Connectivity plays a huge part in the 'new normal'. We spoke to industry leaders to get their thoughts.
In March 2020, the UK entered lockdown, due to the coronavirus pandemic, forcing millions of businesses to adopt a working from home strategy almost overnight.
According to the Office for National Statistics 49% of UK workers are currently working from home and with that set to become the new normal for many businesses, the importance of having reliable connectivity has never been more important.
Currently, only 15% of the UK can get fibre to the premise services and, with the government promising ubiquitous coverage by 2025, it’s a huge ask for providers.
Paul North, Head of Regional Sales at CityFibre said: “We often talk about the UK being the fifth largest economy in the world and we’re an 80% service based economy. However, only four years ago, we ranked 35th in the world for fibre infrastructure and only 3% of the UK could get fibre to the premise services.
“Nowadays fibre to the premise is critical for the type of software as a service applications we use both at home and in business at the moment.
“We’ve come on leaps and bounds in the last four years but it’s still not enough. The UK government had set a target of 2033 to have coverage across the UK and that’s now been pulled forward to 2025, which is a big ask. However, there’s dozens of fibre providers across the industry that are working towards this shared ambition which is really important. I think that digital infrastructure and, more importantly, fibre to the premise, is incredibly important for working from home.”
Since March, collaborative applications such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have taken precedence and grown exponentially. However, we’ve all been on calls where someone has frozen on video or the audio has been patchy at best. Connectivity underpins the applications we’ve all been forced to turn to and, looking ahead, it appears having a robust and reliable connection in our homes as well as in our offices could be the key to unlocking the economy once more.
Julien Parven, Marketing Director at Daisy Communications said: “I think there are some interesting market trends towards hosted voice and greater bandwidth connectivity. One of the wider market trends we’re seeing with the remote working wave is the propensity for businesses to start installing business-grade connectivity into their employee’s homes so that they can work effectively.
“Employees may not have the fibre connectivity they’re used to in the office at home and they might live in a rural location where mobile signal is hard to come by. However, technology can attempt to tackle these issues. Businesses could install virtual private networks (VPNs) to ensure its data is safe and secure through and, as aforementioned, many are also ensuring employees have reliable and fast connectivity.”
Key to connectivity is the digital infrastructure within the UK and how providers are working to ensure everyone has access to reliable connectivity. Richard Thompson, Managing Director Indirect at TalkTalk Business revealed how TalkTalk see themselves as fundamental to building a future. He said: “We’ve seen ourselves as being a critical infrastructure provider and we believe connectivity is fundamental to running great collaboration and online and cloud-based applications.
“I think that there is going to be a shift towards greater collaboration and the use of cloud-based technology is going to become more and more prevalent. What underpins that is the connectivity layer, and I think through COVID, we’ll probably see more than ever the importance of providing great value connectivity.”
Connectivity, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the cables in the ground or the fibre solutions connecting our homes and offices; it’s grown to include the use of 5G which is proving essential in rural areas.
Mobile network providers are playing their part and Maria Fernandez, SMB Trading Director at O2, explained the importance of 5G for O2. She said: “It’s key that businesses invest in digital infrastructure and connectivity to ensure that their people have got the right tools to stay connected wherever they are working.
“We know that all businesses from a small to a medium to a large have been all impacted by COVID-19. At O2 we will continue to work really hard with the government and the businesses to realise the importance of rural connectivity and, of course, 5G as well, accelerating the benefits of supercharged productivity.”
With businesses having had to think on their feet when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Richard Thompson thinks plenty will have learned valuable lessons over the last few months.
He added: “I think there’s some fundamental lessons that COVID will have taught businesses. I think it’s probably highlighted the importance of connectivity and delivering, not just from a value perspective but just in terms of service and reliability.”