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COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of telecommunications and the need to have resilient infrastructure capable of ensuring a seamless experience in light of the rise of remote experiences’ trend. EY published recently a study entitled “Top 10 risks in telecommunications” which sees failure to maintain network resilience in a post-pandemic world emerge as the most pressing challenge for the industry. Telecom Review spoke to Tom Loozen, EY global telecommunications leader, to discuss the outcomes of the study and highlight its main findings.

Telcos have assumed an elevated societal role as communication providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as we emerge from the crisis, industry revenues are set to decline and the journey to recovery will require new thinking,” said Tom Loozen.

The study finds that the most urgent risk facing telcos in this climate is pressure to maintain infrastructure resilience and expand reach, particularly in light of network traffic spikes triggered by the pandemic.

“The inability to scale digitization initiatives ranks second on the risk radar, with 78% of telcos now re-evaluating or adapting the speed digital transformation programs in response to the health crisis. Other key risks shortlisted include escalating geopolitical disruption (ranked ninth), and the imperative to build trust with customers (ranked fifth)”.

It is undeniable that telcos have played a crucial role during the pandemic by catering to the increased demand for connectivity to ensure business continuity. Loozen considers that networks have generally held up well to increased usage during periods of national lockdown – and consumers have held their service providers in high regard as a result.

“Many networks further improved customer perceptions by going over and above their typical service offering, providing connectivity to households that don’t have access to laptops – helping them with home schooling needs and more. And some have even offered free text messaging and data to support customers’ increasing communication needs, and have given SMEs more time to pay their bills,” he said.

However, Loozen emphasized that the challenge now is around how telcos can sustain these positive perceptions moving forward, especially as they continue to upgrade their networks and as policymakers focus on how they can improve network coverage in rural areas.

Many have wondered that if 5G was already globally deployed when the pandemic emerged, the response might have been much more efficient. So we asked EY’s global telecommunications leader, why is a clear 5G vision important in the current landscape, at a time when some might neglect 5G to be able to recover from the economic impact of the crisis?

Providing a clear 5G vision is vital because it is much more than just a faster smartphone connection. Not least, 5G’s ability to transform the Internet of Things means industries can take advantage of new services that provide greater crisis resilience. And from a consumer perspective, fixed wireless access could facilitate 5G connectivity in areas where broadband and fibre are not readily available, empowering more people to work from home, conduct remote schooling and more.”

He concluded, “Telcos need to articulate these advantages to enterprise customers so that they realize the critical role 5G can play in a post-COVID world, and make the most of its potential. This is reflected in our study, which found that 80% of enterprises across verticals believe that 5G providers need to do more to communicate a coherent 5G vision.”

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