DISASTER MANAGEMENT

Partnerships, Digitalization And The Age Of COVID-19

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By Kelly Hill

In a wide-ranging discussion on the present challenges and the near-term future of telecom services, three key themes emerged: partnerships are becoming ever-more important, digitalization to enable flexibility is key, and there is a post-pandemic “next normal” slowly emerging that is changing both how network operators offer service and how they themselves operate.

In a virtual panel as part of International Telecoms Week, participants from around the globe said that partnership and collaboration are taking on new importance. VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, James Staten said that operators should make sure that they are not just collaborating with other telecom players, but with people who are experts in particular areas that are being targeted. And, he added, it’s crucial to not only work together during ideation, but on iteration of the technology development on bringing that technology to market — particularly if there are barriers to a large telecom company bringing the technology to market itself, such as that the solution is seen as too niche. Too many companies are partnering only on the initial development of a concept, he added.

Network assets have been “underrated,” according to CCO of Telefonica International Wholesale Services, Juan Carlos Bernal and he said that when it comes to differentiation, “we must commit more and more on the digitalization” that enables agility and the ability to flexibly serve customers.”

Asked about how the panelists were adjusting to a new digital normal, president of wholesale at Verizon Partner Solutions, Eric Cevis talked about a long-term shift in attitude toward work-at-home scenarios.

“At Verizon, we seem to be spending a lot of time on this new normal — we’re starting to call it the ‘next normal’ at this phase, as we are looking at transitioning some to our work back into offices” said Cevis. He said that due to Verizon’s large union workforce, its call center operations and service assurance and service delivery-related activities, “we thought we couldn’t do a lot of work at home. But within a week or two at most, we had 90-some percent of our folks working from home.

“We’ve learned a lot of things and put a lot of practices in place now,” he added, adding that that includes increasing network capacity to cope with increased video sessions — such as the one supporting the virtual conference — and voice and voice over IP traffic.

“We are going to phase folks back into the office — once again, watching stats like hospitalizations” and the ability to trace the virus. But, he added, “even as we open offices … we’ll start with 25 per cent, but maybe 50 per cent is the most we’ll ever have in an office space again, as we continue to look at social distancing and staying six feet apart, providing masks to anyone that enters a Verizon building, sanitizer, conference rooms so that people are spread out. We’re going to encourage more work from home. It’s good from a sustainability standpoint, when we look at carbon emissions and the like.”

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