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The Important Role Telecommunications Played During Global Covid-19 Lockdown

No one could have predicted a couple of months back, that without notice, the whole world would be forced to stay home, scramble to ensure business continuity and employees thrust suddenly into working remotely. 

Children couldn’t have imagined that their daily lives would change dramatically and that they would no longer be permitted to go to school or see friends. Without forewarning, schools needed to set up online classes.

Those who were wary of online payments had to quickly get used to a new way of doing things. Family and friends would stop meeting face to face and instead bond over Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom and Facebook. 

People who travelled daily for work had to think of creative ways of continuing to conduct their business using tools on the internet.

Humanity turned to the internet in order to perform critical tasks. We needed connectivity to be able to internet with the world while at home.

Overnight, old and young were thrust into a digital culture.

Socializing, working and playing all needed to be done through the internet, for which we needed the connectivity from Telecoms.

From day one of the Covid-19 lockdown, we depended on the Telecoms industry for our very survival. Without the connectivity that Telcos provided:

  • Sick people could not have been helped as fast, or identified.
  • New findings and stats would not have been shared around the world as fast as they were.  For example, on 4  January 2020, WHO reported on social media about the cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, and on 18 March 2020, WHO and partners generated robust data from around the world to find the most effective treatments for COVID-19. Without connectivity, that would not have been possible. (Source)
  • We would have struggled to handle the logistics of the pandemic.
  • People would not have been able to work and more businesses would have suffered.
  • We would not have been able to continue educating our children, albeit online.
  • We would have gone nuts without games, TV, and other entertainment. Exercise would have been non-existent if it wasn’t for social media channels, Zoom classes and video fitness.  
  • We would not have been able to sustain ourselves with the very basics. With connectivity, we could shop for food and other groceries online (there was a 7.2% increase in online food and beverage sales, and gifts and specialities increased by 18.9%).

Covid-19 Lockdown

Covid-19 Lockdowns were not the same for everyone.

In a perfect world, we would all have our own computers with enough data for work, entertainment and shopping.

But some households were more privileged than others.

Many people stay in areas where there is little to no connectivity.  According to Satista, the global online penetration rate is only 59%. That means that almost half the world did not have connectivity during the lockdowns.

In addition, only 49.7% of households own a computer. Most of these households need to share one computer amongst the whole family.

Companies with staff who could work from home needed to consider:

  • Access to computers
  • Access to connectivity
  • Access to online applications to assist them to complete their work

Transformation from traditional to digital

What we learned from lockdown, is that while it may have been essential to stay home, we found internet connectivity to be vital, whether to pay our bills online, do grocery shopping, stream movies or play games for the sake of entertainment, or for the sake of business continuity.

Suddenly apps like Skype (usage increased by 40%) and Zoom (usage increased by 50%) became all-important because they gave us the opportunity to connect with people when we couldn’t in person. 

In fact, according to Visual Capitalist, Zoom is now worth more than the world’s seven largest airports combined!

For most of us, the internet and online apps became just as important as eating and drinking because they satisfied our emotional need to connect with our community. Telecommunications: an essential service during lockdown

From the get-go, Telecommunications was deemed an essential service during lockdown, for both business and personal requirements.

The necessity of Telecommunications became clear when some parts of the world experienced somewhat of a lag at the beginning of the lockdown periods, when everyone was going online at the same time. However, providers were quick to take action and connectivity was soon restored as per usual.

In addition, throughout the global lockdowns, Telecommunications formed the backbone of most, if not all businesses that were deemed essential, and was also listed as an essential after the following important services:

  • Medical health
  • Disaster management
  • Financial services 
  • Production and sales of the goods(related to food, cleaning and hygiene products, medical products, fuel and basic goods such as airtime and electricity). 
  • Wholesale ,retail stores for re-stocking; Grocery stores
  • Electricity, water, gas and fuel production, supply and maintenance
  • Critical jobs for essential government services
  • Essential municipal services

Throughout the global lockdowns, Telecommunications remained in the top 10 essential services.

How Telecommunications companies around the world are dealing with Covid-19

Many Telecoms companies sprang into action in order to help in the crisis. Examples include:

  • Donating upgrades to medical facilities
  • Providing connectivity for new clinics during the pandemic
  • Offering free access to apps, video conferencing tools and learning platforms
  • Offering additional services free of charge to boost connectivity to medical facilities
  • Some operators offered unlimited data during lockdown, or lifted data caps
  • Some operators considered the immense negative emotional toll the lockdown was having on people, and addressed it directly with positivity content campaigns

The Telecommunications industry really pulled together during the crisis to:

  • Ensure network stability despite a surge in worldwide usage
  • Disseminate vital information and make sure timely information was sent directly to mobile devices
  • Connect vital services, and family and friends
  • Help companies provide the services necessary for employees to more easily work from home

Telecoms allowed for business continuity

According to Global Workplace Analytics, before the pandemic, 5 million of the US workforce worked from home half the time, or more. 

With the lockdowns, it is estimated that number grew to 16 million.

Forbes reports that during the pandemic, Telcos were more relevant than they’ve ever been, extending network capacity by 30 – 50% to support secure remote working for businesses.

In addition, many of them implemented strategies to help businesses deliver customer care, and allowed continued service to homes and small businesses who were unable to pay. 

Some even opened WiFi hotspots to those who needed them.

Without Telecommunications, people would not have been able to work from home, and therefore, businesses and humanity would have suffered all the more.

How Telcos responded to the high level of connectivity

According to ON5G, applications that contributed to the highest levels of network usage during the Covid-19 lockdowns included:

  • Video conferencing tools
  • Collaboration tools 
  • Video and media channels
  • Web browsing
  • Video streaming
  • Video gaming
  • Social media
  • Food delivery and educational apps

Under normal circumstances, video represents 60 to 70% of internet traffic. 

¼ of online traffic is for Netflix, while 15% is attributed to the various Google services. Facebook claims 5%. 

To avoid collapsing networks, Netflix was willing to reduce the quality of their videos and Google and Facebook also reduced theirs, reducing the demand by 30%.

However, due to some regulations in different countries, not all Operators could be forced to lower the resolution of their broadcasted videos.

How Adapt IT|Telecoms has helped during the global lockdown

Adapt IT|Telecoms has helped not only operators, but also Corporate businesses during lockdown, with the following services:

APN-as-a-Service Data Connectivity Management simplifies internet access for corporate businesses for employees who work from home.

It makes it easy to provide employees with a SIM card and do the provisioning, and because implementation is fast, business is able to continue with minimal delay. 

We’ve connected 65 000 employees for remote work in South Africa. 

In addition, our Corporate Customer Self-Service Portal which helps Operators and Corporates eliminate unnecessary support calls and frustration between the operator and the client.

During Covid-19, our CDRlive software has been utilised by certain 1st World Government Institutions to monitor COVID-19 patients, their movements and potential risk subjects within a specified contamination radius.

Conclusion: where to from here?

The global pandemic and lockdowns proved that Telecoms is crucial. The crisis also showed that on the whole, the internet could handle unexpected, mass traffic and data usage.

Lockdown forced companies and people to become digitally oriented, and after the lockdown, it’s likely we’ll continue doing things in a new way:

  • There’ll be less meetings and conferences that involve travel; most meetings are likely to be replaced by email and IM
  • Compulsory screening could become the new normal
  • More companies will have employees working remotely
  • More schools will use the internet in curriculums, and more children will be home schooled
  • More people will take to online fitness instead of going to a gym
  • Healthcare will adopt more digital tools
  • The style of transportation is likely to change due to social distancing
  • Standard 9 to 5 work hours could become a thing of the past

All in all, there will be more demand for data, as well as faster speeds. Just in time for the widespread network 5G deployments in 2020.

APN-as-a-Service is a reliable solution to business continuity and remote working

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