The Impact of COVID-19 on Telecommunications and the Future

Eric Handa and Sean Bergin investigate how the telecoms industry has been handling the capacity demand spike due to the COVID-19 pandemic.By Eric Handa and Sean Bergin
May 18, 2020

How is the telco industry responding to the Covid-19 crisis?  Most Telecom operators are deliberating their next moves in these uncertain times and many operators have already taken steps to mitigate damage to their business and increase assurances for customers. Some of the key considerations on everyone’s minds in our industry are issues such as maintaining efficiency with a workforce largely working from home, coping with the surge in demand for capacity and bandwidth and addressing cost & revenue issues for financially impacted customers, both consumer and commercial. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture.

There has never been a period of traffic growth like we have seen in March in the whole history of the Internet, with traffic growth of 30-60% over the last few weeks when compared to traditional annual traffic growth of 30-45%.

Netflix traffic is up 58%; YouTube 13%; PlayStation 170%; WhatsApp 609%; Facebook 27%; Skype 304%; collaboration tools 350%; Zoom traffic is up 800% and finally, Akamai has reported a 30% increase in network traffic.

Gaming traffic is way up, as are entertainment services in general. Traditionally, there has always been a night-time peak of traffic, with people coming home from work and turning to streaming services and other forms of online entertainment, but that peak has now also extended into the daytime hours. Given that the networks (in general) are built and designed to accommodate these peaks, we should as an industry, be able to cope with this ‘new normal’ extended usage profile – for now.

In the international submarine cable space, we have seen an increase in demand particularly for lit services, but not to the extent that some may have expected. The challenge is as it always has been however, turning up capacity quickly, particularly on consortia led systems that typically have fixed upgrade cycles which in most cases is at best, is a six-month process. We have also been hearing that access to SLTE cards to light services is becoming problematic to source.  Some submarine cable factories have been closed and others are operating at less than 50% capacity due to staffing and obvious understandable health and safety concerns.

To continue reading the rest of this article, please read it in Issue 112 of the SubTel Forum Magazine on page 22 or on our archive site here.