Why Network Connectivity Must Become Part of the Customer Experience
As consumers, we want to be connected anytime, anywhere. Having the ability to access the Internet for work emails, social media, digital services and media content has become an important part of our daily lives. More people are watching videos online and it is expected to grow, with forecasts predicting it to make up 82% of Internet traffic by 2021. It has become natural for us to turn on the TV and stream videos online, everything from movies to major sporting events like the FIFA World Cup.
Recently in Australia, there was outrage among football fans when a leading Australian telco was unable to resolve technical issues on its World Cup 2018 streaming services. Thousands of people were stranded in a state of constant buffering, unable to watch the matches and soon took their anger onto social media. The problem became so big that it even grabbed the attention of the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
So how do companies find themselves in such massive business and brand-impacting situations and what can telecommunications do to eliminate these instances in the future?
To start with, we are experiencing unprecedented demand in growth for anything internet. The global average internet connection speed has increased 15% from 2016 to 2017 to keep up with demand. With the need for speed, also comes the need for greater capacity required by the increasing number of internet users which grew to 4 billion this year.
The adoption of cloud applications including entertainment has driven not just a need, but a new level of experience expectation. Demand for application streaming is rising and consumers are hyper-sensitive to slow digital experience. We are already at a point where there is zero tolerance for any downtime. Inevitably, whether at work or at home, we find it harder to cope with bandwidth constraints inhibiting performance.
Failing to meet experience expectations could be detrimental to the ongoing success of service whilst providing exploitation opportunities to competitors. Beyond losing customers and credibility, the monetary loss can be tremendous for any business that cannot meet the needs of today’s digital consumer.
From a consumer perspective, I understand the frustration of not being able to stream the world’s biggest sports event, but connectivity outages for certain businesses and industries could have far greater consequences. Such outages can disrupt critical business and public services.
Cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) are fast becoming vital and proliferating at an unprecedented rate. The number of IoT devices has been forecasted to reach 20.4 billion by 2020. This includes intelligent sensors used by businesses to automate processes and consumer products such as mobile devices. Future technology like self-driving vehicles will require even greater demand for high quality connectivity. From delivering digital experience to running mission-critical applications, many enterprises today rely on the cloud to run their businesses. They simply can’t afford to allow outages to negatively impact their brand, reputation and bottom line.
The common denominator that keeps these sophisticated systems and devices from turning into bricks is having consistent and reliable connectivity. Communications service providers have a huge responsibility in keeping things running and are held accountable for outages. With today’s robust network infrastructure, ensuring high availability should not be an impossible feat.
Coming from a telecommunications perspective, we look at three things in most cases: Infrastructure, Connectivity and Peering. It is ideal that service providers don’t get caught in a knee-jerk reaction mode. Having the foresight and capability in handling surging event-driven volume is key to success.
Fundamentally the infrastructure must be adequate to handle the volume, whether are there enough servers to process the media and are they powerful enough to fulfill demand. As this demand changes, it pushes connectivity to move beyond its static functionalities. The network should be able to scale bandwidth to match the dynamic capacity driven by the market. Lastly, peering can be an added advantage by allowing providers to leverage local internet exchanges and interconnect with Internet Service Providers to deliver high quality content and applications.
In today’s always-on software-driven world, every company must become a digital company. Customers value them by their ability to deliver a seamless digital experience that’s highly accessible and on-demand. Organisations that centre their business around their customers can bring better products and services.
For service providers, this can be innovating with an agile approach by moving into software-defined networking (SDN) to accelerate the provisioning of connectivity services. In the likes of major disruptors like Uber, SDN is about delivering on-demand, flexible, intelligent and scalable network connectivity that today’s service providers need. And it’s hard to conquer this world alone. Through collaboration with like-minded organisations and players across the industry and vertical markets, partnerships can be a strategy to growth.