INTERVIEW “And again, when you start to look at the lack of digital

skills in the UK, which increases the widening social divide, it actually has an estimated economic impact of £62bn on the UK's competitiveness. So, that’s the scale of the challenge. That's why digital skills aren’t just the skills of tomorrow, we need them today. “At BT, we’re doing our bit to reach ten million people,

families and businesses across the UK by 2025. We believe that's as critical as the development of our network, because these two things have to happen in parallel in order for businesses and individuals to be able to make the best of the technologies that will continue to emerge.” The current global crisis highlights more than ever the importance of being able to communicate, both socially and in a business context. With much of the UK, and indeed Europe and beyond, in isolation because of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, keeping connected has never been more vital. “Without infrastructure and the collaboration tools that

we've got available today, the way that society and business have been able to respond to this crisis would be very, very different,” said Sarah. “We probably wouldn’t be able to respond to, or even

recover from, the impacts that this crisis could potentially have. If you think about the services we provide, we help people to stay connected through our networks. We are the trusted partner for our emergency services and handle all the initial 999 calls through our public contact centres. “We provide mission critical services 24/7, 365 days a

year and our dependencies as a nation on those sorts of services today is more significant than ever. “Just look at the social inclusion aspect, with businesses

being able to connect with their customers, consumers being able to speak to one another, schools being able to run virtual classrooms for children, and everybody who's left at home. “Without the right infrastructure, the right connectivity

and the right collaboration tools, none of that would be possible. So, the significance of having a resilient network, 4G and 5G, coupled with the right collaboration tools and devices, is massive. “There are no businesses or individuals that would make

their way through what we’re dealing with today if we didn't have that technology available.” It’s these advances in technology that have allowed

many businesses to respond to the impacts of the coronavirus situation in a more pragmatic way, protecting the health and wellbeing of their workers while staying connected to their customers. On a broader note, this is a prime example of the

benefits that modern businesses demand from their technology. They are looking for ways to become more streamlined

and agile, operate more flexible ways of working, enhance collaboration and increase productivity, all of which are underpinned by good communications infrastructure. “In the industry in general, the traditional dividing lines

that we have between fixed and mobile network, copper and fibre, hardware and software, they're all disappearing,” said Sarah. “There are many more blurred lines now between the

technology and the infrastructure that we have across the UK. That's because the way we live and the way we work

BT Enterprise has worked with clients and partners such as Belfast Harbour for 5G use cases

‘It's the traditional voice over the phone that's becoming redundant. So, we must see better strength and scale across fixed and mobile, full-fibre and 5G, Cloud, unified comms, security and applications’

are becoming increasingly converged and connected. So, we don't have that natural separation that our legacy networks and platforms have created. “It's not enough for us to just focus on one form of

connectivity, or on connectivity in isolation. It’s about ubiquitous networks and how we can utilise them and the applications, software and devices that complement them. “It’s the traditional voice over the phone that's becoming

redundant. So, we must see better strength and scale across fixed and mobile, full-fibre and 5G, Cloud, unified comms, security and applications. “By 2025, all comms providers in the UK, including BT,

will have switched off the standard telephone and ISDN platforms. And all customers will be migrated to IP in some form. It's a huge transformation but it is vital in order for businesses and consumers to realise the benefits of future technology.” The question is, are UK businesses ready? “In terms of where we’re at in the UK, there are a lot of

businesses that are already fairly well-versed and have either already transitioned, or are on that journey towards IP,” said Sarah. “However, there are also a number of organisations that still

sit on legacy platforms and have quite a considerable way to go to truly digitise their businesses. But it is an absolute necessity for those businesses and consumers to migrate. “I think when you look at the future networks and talk

about intelligent connectivity, they’re designed to cater for customers' desire for an integrated, seamless, end to end experience and again, the lines between business and consumer are now more blurred than ever before. “In my days of selling analogue mobile, there was a stark

separation between mobile and fixed connectivity versus where we’re at today. Expectations are very, very different. The future’s really about how the multiple access technologies across those fixed, mobile and wireless networks can be brought together through intelligent and software-driven infrastructures to give that seamless experience. “One of the things we're very proud of in BT is that we’re

really uniquely positioned to do that, because of the depth and breadth of our network, and the best in breed capability that we have across both fixed and mobile. “This will continue to emerge over the coming years and

with ubiquitous network capability. We are once again at a tipping point where, over the next five years, there will be a considerable shift in how people consume networks, how we deliver the network, and the user experience.”

58 business network April 2020

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