As Covid-19 continues to hit home, what’s the role of the DSP?

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

May 1, 2020

© Flickr/cc-licence/YuriSamoilov

© Flickr/cc-licence/YuriSamoilov

  • The virus is changing the work landscape, what can telcos do to help?
  • And what should they be preparing for the next time a similar disruption hits?
  • Should they be concentrating on connectivity, or should services be on their radar

At first sight DSPs should be able to rise to the occasion of the pandemic and offer services (or at least promise them for next time) that might meet lockdown needs in a pragmatic way. For if all the experts are right, there’s a better than even chance that “this thing will come back later in the year.”  

But then again, maybe they should stick to connectivity. It’s the old argument. 

Are there any signs that telcos - especially those with DSP ambitions - could develop services they could roll-out if a lockdown struck again? Surprisingly few. There’s plenty of activity, mostly of the “we’re offering extra data allowances to medical staff” variety or “we’re offering data cap suspension so that children heading for exams can study”, but not a lot beyond that. So where are we as a broad IT industry with ‘work from home’?

There’s much agreement that the pandemic means there’s going to be considerable change to the way we live and work and use technology for both of those activities. 

Here’s Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella declaiming on Covid’s impact in a soundbite: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months,” he says. “From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security.” 

Everything’s on the move

Satya’s not alone in sensing some sort of structural roadblock has just been given a kick to move it on its way. Many other industry leaders and watchers are musing on the transformational possibilities of Covid-19, usually with one eye on the possible beneficial impacts (without calling them that, exactly) for their own commercial activities. 

Citrix, the veteran purveyor of virtual desktops and home working, is an obvious lockdown work-from-home enabler. 

Instead of betraying any hint of a hard sell, Citrix is going in soft with good advice and gratis support for companies fighting their way through the lockdown. It’s launched ‘Remote Works’, a new virtual series designed to share tips and best practices for staying engaged and productive while working from home.” It also has products. 

On the face of it, telcos too should be supporting the apparently rising wave of user demand for stay-at-home working with specific services. Their networks - both fixed and mobile have,  after all, been providing the essential glue between user and cloud and by all accounts telco networks have acquitted themselves well. While there hasn’t been much of an uptick in mobile data usage, the fixed line component in many developed nations has been working hard as applications such as Zoom and Slack accessed over Wi-Fi and fixed broadband have experienced a boom. 

Where do telcos fit in?

As we approach our DSP Leaders’ World Forum (May 11-15) (online version) I asked Chris Lewis, who will play a leading role, if he thought specific work-at-home services were a likely growth area for telcos and would companies and individuals be inclined to continue with a sustained work-at-home approach once the lock-down is over.

In other words will the majority of the locked down view their two months in solitary as something they might like to continue, maybe on a part time basis, or will most of them never want to see a laptop open on a kitchen table ever again?

“The real telco impact has been to discover that the networks worked - great!” But apart from that he says he can’t see there being a compelling business case.

“After all you’ll be up against the Zooms of the world offering these sorts of services for free or very low cost,” he says. “I think the profitability of the connectivity for providing the services is good, but I’m just not sure that telcos could make a business out of competing with Zoom and the plethora of other, often free, services that are available.”

Chris does, however, think there may be room for more secure, business offerings which can prove ticked boxes on resilience, security and high performance - maybe not for everyone within an organisation but for senior managers or those with especially critical roles,

On the, “will people want to continue with work from home” after the lockdown is lifted, he says, the jury has to be out on that. Some will, some won’t.

“What I think this work-from-home experience will do is exacerbate some of the  trends, like SD-WAN, that are already under way, but I can’t see it being a big one for telcos in its own right.”

What about security

One play, though, might be security, in the form of a proposition compelling enough to cause some companies at least to pay extra for connectivity for home working if security comes with it.

Deutsche Telekom has just announced what it describes as a solution for small companies at home being targeted by cyber criminals. It’s called Business Network Protect Complete and combines WLAN router and smart firewall in one device and protects against attacks from the Internet, claims the telco. Will telcos thrive by pushing the security aspect?

I asked Patrick Donegan, founder of security specialist HardenStance, if he thought telcos and security services might be a good match.

“The home security domain has many devices that are often poorly secured, but there are a lot of people with a stake in fixing the problem. At the moment it’s only the savvy consumers who are left to fix it, the result of which is that the problem is nowhere near fixed,” he maintains. 

“It’s early days yet but for a variety of reasons, many companies are looking at more of their employees spending more time working from home. In the current circumstance that’s an increased risk for them. 

“I think, therefore, that the businesses themselves will step up and provide security  - I have no evidence, but I think that’s likely to be going on, so I think telcos need to review their security role at scale. If they feel they can now play an enhanced role, because the landscape is shifting, then they should.”



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