Operating and maintaining telecommunications infrastructure and services is a mammoth task, that requires significant expenditure. In the mobile industry alone, capital expenditure (CAPEX) is expected to reach 160 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. It also requires a huge number of skilled technicians and employees, which is why major telecommunications companies are such major employers. China Mobile Limited is one the world’s largest telecommunications employers, with a workforce of around 456,239 people. Verizon provides around 135,000 jobs, while Vodafone employs approximately 92,005 people.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has thrown up significant challenges for those providing telecommunications services. When a huge slice of the workforce started working remotely, it was crucial that telecommunications services were up to the task of shifting the load from enterprise to private networks, and to do so without any increase in revenue. Verizon, for example, saw increases of up to 49 percent in VPN traffic and 30 percent in web traffic during April 2020 compared to a typical pre-COVID-19 day. Even as businesses around the world welcome employees back to their offices, approximately three-quarters of CFOs surveyed by Gartner said they expect some of their workforce to continue working remotely.
While meeting the challenges the industry currently faces, telcos still need to look at keeping up with improving technologies and the greater data demands of customers. 5G has emerged as the next major technology that will transform how telcos provide a service. Global shipments of 5G handsets in the first quarter of 2020 exceeded the total amount vendors shipped in 2019, and demand is expected to skyrocket between now and 2024. 5G goes well beyond consumer mobile phone connections, and is set to emerge in connected cars, emergency services, telematics devices and other segments by 2023.
The full effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on telecommunications services are hard to predict. What is clear, however, is that as a provider of vital infrastructure, as major spender in the economy, and as the provider of hundreds of thousands of jobs, telecommunications services will play a vital role in both the physical, personal and economic recovery.