecting suburban homes.
Those telcos that engineered their networks too close to the bone are being caught out. But most operators have, so far, managed to cope, helped by the throttling of video streaming and video conferencing services. But compromising on quality isn’t a long-term fix. Operators need to become more agile, so they can quickly adapt to further changes in traffic patterns. They need to be ready, for example, for a permanent shift away from densely populated call centres. Some telcos and Internet companies have already indicated their own customer service staff will be able to work from home for the foreseeable future….
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