A new report from PwC, titled ‘Covid-19: where next for telecoms?’, seeks to provide some insight into how the UK’s telecoms industry is coping with the coronavirus, placing particular attention on behavioural change, business challenges, and how the sector can recover.
The report warns that delays to the roll-out of key 5G infrastructure has been impacted not only by the restricted movement within the UK at the time of writing, but also by the changes in network usage, which has moved from business to consumer accounts, with BT estimating an increase of network traffic between 30% and 65% in the UK.
“The roll-out of 5G ultra-fast mobile connectivity is likely to be delayed as a result of the pandemic,” the report says. “Lockdown measures in China and social distancing policies in the UK are affecting the introduction of infrastructure, while standards body 3GPP has postponed future releases of the technology.”
5G important for industrial development
Another area that’s highlighted in the report is industry's need for 5G’s continued development, identifying how important the technology is to the economic development of the UK, especially concerning the Internet of Things.
“The need for 5G might seem more urgent than ever, not just for the faster speed of communication but because of the promise of low latency connectivity and ability to enable large numbers of objects to communicate simultaneously,” the report says. “Though neither are available yet, these capabilities can enhance productivity in industry, healthcare and transportation, and may aid the recovery from the pandemic and any subsequent financial downturn. But a significant delay appears inevitable.”
The report doesn’t go into much detail on what a significant delay might look like, but it suggests if the lockdown continues into autumn, and disruption to roll-out continues, that the money earmarked for 5G may need to be channeled into other areas.
“If the further roll-out of 5G is postponed until the latter half of 2021 the telecoms industry will need to make some tough, pragmatic decisions,” the report says. “Operators may need to consider reallocating some of the money earmarked for 5G to other areas in the interim.”
And with retail stores still closed, and uncertainty over the duration of the lockdown, the report also states that some networks are “reporting minimal new customer acquisitions”, which has thankfully been eased by a lack of churn. However, there is still a threat, with the report claiming that once the lockdown eases, churn may spike, as customers look to save money on their mobile bills.
“The focus of most transformation programs has been shifted to business continuity activities,” the report outlines. “Meanwhile, network field operations have been restricted to essential repairs only – the limitations of social distancing coupled with self-isolation and the risk of infection are putting enormous pressure on engineering workforces.”
To access the full ‘Covid-19: where next for telecoms?’ report, click here.
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