How 2020 Slowed the Rollout of Next Generation Technologies
2020 was the year the world broke.
15:39 07 January 2021
Each and every one of us had our systems, schemas, and plans thrown out the window, with a return date TBD - or not at all. Covid’s impact has forced businesses, governments, and individuals alike to redefine how they operate going forward. And there is still plenty of work to do.
One of the impacts has been on the rollout of new technologies. Whatever plans we had for tech expansion have needed to be altered, paused, or abandoned altogether.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which we’ve slowed down the rate of change in next gen technology rollouts around the world as we did in our neighbourhood.
There is a global economic crisis in effect due to Covid. No matter what some of the stock markets say, or the increasing wealth of the wealthiest on the planet, or the surging price of Bitcoin, individuals and businesses around the world have had to tighten their belts due to the impact on incoming funds from the ongoing effects of Covid.
For European telcos, this impact is likely to be felt for years to come. In the latest research from strategy& at PwC, projections estimate that these telcos’ investment spend will fall by €6-9bn over the next two years and that 5G network rollout will be delayed from between 12 and 18 months. This is despite the fact that existing network loads are higher than ever before, again, brought on by Covid. Modelling for the study is based on data on the impacts on the telco industry from the 2008 financial crisis.
The US, on the other hand, seems to be continuing with full steam ahead on their 5G networks, with allocated funds not being diverted, and projects being deemed as essential for supporting the nation.
Everyone has had to shuffle finances around to some degree over the course of Covid. For many businesses, there has been a negative impact on revenues.
In a Report of an Economic Experts Roundtable by the International Telecommunications Union in July 2020, experts predicted up to a 10% negative revenue impact on telcos. This is despite the huge surges in traffic on networks everywhere.
As per the report:
“The increase in traffic has resulted in an acceleration of capital expenditure (CAPEX) related to the expansion of capacity (i.e. operations and maintenance CAPEX). On the other hand, spending not related to an increase in capacity (i.e. network modernization) is being postponed.”
This is to say that spend is currently directed at expanding existing infrastructure to support these large network loads, rather than rolling out new technologies. This is particularly true in emerging countries.
And those conspiracies…
One of the stranger sides of the Covid crisis has been some sectors of the community’s belief that 5G is to blame for the virus. While over here we are well aware that correlation does not imply causation, many others around the globe haven’t been quite so sure.
Here in the UK, anti-5G protesters have verbally and physically harassed telecoms engineers, set 5G masts on fire, and rallied online to spread the word that “When they turn this on it’s going to kill everyone, and that’s why they’re building the hospitals.”
A time for building
While it’s been an extremely trying and testing year for everyone, it has certainly also put our telcos and networks to the test.
Cloud usage for business is skyrocketing, as is video conferencing, which takes a toll on older-style networks. Retail is hit hard with new cyber changes. Some industries are already using tech to the full. The iGaming industry was born out of the dramatic move of casino gambling from the floor to virtual studios and from hundreds of slots lined in a row to thousands of online slots at the click of the mouse. Bored people around the world have been flocking to gaming, streaming TV, and Zooming everyone they know.
With huge traffic loads, it’s not hard to see why next gen technology rollouts - such as full-fibre broadband to all households by 2025 that Boris promised - are vitally important. If anything, Covid has shown us that we now, more than ever, need new systems to support heavier and heavier network loads, as consumer consumption of high-data applications will always continue to rise.
While existing systems have borne the brunt of a full-scale digital assault in 2020, we need to always forge forward to ensure that if (or, more likely, when) another cataclysmic event such as Covid happens, we can all still communicate and work together to keep the world turning.