Wireless Technology

How the pandemic has impacted communication service providers

By Stephen Dallas, AVP of EMEA, A10 Networks T

he COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on countries around the world and, even with the successful vaccination roll out, regions are still moving in and out of lockdowns. Containment measures have, as you would expect, caused a substantial drop in business activity across Europe, especially in contact-intensive sectors. Economic growth is expected to pick up throughout 2021 as vaccines become more widely distributed. However, communication service providers have seen a signifi cant surge in demand because of the pandemic. Overnight they saw demand spike as organisations moved to a distributed workforce.

With many businesses now committing to a more hybrid working model, communication service providers will continue to experience high demand for the foreseeable future, which presents a unique set of challenges. To understand the true scale of demand and examine how COVID-19 has impacted communication service providers, A10 Networks conducted research that analyses the challenges and issues that senior IT professionals in communication service providers are facing, and how they are adapting to a post-pandemic world. Over 1,200 senior professionals took part in the research from fi ve different countries and across seven different vertical market sectors including fi nancial services, education, healthcare, government, ecommerce and retail, utilities, and gaming.

Gaming, retail and ecommerce demand data

Without a doubt COVID-19 had a signifi cant impact and almost universally (99 per cent) the 1,200+ respondents experienced an increase in demand for data and network bandwidth from their customers and subscribers. This was clearly due to the rapid switch to remote working and the continued lockdowns across countries and regions, which have continued throughout the fi rst half of 2021. Interestingly, communication service providers with gaming customers witnessed

28 July/August 2021

the highest increase in demand, perhaps as citizens found themselves with more time on their hands working from home or furloughed. This was followed by government sector respondents and then ecommerce and retail. To this point, gaming and ecommerce and retail saw signifi cant spikes in the increase in demand for data and network bandwidth in the over 75 per cent and up to 100 per cent category with 13 per cent and 11.5 per cent respectively.

As you can imagine, this increase in demand has affected communication service providers in several ways. The top-three consequences of the surge were: more than half stated that they had to scale up infrastructure across their entire network; half again had to scale up in specifi c high-demand locations; and just under half invested more heavily in security technologies.

Education sector witnessed unprecedented demand Clearly, the rapid surge in demand owing to COVID-19, meant that communication service providers had to quickly expand their capabilities. As organisations have moved to a remote set up, the attack surface has also expanded and intensifi ed. This meant that respondents had to invest heavily in security technologies to protect their networks. Likewise, demand has come from multiple different locations. Previously customers/ subscribers were more likely to be in offi ces together. Now, workforces are geographically dispersed, creating broader and heavier spikes in multiple locations.

Here, we found that respondents with customers in the education sector were the most likely have to scale up their infrastructure to meet specifi c high-demand locations, as schools closed, and children moved to home learning.

When we asked whether COVID-19 had accelerated network transition to a more distributed network (edge) and how much of the total network traffi c has this impacted, interestingly, respondents serving the healthcare and utilities sector witnessed

Components in Electronics

above average acceleration: 66 per cent and 67 per cent respectively, in the “by over 25-50 per cent” category. Respondents serving the gaming sector were highest (38 per cent) in the “by over 50-75 per cent” category.

Healthcare invests in security technologies The increase in traffi c has signifi cantly changed capital investment plans for communication service providers in multiple ways. More than half of the respondents plan to increase their investment in security. No doubt this is due to the escalating attacks witnessed on organisations with remote workforces. Providers serving the healthcare sector were most likely to be investing in security. However, communication service providers with customers in the government and education sectors were pausing investment plans. In terms of how this has changed relationships with customers, over half of communication service providers have seen an increase in demand for online platforms such as customer service portals from their customers. Interestingly, half of respondents claimed that customers are more concerned about business continuity and resilience than before the pandemic, and 44 per cent of respondents said that customers have increased their expectations around security from network service providers. Unsurprisingly, respondents serving the

fi nancial services sector were most likely to say their customers have concerns around security, with more than half stating this was the case.

Hybrid workforce

Most respondents surveyed don’t think the work environment will snap back to how it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, more than two-thirds (67 per cent) believe their customers will continue to operate with employees working from home in some form. Therefore, a signifi cant proportion believe that many of their customers will look to reorganise their working practices whereby remote working becomes a permanent feature.

Respondents serving the fi nancial services market were most likely to think that the work environment would snap back to how it was before, with 40 per cent believing this to be the case. Interestingly, those respondents servicing the gaming industry thought that this sector was most likely to see a hybrid approach to work with three-quarters (75 per cent) stating this will be the case. This was followed by respondents serving the government sector where 71 per cent thought the same.

Cybersecurity training a priority In terms of the security challenges enterprise customers/subscribers are facing, the education (62 per cent) and healthcare (61 per cent) sector respondents were more likely than other sectors to say that their customers need to revise their employee cybersecurity training programmes. The fi nancial services sector ranked highest in terms of ensuring that BYOD policies were more robust. Additionally, when we asked about the highest priority security investments for 2021-2022, ecommerce and retail (51.5 per cent) were the most focused on the upgrading of fi rewalls and other security appliances. When it comes to 5G, just under one-third of respondents stated that maintaining a quality service and avoiding service outages were top security challenges. Clearly, for ecommerce and retail respondents, ensuring uptime is critical, and 35 per cent said that maintaining a quality service and avoiding service outages were key challenges. These were also top security challenges for utility companies. Over a quarter of gaming companies saw the unpredictable subscriber usage and the changing patterns on the network as their top security challenges as 5G becomes more widely available. Altogether, the impact of COVID-19 on communication service providers has been enormous. Although there have been variations across different vertical sectors, there is a general recognition that resilience and security must be priorities as businesses adjust to a future of hybrid work environments.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58