It’s officially the new normal. Everyone’s life is different than it was a month ago, and the coming months are full of uncertainty. The one sure thing is we will continue our increased dependency on networks to support our commercial and private lives. Here are some of the observations and lessons learned from the pandemic as it relates to networks. We’ll probably have more thoughts on this in the coming days but this is our take as of early May.
Overall, the national connectivity networks are performing well.
Historically, residential internet usage peaked between 5pm and 11pm each day, mainly for streaming video content. Business customers on the other hand use the internet between 8am and 5 pm, and lean on several applications including email, file sharing, voice and video conferencing. Consumer and business networks coexisted peacefully. Today (May 2020) most people are at home using the same connection for both consumer and business uses. We’re calling this the “residentialization” of business services. That is to say, using residential internet connections for business applications. User behavior is changing, creating new usage patterns and placing new strains on the network.
- Gaming usage is up 75%
- Media consumption across new sites, retailers and blogs is skyrocketing
- Video streaming companies have had to reduce video quality to keep up with demand
- Screen size matters, usage across Facebook, Netflix and YouTube has dropped for mobile apps and increased significantly for desktop views.
- Cable networks are holding-up well with new traffic levels
Applications matter now more than ever
There’s been a lot said about speeds and access technologies over the past decade –from DSL, cable internet, fiber and now 5G. While there’s a perception that the internet is a commodity and all connections are created equal, recent weeks have proven that it’s always been about application performance and now it’s just more relevant.
Historically, most service providers have differentiated their services based on businesses and residential use. Customer often question why it costs more to purchase business internet compared to what they can get at home from the same provider. The answer lies in how both market groups use the internet, and when they use it.
The last mile is the most important mile.
If your household is like most, your concern is “what applications can we use simultaneously and will our current network connection support that?” It’s a great question. So far, service providers have made adjustments to accommodate more bandwidth intensive applications on their residential internet connections. There have been several advancements over the past few years that have made this possible including: caching or storing video content closer to the consumer, hosting applications closer to the edge.
A key consideration often overlooked in residential services is the fact broadband connections are asymmetrical. Download speeds are usually much greater than upload speeds, which is great for streaming movies or downloading files from the web. The upload speed on your internet connection probably wasn’t relevant until you started video conferencing and sharing data from your home office and competing with your kids’ real-time communications off their gaming console. Which leads me to:
Real-Time Communications and Collaboration
Almost overnight, Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) has become table stakes. It’s no longer just UC; Collaboration tools have taken center stage. It’s not enough to get a phone call. You’ve got to be able to share documents, files and presentations, and more importantly video conference. There is a range of options for free services such as Zoom and regular Skype as well as pay services. The most obvious difference (besides price) is security. Who knew there was such a thing as Zoom Bombing?
The oldest form of real-time communications, voice, is back! If you thought the PSTN was old news, it’s not. Across the industry providers are reporting increased ALOC (average length of calls) increased call volumes. ANI’s Gary Fry even put out a plea for people to stagger conference call start times away from the top of the hour to avoid overloading the public infrastructure. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/gary-fry-3a457820_activity-6647923101248172032-yZsv
With chaos and uncertainty comes opportunity for those that see it and can adapt to meet the challenges. These are some key opportunities that we see:
- Improve core network design by increasing redundancy and resiliency; and caching content closer to the users.
- Usage stats can be used as data points to craft service offerings around applications.
- Business customers expect security and performance from their applications (regardless of where they connect from) and service providers can charge a premium for this.
- Build and launch UCC services, there’s an opportunity to increase both ARPU and margin.
- Voice services are still relevant, can be positioned within existing and new bundles.
- If you’re brave enough to read this far and enjoy spurious correlations (with comparisons to cheese consumption, Nicholas Cage movies, and untimely deaths), I challenge you to click here.
Our team has over twenty years of experience building and deploying network services, and transforming organizations into recognized market leaders. If you’re looking to get more margin and capacity from your network or coverage area then give us a call and let’s setup a time to talk. firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.678.1844.