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Operators should help businesses to enable remote working during the coronavirus outbreak

13 March 2020 | Research

Terry van Staden

Article | PDF (3 pages) | Large Enterprise Emerging Service Opportunities| Large Enterprise Voice and Data Connectivity| SME Strategies


"Operators should use unified communications solutions, secure connectivity and other mechanisms to help businesses to manage the growing number of employees that will work remotely as a precaution against the coronavirus."

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The new coronavirus disease COVID-19 was officially declared an international pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020. The initial outbreak prompted the cancellation or postponement of major technology shows (such as Mobile World Congress and Enterprise Connect), and many businesses have put business travel on hold and are advising employees to work from home where possible.

Businesses and their employees worldwide are assessing how best to approach the situation. Many employees will rethink how they work and businesses may have to rapidly adapt their systems to manage the surge in the number of employees working remotely. Some of these businesses will not be adequately equipped to connect a remote workforce, let alone securely. Only 40% of businesses worldwide reported having conferencing or even instant messaging applications in our 2019 ICT business survey, indicating that a large number of businesses are ill-equipped to connect a remote workforce.

Operators will need to assist their customers and help them to develop their networks and communication solutions during this crisis.

Operators have launched several initiatives to help businesses to stay connected

Ensuring that businesses and consumers remain connected during a pandemic is of paramount importance. Operators in affected areas have adjusted their tariffs and usage plans to provide more flexibility to businesses' and employees' connectivity options.

The most common initiative has been the significant increase in mobile data allowances.

Operators are offering free home fibre and mobile broadband solutions.

Operators are also offering help in other ways.

Operators are actively involved in ensuring that businesses and employees have flexible connectivity for remote working. However, operators should also ensure that businesses have the right tools.

UC and VPN providers have been quick to enhance access to their remote working tools; operators should follow their example

Operators' initiatives for helping businesses to manage the impact of the coronavirus have rarely extended beyond connectivity. Many operators are reselling solutions such as Box and Teams and have their own (generally white-labelled) UC solution. Operators should match the trend set by other providers and remove licence restrictions for business customers.

Operators should work with their channel partners to provide training to enable businesses to use UC solutions. Businesses will need webinars and online training videos for their employees so they can use UC features while working remotely.

Security will be a significant concern for businesses as more employees adopt remote working. Operators can release emergency VPN solutions and other cloud security protocols (such as those built into Office365) to help businesses to quickly secure their networks. Operators should increase bandwidth allocations on VPNs and provide IT support to ensure that these corporate networks can withstand an increase in remote traffic. SMEs may need additional support. Mobile VPN applications such as MaaS360 and MobileIron can also be rolled out to business customers.

Operators should take the lead in enabling remote working

Remote working was already an increasing trend and it will only be accelerated by the coronavirus outbreak. Operators in affected areas are improving the flexibility and availability of their connectivity solutions, but this should also extend to UC solutions.

Operators supply communication and ICT solutions to businesses (particularly SMEs) and these businesses may not have the tools or the IT expertise to enable a remote workforce. Operators will need to proactively advise businesses about the free tools that are available and ensure that they have access to training materials. Many businesses will be unsure about how to manage the need to ensure that their employees can work remotely and operators should take the lead in helping businesses to address this.

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