Transformation in days: How telcos responded to the impact of lockdown

  • DSP Leaders World Forum 2020 session focuses on the increasing importance of digital connectivity
  • BT, Colt, Telia Carrier and Vodafone discuss modern connectivity trends and the impact of Covid-19
  • Transformations implemented in days rather than years

Modern working practices and technologies enabled network operators to react to the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns around the world within days, according to senior telco executives who participated in the DSP Leaders World Forum 2020 session Connectivity and the Resurgence of Telecoms in the Global Economy.

“We’ve talked about transformation for years… interestingly we saw the biggest transformation the world has ever seen happen in days,” noted BT’s Neil McRae, Managing Director Architecture & Technology Strategy and BT Chief Architect. “And if you were to say to me we're gonna do this sort of transformation across the whole of BT, you know, we don't have a planning cycle of three years to do that sort of transformation… As telecommunications providers, we've got such an important part to play in the fitness of our country. We've got to make this work.”

Keri Gilder, Chief Commercial Officer at Colt, noted that as the requirements and demands on network operators changed as traffic patterns shifted and enterprise users revamped their working practices, “we saw we could break down some of the processes, we could remove some of the approvals, we can [give] ownership to some people… and that ultimately empowered the people that were in the field. Now the question is, how can we bottle some of those learnings and transform our business on a day-to-day basis, post pandemic?”

Key to that transformation is collaboration in the industry, she noted. “I think we’ll start to see a larger use of AI, we will start to see a larger mutual engagement around APIs and software capabilities, and an understanding that not one operator in any part of the world will be able to provide the entire ecosystem for our users.”

Scott Petty, Chief Technology Officer at Vodafone UK, also highlighted the importance of collaboration between operators, regulators and governments to adjust to “the new normal.” He also pointed to a major surprise in terms of traffic patterns, “the big spike in voice traffic in those first couple of days… we saw 10 years’ worth of growth in three days… we responded incredibly well as an industry and all of those initial problems were gone within the first two or three days.”

Mattias Fridström, Chief Evangelist at wholesale operator Telia Carrier, noted that the shift to working from home has led to discussions about how many people really need to work in big offices in city centres. A big thing for the operators to think about [is] instead of building huge connectivity blocks to big buildings in the major cities, we need to think about how can we support the countryside with much better connectivity, so that people can actually work from their most of their time… we really need to make sure that everyone has a great connectivity and I think governments have seen that.”

For the full discussion on other traffic trends and how major operators have adapted to the impact of the pandemic, check out the full session here.

The importance of reliable, flexible connectivity is one of the topics we’ll be covering during our upcoming Extra Shot programs, which will look back at the highlights of the online DSP Leaders event and include the views of special guests. Look out for further details of the Extra Shot programs. 

  • Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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