By Hazem Galal, partner, Global Leader for Cities & Local Government, PwC Middle East and Rahul Puri, regional sales head, MEA, STL
The coronavirus outbreak is first and foremost a human tragedy, affecting millions of people. We are living in times of global uncertainty with exceptional levels of disruption to daily routine, travel, social interaction and business due to the coronavirus. In the wake of the social restrictions in place to help manage the threat of COVID-19, mobile broadband and fixed wireless connections have become the main tools for billions of people to stay in contact with family, friends and colleagues.
Changing user demands due to this extraordinary situation have led to surges across mobile voice, text and data services. Across the developed world, millions of us are now connecting to the internet from our kitchens, living rooms and home offices every day – causing internet service providers (ISPs) to see demand skyrocket.Surge in demand
A surge of the kind we are witnessing now is unprecedented. According to GSMA, there is huge demand for additional spectrum due to the significant surge in broadband and mobile network usage, with governments and telecom regulators around the world releasing additional spectrum. The economic value of allowing unlicensed use in the 5.9 GHz and 6 GHz bands will amount to over US $180 billion between 2020 and 2025.
Due to the lockdown restrictions all over the world, billions of people worldwide are relying on the internet through broadband and mobile access for work, study, entertainment and social interactions requiring affordable and reliable networks.
According to WEF, and other reports from multiple communication companies, internet traffic has increased by about 30%. Nokia also reports exponential growth in worldwide internet traffic. More specifically, there has been a 300% growth in teleconferencing apps and 400% growth in online gaming within the US. Within the UAE, Du reported 200% surge in use of video services and 40% increase in residential broadband usage.
There has also been a 36% increase in wireless internet service providers (WISPs) traffic in rural US communities. Survey data from Wireless Internet Service Providers Association shows around 83% of WISPs have connected more subscribers since the beginning of the public health emergency in the US.
Challenges for telcos
A PwC report sheds light on challenges for telecom operators. It highlights the interruption in business development as major networking events that have sponsorship have been cancelled.
In addition, while cancelled domestic and global business travel has resulted in an increase of domestic communications, there has been a significant drop in roaming revenues from national and international roaming. In countries that rely on tourists, this a major hit to revenue.
As in other crises, there are reports of a rise in cyberattacks. Companies are moving quickly to maintain effective operations while they shift work to different locations. But such moves increase exposure to cyber threats. There is increased complexity in security, authentication, access and monitoring. Remote workers are also vulnerable because they’re more likely to use less-secure home networks that are also connected to IoT/personal devices.
Solutions and opportunities
Telcos are also under enormous pressure to continue delivering infrastructure and services critical to everyone, especially during a crisis of this magnitude. Some solutions, and potential side opportunities, from near term to long term recovery and resilience actions include:
- VoIP and Restricted Access: With the call from Human Rights Watch and other organizations to remove/relax restrictions on VoIP apps and platforms, there is an opportunity to monetize from the shifts in revenue streams of traditional operator revenue.
- Mobile Revenue: Opportunities to cope with critical demand where there is lack of broadband access for education governments are looking at mobile networks to provide internet access to students.
- Low Touch/No Touch: Opportunities from no touch/low touch services and connected devices, remote/connected hardware and VoIP solutions for collaboration at work, education and entertainment.
- Privacy and clean path led solutions: With contact and quarantine tracing apps and traditional data intensive apps becoming increasingly popular across enterprise and public sector clients, protecting privacy and data at the device and network levels, hosting and access restrictions from governments on solution providers provides additional solution opportunities.
- Business Continuity from Industrial IoT: Opportunities from IIoT adoption for stability and reliance across secure supply chain, inventory management, procurement, production, maintenance and repair to improve operational flexibility and stability.
- FTTx Considerations: Fiber to the X(curb/home/office etc.) for handling surge in call centers, tele health/medicine, work, learning and entertainment that require dedicated 24/7 open lines, longer call holds and distribution of voice and data loads shifting to homes from traditional centralized commercial locations.
How STL helps telecom operators in effectively and efficiently manage telecom networks
By Rahul Puri, regional sales head, MEA, STL
STL is a leader and a cutting-edge innovator in data networks and works with leading telcos. STL recommends two primary approaches to managing networks efficiently: WiFi & smart WiFi offloading and programmable networks.
WiFi and smart WiFi offloading - STL’s dWifi platform is proven across the globe in decongesting network traffic and effortlessly managing multiple connections even in the most congested locations. dWiFi is vendor-agnostic with a web-scale platform with an open, architecture. It improves spectral efficiency, offers bundled plans, explores umpteen monetization opportunities and delivers high-quality user experience. dWifi offers several cutting edge features including:
- dSmart Mobility – Effortlessly offload traffic from cellular networks to Wi-Fi networks, with flexibility to increase bandwidth and capacity, while saving costs.
- Guest WiFi - Make customer engagement quick and easy with web-based authentication captive portal for subscriber self-service for personalised and customised services.
- Location Insights - Learn what your customers want and offer tailored choices. Get complete transparency in interconnect agreements and settlements.
- WiFi Roaming & Calling - Take advantage of the seamlessness of WiFi networks to offer voice and text messaging.
- Location Aware - Identify user location by mapping network parameters with WiFi, providing an ideal platform for location-based advertisement for operators.
Programmable networks - Network utilization is also impacted by hardware constraints. The reality is that the easiest way to ensure optimal response times and minimal latency was by overprovisioning the network; in other words, adding more network hardware to the network. This is not practical and it is imperative to make the most efficient use of networking bandwidth.
This is where programmable fiber to the x (pFTTx) comes in. In an industry weighed by legacy monolithic systems and infrastructure, and long periods of vendor lock-in, programmable networks are a break-through disruption. STL is one of very few companies in the world to have a software defined network (SDN) solution for access connectivity. Built on ONF’s open reference design called SEBA (software-defined networks enabled broadband access), STL has developed the pFTTx solution in partnership with ONF, other open communities, and open network hardware partner, Edgecore Networks.
By enabling programmability at the core of the network and decoupling white-box hardware from software, programmability and SDNs, STL’s pFFTx solutions bring more flexibility, cost-efficiency and service excellence to data networks.