Beyond COVID-19: Reimagining the Future of Telecommunications
By Byron Clatterbuck
May 18, 2020
The world is currently facing a catastrophic health crisis. But beyond that, a dramatic reshuffling of the global economy, society and life as we know it is also taking place. Our priorities, predictions and planning are entirely different now as we try to not only survive the pandemic, but also to think about what a post-viral era will look like.
In response to leaders across all sectors asking what it would take to navigate the crisis and beat
COVID-19, McKinsey & Company recommended a call to action across five stages: Resolve, Resilience, Return, Reimagination and Reform.
Inspired by their research and responsive thinking, I would like to take these insights a step further into the ICT space – proposing five critical horizons the telecommunications sector needs to consider in order to begin navigating what may come next.
Addressing and Resolving Immediate Challenges
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest strains on the communications industry right now is how to manage the changing connectivity requirements of users. With a nationwide lockdown in South Africa and the closure of offices and social gathering sites, people now rely solely on their mobile devices or FTTH connections to remain online, work remotely and to socialise.
Vastly more amounts of data are required over mobile networks and handsets, increasing data flows via mobile base stations and thus using more capacity on metro and national fibre backbones. And for FTTH, this means that, while many companies have generously offered to upgrade bandwidth for their home-user customer base, the backbone networks that carry this traffic are becoming congested, and some are having a hard time coping with the traffic loads. The mobile networks in particular, are struggling to adjust to the high throughput requirements caused by the “work from home” directive.
To top this off, recently two key high-speed international subsea cables stopped working – SAT-3 was undergoing repairs, and the WACs subsea system suffered a cable cut. As a result, almost 50% of South Africa’s international data transmission routes were temporarily cut-off and were thus unable to transmit data between the continent and Europe. Fortunately, the East Coast of Africa’s cable systems like the SEACOM and the EASSy cable systems ensured that South Africa’s international data traffic could still run along Africa’s east coast, holding up most international connections to the rest of the world.