While the COIVD-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every facet of our daily lives, many businesses and employees are seeing their operations can still take place remotely relatively seamlessly. But imagine if the pandemic happened 30 or 40 years earlier, when connectivity networks barely existed, this transition to remote working would not have been the case for a lot of enterprises. Many workers would be left sitting by their landlines and shuffling papers, with many of their day-to-day responsibilities coming to a crashing halt.
Fast-forwarding to now, with next-generation network infrastructures and advanced connectivity within the comfort of our homes, business operations can continue with minimal disruption to the workforce. However, the pandemic has revealed a few areas where we can enhance our networks, so they’re better equipped to handle the unexpected.
1. Deliver End-to-End Security
Up until recently, delivering faster connections would take priority over network security, but as the pandemic has revealed, the biggest deterrent to a great user experience is a hacked connection. Service providers are seeing an influx of socially engineered attacks, and unfortunately, this isn’t likely to change. Bad actors will always look to capitalize on vulnerable moments, including the global situation that we’re currently facing, and it has an alarming success rate.
But by embracing solutions that deliver end-to-end security components, service providers can better manage these threats. After all, security is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.
2. Manage for Availability and Reliability
While current networks are designed for very high availability and reliability, when traffic surges, so do customer calls with complaints of slow speed, broken connection, or poor application experience. To ensure availability and reliability, service providers must manage their networks from both an end-to-end perspective and end-user perspective, rather than from a node-by-node or equipment perspective.
3. Double Down on Automation
In the COVID era with network traffic soaring – service providers are seeing network traffic double, and businesses are struggling to uphold business continuity as their network capacity is being pushed to its breaking point. Additionally, as an unexpected strain on our networks continues, there is more room for human error. However, a network infrastructure that can be managed with large-scale automation is one that will be able to scale most effectively to meet these heightened demands.
As we enter this new normal, it’s clear the entire network needs to be automated in terms of operations and maintenance in order to deliver the right service experience to customers. Before we saw the impact of COVID, zero-touch functions such as automation, provisioning, commissioning, and operations were focused on reducing the operating expense of sending people to the malfunctioning site and expedite the speed of the operation. However, by leveraging automation technologies that work faster and more efficiently, service providers are better able to meet consumer expectations and network demands.
4. Extend Capacity
The pandemic shifted our physical world into a virtual one, and we are reminded every day how different it could have been without strong network capacity. The good news is that these networks already support high bandwidth services such as video, streaming, and multi-user conferencing, making it more efficient for operators to manage their networks during this crisis. Many networks have been built to peak capacity and full redundancy to better handle the current surge in traffic, yet there is room to impact so much more.
If anything, COVID has renewed the need for more investments in our networks to extend capacity and keep pace with growing demand.
Addressing the Current Crisis and Future Innovation
While current networks have been able to adapt to this new, virtual world, there is a dire need for future networks to extend their capabilities and deliver more value. With the emergence of the Cloud + 5G + AI, network operators have the ability to run networks much better in the future and in times of crisis that we don’t yet know about.
After all, 5G + Cloud + AI will bring massive capacities, GB speeds, and ultra-low latency that can make interacting in the virtual world almost as tactile as in the real world. We will see doctors going beyond video calling patients to diagnosing and treating them remotely. Educators will engage students with AR/VR/interactive gaming to make the remote learning experience more engaging. And manufacturing operations can be controlled remotely, almost as if humans were doing it onsite.
A strong network shouldn’t just be about delivering a seamless connectivity experience during a crisis – it should help usher into the next era of innovation.
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