Life after Covid-19: what will the post-apocalyptic landscape look like for telcos?
All change? Maybe not all, but in the post-Coronavirus commercial landscape that we’re slowly entering, much differs radically from the familiar world we left behind three or more months ago. A resumption of ‘business-as-usual’ is unlikely. Adhish Kulkarni explains
For marketers in particular, complex realities and simple, effective messaging are hard to reconcile. Patient analysis and measured action is, recent months have often taught us, rarely a hallmark of either government policymaking or the commercial impetus for strategic change.
You know the saying: Keep it Simple. COVID-19, perhaps inevitably, mainly inspired a degree of panic and confusion. Clarity and purposefulness hallmarked the actions of a few countries but far from the majority. Yet it is clarity and purposefulness that will be needed for economies to rebound.
At least on a macro level, some unavoidable economic realities will be left behind in the wake of COVID. For one, it seems certain we are entering a serious global recession. While the depth and length of the downturn cannot be accurately predicted (not least because which interventions happen remains to be seen), the next twelve to twenty-four months or quite likely longer than that will be fraught for enterprises; that’s a safe bet.
We can also reasonably confidently predict that the impact of the recession will be felt differently in different industries. The communications industry experience will on the face of it probably be far less taxing than, for instance, that faced by the travel and tourism industry.
It seems highly likely, also, that the COVID-19 recovery will not be a slow return to business as usual. In time, I suspect the pandemic will come to be seen not as interruption to commercial practice but as a tipping point. What emerges as business-as-usual five years from now is unlikely to look, in terms of both best practices and infrastructures, the way it did last November. Post Coronavirus is not about re-building the old but structuring the new.
For the communications industry, if a global recession is likely to prove challenging, things could be a whole lot worse. No business is recession-proof, but the communications infrastructure in the modern world is as close as it gets; the grid via which virtually all modern commerce flows, is managed, increasingly is monetised, and via which customers are gained and retained. It’s reasonable to predict many companies, in the wake of behavioural and operational changes in working practices driven by COVID, will downscale their real estate assets and adopt new commercial strategies. None are likely to seriously downscale their investment in communications networks.
The challenge is that an already crowded CSP market will have to work harder to deliver, creating conditions where every infrastructure investment will have to demonstrate a clear return, yet where such investments are unavoidable in the likely scenario of increased competition for customers. CSPs, to weather the coming downturn, will need to be creative in the services they offer, efficient in the execution of those services, and far better than ever before in managing relationships with their customers.
The latter area, in the wake of COVID, will be particularly interesting. For many consumers, the pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of their mobile devices at the same time that distancing requirements have, in some cases, made it harder to maintain service (with retail outlets closed, etc.).
Mobile devices have also become a failsafe means of disseminating (by pushing) vital information. As competition for subscribers increases, how will service providers convert these realities into increased market share?
Some strategies we might see:
- For now, the COVID-19 threat has abated in many countries though fears remain of a ‘second spike’ once Autumn and Winter set in. This time around, the critical importance of data connections at time when the network might become overloaded can be anticipated. Dynamic SIM Allocation (DSA), which can be used as the serving HSS/HLR solution for data connections without the additional overhead of having to provision the BSS or OSS entirely, can be introduced as an anticipatory measure. Emergency workers in need of a data SIM can then make use of these unlimited connections while the associated costs are drastically reduced.
- We won’t all suddenly be going back to the office (or, for that matter, wake up one day soon and COVID-19 will have entirely ceased to be a threat). Enabling our new-found reality of working-from-home via better telecommuting through rapid 4G activation’s time has come. In a way, CSPs have become the new real estate agents. Data has become an extremely important service in countries affected by COVID-19. Secure self-service SIM-swap, for example, can enable subscribers to switch from 3G to 4G from the comfort of their own homes. Such SIMs may avoid using network resources until the 4G service is activated.
- Interactive Digital Information Services for government, healthcare and retail came to the fore during the pandemic when governments, public health services and other organisations had to provide relevant information to customers, who were searching for information sources they could trust. Now that ‘can of worms’ has been opened, it’s unlikely to be closed. While traditional social media can be used as before, an increasing number of CSPs have offered services on behalf of the government as a trusted source of information delivered through the mobile device. These new channels of communication are unlikely to disappear in the post pandemic world. In fact, they may inspire new and profitable relationships/partnerships.
At Evolving Systems, our belief is that right now, as the new economy unfolds, telcos would be wise to rebuild their competitive strategies, articulating their direction in the post-COVID world rather than jumping in with ‘more of the same’ based on the assumption that normal service will soon be resumed. It probably won’t be soon, if ever. A different set of Use Cases are likely to be required in the post-COVID world. Now is the time to start identifying and building them out.
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