A Post-pandemic Era: How Telecom Operators are Dealing With the Challenges of the New Reality

By Artemy Ustimenko, Product Development Manager, Nexign

This article examines some of the ways CSPs can handle the challenges that the post-COVID world has brought, like maintaining connection stability and providing exceptional customer service during tough times. Most of the examples here are drawn from Russia and the CIS, but any company worldwide can use these examples to deal with new challenges and boost their business.

Contactless is key to success
Unfortunately, the pandemic has made real-life interactions very risky. This has led to innovative examples of CSPs using eSIM technology, which allows them to attract new subscribers without the need for physical shops. People’s usual travel plans are now on hold, making eSIM a go-to method for attracting new home-bound customers for CSPs and MVNOs.

Telcos in emerging markets should also make sure their BSS supports the latest payment methods, so customers can pay for their services online and won’t have to leave their home to get pre-paid cards. CSPs can also drive the development of e-commerce technologies and new consumption models.

Case study: Uzbektelecom
Uzbektelecom, the largest telecom operator in Uzbekistan, wanted to provide uninterrupted service to all their clients, no matter what payment method they were using. The company gave all fixed broadband and ITPV subscribers a grace period of 2 months, which helped customers ensure connectivity even if their bills were not paid on time. CSPs can use the experience of Uzbektelecom to build trust with subscribers, especially in markets where penetration of new payment methods has so far been limited.

Work from home becomes the new normal
In many residential areas, broadband networks were designed for intermittent use only. When the pandemic made millions of people switch to remote work, their new office-like usage model posed challenges for providers, such as problems with video conferencing and Internet access for customers. In this situation, mobile networks are better able to stay functional. At a time when WFH has become the new normal, MNOs can introduce the latest dynamic congestion management and traffic prioritization solutions, and serve those who choose to forgo home Wi-Fi and rely on their smartphones for video conferencing and other tasks associated with remote work. If MNOs take these measures, their subscribers will likely stay loyal and switch to heftier data packages to get their jobs done.

Case study: Yota
Yota, a CSP that emphasises its unlimited data services, made an effort to attract new business customers who are currently working from home by arranging modem and router delivery to new subscribers’ doorsteps. Thanks to their use of the latest generation of policy control and congestion awareness products, they are now able to provide great service to newly connected data clients with business-level needs.

Partnerships lead to better infrastructure
This new, unforeseen load on broadband and mobile connections leaves no room for underusing infrastructure. Many parties can benefit from a shared effort approach used in many places to build 5G networks. To ensure uninterrupted service, content providers are using integration mechanisms such as SCEF and adjusting their traffic streams to new changes in the network. The number of organizations with distributed teams will grow, which means that businesses will demand increasingly secure and reliable connections. As a result, operators will look for new ways to keep up with this demand and maximise utilization of their already-existing infrastructure.

Case study: Megafon
One of the largest digital service providers in the Russian and global telco sector started offering free perks to help those working from home streamline their workflow and adapt to their new WFH reality. Access to an audiobook library, digital media and cloud services keeps subscribers entertained and informed at home, while unlimited data for messenger apps, email, food and medicine delivery and online education provides them with the kinds of opportunities they had before the pandemic.

Drones are coming
Mission-critical medical and rescue services that aim to digitally transform their operations feel great need for reliable connection. In the time of uncertainty, when everyone is still better off at home, the 5G-enabled security and delivery drones will ensure that we all are fed and safe.

Example: Russian oil-and-gas-oriented MVNO
A practical application of this vision is an industrial IoT solution launched by an oil-and-gas-oriented MVNO in Russia. This solution currently offers a flexible way of providing telemetry for transport and machinery and ensures more autonomous operations as 5G networks emerge.

Mobile networks become an alternative to FWA
Analysts used to say that Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is the best way to provide connectivity in rural areas, typically underserved by fixed operators. However, the newest developments have shown that mobile networks can be more reliable, robust and manageable than wired counterparts. With mobile device tethering being a rescue to those who have problems with their home internet, people feel more comfortable with the idea of radio as their main internet access method, which will be a commonplace in the upcoming 5G era. Fixed networks will still be the nerve system for the long-distance traffic flows, but more elastic radio networks will gain popularity and become more and more suitable as a last mile option. Fixed operators can jump on this bandwagon by creating specialized MVNOs or standalone 5G segments, and a modern convergent BSS solution will be essential for this development.

Interference from neighbors’ networks is another reason why home Wi-Fi can be too slow. Meanwhile, direct connection to a 5G network can be extremely helpful, providing the requested quality of service for real-time applications to the end users and enabling new revenue models for CSPs.

Example: Rostelecom
Rostelecom, one of the leading Russian digital services providers, took a comprehensive approach to demand for better home connectivity and faster Internet speed. They automatically provided all their mobile customers with an extra 10 gigabytes of data, giving them another reason to use their mobile connection as a home broadband substitute. At the same time, they quickly adapted their fixed network to the increased load and upgraded home subscribers to maximum-speed connections at no extra cost, thus standing out from competition with other broadband providers.