Four telecoms predictions for 2021

In an article in Capacity, our Chief Evangelist, Mattias Fridström shared what the events of 2020 will mean for the telecoms community in 2021. The original article is found here.


Four telecoms predictions for 2021 shaping the new normal

The year 2020 has been a biblical one that has seen a global pandemic sweep across every continent of the globe and upend the lives of everyone. In May 2020, McKinsey revealed that consumer and business digital adoption vaulted forward five years in a matter of around eight weeks. This surge was all down to the rapid and profound changes brought about by Covid-19 to the way we live, work and learn. And these changes have shone a light on the internet’s essential role as a means for people to stay connected, albeit virtually. By providing the critical foundations of the internet and enabling the core services that facilitate ubiquitous conferencing, remote working and e-learning, backbone networks have enabled many people to continue their jobs and communicate with friends.

But, looking ahead to 2021, what does this all mean for the telecoms industry?

1. The rocketing role of the edge

The reality of where the edge truly lies will continue to be a debate in 2021 and, once 5G services permeate the market, we will see several new players entering the edge game. While these new distributed edges are designed for low latency applications, they will still create enormous amounts of data that will end up being transported to larger, centralized cloud or storage facilities away from the edge itself.

In November, McKinsey revealed that 63% of consumers have not returned to regular out-of-home activities as Covid-19 has driven people to work (and learn) much more from home. This new homebody society has driven an unprecedented surge in digital activities, increased the importance of the edge and elevated the pressure to locate content as close as possible to end users.

2. Hybrid networks continue to flourish

An increasing reliability of the public internet during recent years has seen it fast becoming a convincing alternative for business applications. In fact, according to our recent research, 90% of today’s enterprises rely on the public internet for some or all of their wide area network services. By using the public internet, cloud services – that have been around for some time in the IT world are also now much more accessible to everyone. Specific applications will still require dedicated cloud access, but the public internet is increasingly being used as a pathway to applications and data storage in the cloud.

The ubiquity of internet access will prove to be a significant driving force behind this change as we move into 2021. As Covid-19 is forcing business to rapidly adapt to survive, the adoption of SD-WAN has become more critical than ever. The public internet and SD-WAN provide services far better suited to addressing the need for significantly more capacity or greater flexibility – as we have seen as a result of the pandemic – than the older “MPLS back-haul all traffic to HQ” thinking.

3. Network automation and AI

2021 will see automation getting a jump-start. The automation of information flows will be a key driving force as businesses begin to access information in a completely different manner than they have done so previously. With over two-thirds of business decision makers in the world’s biggest markets expecting to rely more on APIs to commission and manage services, there will be a heavy emphasis on machine-to-machine workflows and self-provisioning. The complexity of applications powered by 5G trends such as IoT will also see billions of devices connected to the internet. This will demand smarter network automation from automatic configuration, provisioning, assurance and orchestration of services.   Due to the fact that they offer a higher degree of automation and less manual intervention, we will see growing interest in the AI-powered, zero-touch deployment of networks. At the same time, to manage key performance metrics and set the baseline for network automation for fault isolation and remediation, network managers will need a complete view of the “Big Picture” connectivity performance of business-critical applications.

4. Open and disaggregated optical

To meet the growing demand for high capacity, low latency connectivity, global optical network infrastructure has been on the receiving end of an extreme make-over in recent months. Quite unlike anything we’ve seen before, we believe that this will herald a new era of network innovation and interoperability that will prove to be transformative for enterprises. Contrary to the traditional ‘closed’ end-to-end proprietary system that made optical networks hard to evolve, today’s open line technologies are enabling an era of new and highly flexible networking capabilities, changing the rules of the game forever.

In a nutshell

Covid-19 tested the resiliency of the network and accelerated adoption of new technologies.  The way our world works is set to become ever more digitally driven, and with that comes a growing demand for high-bandwidth, low latency and secure data connectivity.  As such, the telecoms industry will play a huge part in shaping the new normal of 2021… for everyone.

Mattias Fridström, Chief Evangelist