Have you heard of the “balconadas” in Spain, that started when the Spaniards wanted to honour all the health professionals bravely fighting the virus? Later on, many professsions have been added; police, firefighters, shop assistants and more. Our Managing Director, Miguel Ángel Garcia Matatoros, believes that also the entire telecoms industry deserves our gratitude during this pandemic.
Sufficient time has passed since the publication of the Royal Decree declaring the state of alarm in our country (Spain, editor’s note) to enable the analysis of how the telecommunications sector has acted and to get a glimpse of how this crisis will affect its evolution. The confinement of the population has led to a significant increase in network traffic, as well as a change in the usage patterns depending on the time of the day. All this is certainly a result of our new work habits, online teaching and the consumption of media and entertainment content.
In this situation, other elements come into play and that are worth considering. To protect people’s health and safety, any operator’s activities involving physical work in households are currently prohibited. With the onset of the crisis, the management and configuration of telecommunications services are also carried out remotely. We are therefore in a situation in which service demand is growing, the usage pattern is not static, and human interaction related to network management is being avoided. All at a time when the telecommunications equipment industry, – that Ericsson leads globally from Europe – , was already preparing for a future that contemplated the demand of all of these services through the application of ETSI standards, such as NFV, MEC, ENI and ZSM.
On the other hand, it is also worth noting the attitude adopted by the operators, – that are aware of the gravity of the moment and the fundamental role played by telecommunications services. They have reacted in an altruistic and professional way. Thus, they have not hesitated in increasing the packages they offer to their end users free of extra charge during a time when customer leakage is not a threat due to the blocking of consumers’ possibility to request portability to another operator (by Royal Decree, editor’s note).
In addition, they have added value to their respective offerings in three different ways: Firstly, regarding the contents offered, especially those related to entertainment. Secondly, they have added value in the area of capacity, by on many occasions increasing it unlimitedly. In both cases they have done so despite knowing that these decisions would result in additional demands on a system whose resilience was to be put to the test. Finally, they have added value in increasing demand elasticity in the management of services. And each of these types of consumption is associated with a different type of telecoms services. Thus, while higher content consumption raises the demand on bandwidth, telework requires faster response times to facilitate the interaction with both systems and people.
Those of us that work in the telecoms industry are familiar with the new standards we associate with 5G, such as: Virtualization (ETSI NFV) – which enables virtual deployments of additional capacity, edge computing (ETSI – MEC) – that optimises a user-friendly distribution of resources in the network in order to improve the service, artificial intelligence in systems (ETSI ENI) – which, among others, is responsible for predicting demand so that operators can adapt accordingly, or automation (ETSI – ZSM) – that facilitates service management with a minimum of human interaction.
Although some of these standards are still under development, operators have been able to extract their essences and apply these to systems that are not yet fully developed, and to technologies and services for which they were not designed. That is why we genuinely appreciate that operators have been able to overcome – by wide and far – the challenges with which the telecommunications networks are currently faced. There is no better guarantee for the future deployment of the new generation mobile networks, 5G, and fixed networks, 5FG. I do not know whether the population is aware of its valuable contribution in the current situation. If not, perhaps we should find a way to remind them of this? Because I think this crisis would be much tougher on us if employees were unable to continue working, students progress in their studies, and people communicate and share content with their family and friends.
This article was first published in Spanish in Innovadores, the technology supplement of the national newspaper La Razón, on April 28, 2020: Un aplauso para el sector de las Telecomunicaciones.
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