Research reveals COVID communications impact

Industry experienced surge in demand across distributed locations, combined with escalating security concerns and major changes to customer strategies; nearly three quarters of UK providers believe the switch to remote working will be permanent.

A10 Networks has published international research revealing the challenges and priorities of UK communication service providers as they respond to the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

Of the 250 surveyed communication service providers in the UK nearly all (98%) had experienced an increase in demand as a result of COVID-19, while 72% of UK respondents believe their customers will continue to operate with employees working from home to some extent, in a post-pandemic environment. As a result, they anticipate permanent changes to customer demand and use patterns, and they are seeing changes to procurement strategies. They are also facing intensifying security threats and have changed their investment priorities as a result.

The study was undertaken by independent research organisation, Opinion Matters, among 1,251 senior IT professionals from communication service providers in UK, France, Germany, Middle East and India.*

Key findings on the direct impact and response to COVID-19:

The overnight pivot to home working caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had an immediate effect on demand and distribution:

  • 98% of UK respondents experienced an increase in demand as a result of COVID-19, with an average increase of 53%
  • 98% said the pandemic accelerated their transition to a more distributed network.
  • 61% scaled up infrastructure across the network.
  • 60% scaled up in specific high-demand locations.
  • 48% redistributed network capacity to accommodate changes in traffic demand.
  • 44% invested more heavily in security technologies.

Commenting on the direct impact of COVID-19, Adrian Taylor, Regional Vice President at A10 Networks said: “The switch to working from home caused an unprecedented shift in customer needs and a fundamental change in both geographic and temporal use patterns, as home workers adapted working hours to combine jobs with home-schooling and caring duties.

“At the same time, it represented a rapid expansion of the attack surface, leaving providers battling on two fronts: how to meet demand, and how to scale-up safely. Our research shows UK providers had a dual focus on scale and security, which is set to continue as they make strategic adjustments to the evolving landscape, accelerating their transition to a more distributed network.”

Customer procurement strategies and concerns have changed – the shift to cloud accelerates

As customers have adapted to an altered digital environment, their requirements of UK communication service providers are changing, with more focus on security, continuity and cloud adoption:

  • 60% say customers are now more concerned about business continuity and resilience.
  • 59% have seen enterprise customers splitting workloads between traditional telcos and non-telco cloud platform providers to minimise risk to service availability.
  • 57% are requiring end-to-end security SLAs across cloud and data centres for any chosen vendor.
  • 51% say customer demand for online platforms such as customer service portals has increased.
  • 50% have a larger pool of customers and subscribers to manage.
  • 36% say customer expectations about security from network service providers has increased.

Commenting on these findings, Taylor added: “Customers are on high alert to the threat of service disruption and are demanding higher security and business continuity standards as a result. They are also being proactive about reducing dependence on individual UK providers by splitting workloads. The fact they are including non-telco providers in procurement strategies shows that they are taking a long-term approach to managing this.”

Investment plans and priorities

The effect of the pandemic and changing customer priorities has altered UK communication service providers’ capital investment plans:

  • 59% have paused their investment plans.
  • 58% plan to increase investment in security.
  • 54% say upgrading firewalls and other security appliances to combat new threats is their highest priority security investment to 2022.
  • 48% are reducing investment in their own networks and increasing use of public cloud providers.
  • 47% say DDoS mitigation across network infrastructure is a top priority, while 43% are prioritising ransomware protection services for enterprise customers.

Taylor concluded: “Communication service providers in the UK are reacting astutely to growing customer focus on security and resilience by ramping up investment to protect those areas that have been exposed by the expanded attack surface. Maximum uptime and data protection are paramount for organisations operating in the remote work environment; investment in these areas will therefore pay dividends for providers facing increasing competition from non-telco operators.”

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