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How Can CSPs Ensure Business Continuity and Growth During the COVID-19 Crisis?
Sandeep Malhotra Vice President, Solutions & Consulting, Telecom, Media & Entertainment | May 21, 2020
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According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), as of April 2020, 185 countries are on lockdown and 93% of the US workforce is engaged in remote working. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the USD 3 trillion telecom industry is witnessing skyrocketing demands from consumers worldwide.

The impact of COVID-19 on the telecom industry

Communication Service Providers (CSPs) such as AT&T, Verizon, and Vodafone are experiencing a 250% increase in teleconferencing network traffic, more than 4x traffic on work platforms, a 22% increase in public Wi-Fi hotspots, and a 34% increase in bandwidth allocation. 

How Can CSPs Ensure Business Continuity and Growth During the COVID-19 Crisis?

CxOs, today, are focusing on business continuity plans, resilience in operations, employee safety, and enabling communities. Most of them are focusing on:

  • Accommodating secure remote working facilities
  • Enabling communities to educate via virtual classrooms
  • Supporting healthcare workers and agencies
  • Providing insights to government agencies on how the virus is spreading 
  • Reconfiguring store-based sales/service, customer support, and network capacity

Also, major CSPs in the US have set up free public Wi-Fi hotspots and waived late payment fees. Some, like AT&T, have promised unlimited internet data, while others, like Verizon and Comcast, are offering 10-15 GB additional data across all plans. 

CSPs are experiencing a massive strain on computing infrastructure and operating costs. Additionally, global shutdowns have hit device manufacturing, pulling the plug on new launches for the foreseeable future. 

During these uncertain times, CSPs everywhere need sound business continuity plans for the immediate short-term, sustainability, and long-term growth plans.  

To address this, HCL has prepared a COVID-19 response toolkit (CRT) offering a holistic blueprint for CSPs to:

  1. Handle continuity issues in the short-term
  2. Build resilience and adapt to the new ways of working that are emerging in the medium-term 
  3. Encourage innovation and transformation in the long-term

CSPs must start working on all these fronts right away to emerge as successful businesses and gain an edge against the competition in the post COVID-19 world. 

1. Respond to the immediate crisis

COVID-19 has made us stretch our limits and boundaries. As CSPs, your first step is to respond to the crisis and look after your workforce.

Start by setting up a secure, remote environment for your employees, equip them with the right tools, and reskill them, if needed. For instance, Vodafone has prepared webinar training on remote work for its employees.

Next, update your security protocols and insulate yourself from security threats as your employees would be accessing their systems using their home networks. 

Lastly, ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of your employees as they’re one of your most critical assets.

As part of the COVID-19 response toolkit, HCL has a collaboration-centric digital workplace and a cloud-native, AI-powered help desk for CSPs. In just three weeks, three CSP customers across six locations have been able to virtually support their employees and communities with our offerings. 

2. Redefine service offering

A human-intensive industry such as telecom relies heavily on contact centers, physical storefronts, and kiosks for sales and customer support. With a global lockdown in effect and the demand for services exploding, CSPs have to redefine how they operate by using technology such as augmented reality (AR).

Consider investing in large network architecture to withstand the spike in data and voice traffic. For example, AT&T has launched six command centers to ensure the continuity and quality of their services.

Also, to empower sales operations, you may invest in immersive online stores powered by AR. For instance, the HCL XR store is a robust, cloud-based app that simulates the experience of a physical store by letting customers browse through aisles and take the products for a digital test drive.

Additionally, identify the elements that you can automate. For instance, you can use AI-powered chatbots or voice bots for customer service interactions, thereby reducing the workload on customer support. 

According to a recent report, the US economy would recover only by 2023. Therefore, once immediate service requirements have been taken care of, you should plan on strengthening your network architecture with cloud services to weather the long-term impact of the crisis.

Lastly, plan on redefining your supply chain. With manufacturing in several countries being hit, acquiring materials and delivering finished goods with international partners will be tough. The HCL CRT optimizes your supply chain network, redefines manufacturing, and delivery using local resources.

3. Reimagine the telecom ecosystem

Due to social distancing, services such as virtual stores, secure manufacturing, online learning, streaming services, remote patient care, and virtual tourism are already gaining popularity. That’s why CSPs should look for strategic partnerships across industries such as retail, education, gaming, healthcare, and entertainment. 

For instance, a K12 customer of HCL offers computer-based testing solutions and relies on a CSP to provide its services. By supporting such customers with uninterrupted services, robust user experience, reliable security, and integrated billing, CSPs can tap into new revenue streams.

HCL has more than 30 such strategic cross-industry alliances and, with our toolkit, CSPs can leverage our network architecture and explore numerous new business opportunities. 

4. Re-innovate business goals

Even before COVID-19 hit us, the telecom industry was undertaking major investments in disruptive technologies, thanks to 5G, IoT, and edge computing

That’s why now is also the time to revamp your business goals and continue investing in innovative and disruptive technologies. Even in a new normal, the demand for disruptive technologies won’t diminish. 

To feed your innovation appetite, HCL associates with more than 40 labs for innovation in prominent universities such as MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and UCLA.  

Final word

We’re in the midst of adapting to a new reality where more than half of the world’s population is indoors and online, and CSPs have an uphill task ahead. Making the right business decisions and orchestrating powerful alliances are going to be crucial for the telecom industry to survive the impact of COVID-19 for sustaining and growing their business operations.