“The role of digital connectivity in our lives has grown over recent years, but never have we been so acutely aware of how critically we depend on it.” (Forbes)
While our dependence on connectivity and digital services and experiences has been growing for years, never has it been as dramatic and consuming as during the current crisis. Today, we’re doing just about everything from home – working, learning, and consuming media. And, we’re doing lots of it, which requires tremendous amounts of bandwidth and hyper-reliable connectivity.
To illustrate the magnitude, check out these numbers:
- Canada’s TELUS is reporting an overall voice traffic increase of 45%, consumption of data is up 40%, text messages are up 30%, and text with video and pictures is up 50%
- In the US AT&T is seeing voice calls up by 25%
- Sprint is reporting a 20% lift in calls and 25% increase in messaging
- Verizon has reported call volumes at even higher rates than those typical on Mother’s Day, coming in at 800 million calls/day, with calls being 33% longer, and gaming increasing by 107%
But it’s not just about volumes. It’s also about a profound shift in behavioral patterns and app usage. For example, subscription video on demand usage has increased in the middle of the day vs. traditional evening usage.
And, it wouldn’t surprise anyone that video conferencing traffic has exploded, with some US networks seeing a 700% increase in use of Zoom alone.
Bottom line, there is no doubt that the surge in demand on global networks is record breaking.
Service providers are stepping up
One would think that such a huge rise in demand would put insurmountable stress on service providers and their networks. But, instead, we’re seeing them engage in unprecedented collaboration to overcome infrastructure challenges on the fly. And as a result of this remarkable agility, they’re succeeding in delivering unfaltering performance.
First, to help cope with the new spikes in traffic, many service providers are increasing capacity. For example, Vodafone is adding 4 Tbps of capacity to its networks, while Vodacom South Africa has announced it will make a noteworthy investment in network capacity at $26.7 million over a two month period.
Adding capacity is just part of this story – the truly admirable and inspiring part is seeing the kind of cooperation taking place among providers who are typically engaged in tough competition with each other.
One example comes from Dish Network, which has temporarily allocated spectrum that is not being utilized to Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile US, with the aim of helping them bolster network capacity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Another example of collaboration, not necessarily from competitors – but still, noteworthy, comes from Nokia and US Cellular who are partnering to boost capacity in markets where networks are experiencing increased traffic demand due to COVID-19.
Great contributions for the greater good
As we all can see and experience on a very personal level, service providers have never been more essential to helping out individuals and society.
They are providing the lifeblood that connects families and communities, keeps businesses and educational institutions on track, and helps the men and women who provide vital healthcare services to do their job.
Service providers have listened to their customer base and are keeping their finger on the pulse of society. In the US, they are supporting the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” where for the next 60 days, most have agreed to several measures, including continuing service to subscribers even if they can’t pay their bill, withholding late fees, and opening Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone needing access.
In the UK, BT, Virgin Media, and Sky are providing National Health Service (NHS) workers with data, call, and text access at no extra cost, to enable remote consultations.
And these are just a few of the many examples out there.
With such unrelenting agility and unwavering magnanimity, we can’t help but feel inspired to say thank you to all the service providers around the world who are abiding by the sense of community and playing this critical role so supremely.
Looking ahead, it is nearly impossible to predict what the ultimate impact of the coronavirus will be. But, what is for certain, is that regardless of how these events unfold, the world’s media and communications service providers will continue to play a key role in enabling what’s so important to us as individuals, organizations and communities.