COVID-19: a Software Provider’s Perspective

The unexpected. The black swan. The global crisis. Take a look at the first hit on the industry, reactions, and prospection of the future of telecommunications during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. What actions we took and the plan to take on the short term.

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The times are hard. We keep trying to guess what is the best course of action, what we should be doing to help people to be safe and sound. Our industry is core to this situation. Telecommunications enable people to be in COVID-19 quarantine, to get their life through during this time. The best course of action for us is to keep going. To help TELCOS and CSPs to bring a reliable service when people need it the most.

First Response

As most technology-based companies, we switched to remote work from March 9 onwards. We managed to set this up in less than 4 hs, that same day. Almost all our workstations are laptops, but this is not always the case.

Take into consideration: 

  • VPN access, everyone should check the connection.
  • Credentials to internal systems, make sure everyone has them before leaving.
  • Hardware availability for each team member (try to make their job easier: do they have extra monitors to work from home? mouse, keyboard?)
  • Transport: can the company help them in any way to get to their homes safely?

Give a try to new remote solutions. We have some collaborative meetings that involve whiteboards; there is a lot of software out there to help with this. Cloud, multi-user software is key.

Our Customers’ Response

Shift in priorities amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Our customers’ priorities shifted from network expansion and increasing service quality, to maintain the network, and make it able to cope with the traffic peak ahead caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. You should be keeping up with that shift and help them with network and service maintenance.

Working Remotely

As with the rest of the industry, they switched to working remotely. I would like to think that every CSP is prepared for this (as it is its main business), but it’s not always the case. Things slowed down a bit on every front: follow up meetings get delayed, people have connectivity issues in their homes, internal meetings are harder to arrange, etc.

Internet is now legally essential (take one)

Most countries recategorized internet service as an essential service, either temporarily or indefinitely. The first consequence of this is: you cannot suspend services for a due debt. A lot of customers need help setting this up (as it’s a change in business logic). We try to help as fast as we can. Also, self-care applications gained a lot of importance, given the new usage profile of the network and the capacity of call centers to attend support calls being diminished.

Internet is now legally essential (take two)

As the internet is declared essential, the people indispensable to maintain the service are allowed to circulate and work during the quarantine: field technicians, NOC engineers, and other crucial people have freeways to work. Even if this sounds like an advantage, still the maintenance truck trips should be kept to a minimum, since it increases the exposure of the technicians.

Last-mile maintenance

Technicians can legally circulate in the city, but cannot enter the subscribers home. This has two consequences: in-home repairs are forbidden, and this also totally blocks new installations, at least those that require on-premises deployment. This puts Proactive Network Monitoring solutions on the spot, as remote diagnostics are needed more than ever. We expect that network growth will be on hold, at least for the duration of the quarantine period.

Network freeze

Some operators have decided to freeze any pending change on network equipment (or even datacenter) until further notice. This can cause deployments of solutions to be delayed, as the priority is to keep the service running, not adding features or improvements on top of it.

This is an entirely valid approach to ensure the network’s health and reduce the possibility of an outage, but we know that this is not viable in the long term. Equipment either needs routine maintenance, firmware upgrading, or changes in configuration to keep up with the pace. 

We expect this ban to be lifted slowly, as each operator finds out problems over time. At least on non-critical systems.

Traffic Numbers

The numbers are still being crunched, but some operators have shared some insight on how the traffic consumption profile changed during the first week of quarantine. Telecom Argentina (which, after the merger with Cablevisión, now holds the most significant user base of the entire country) shared numbers from March 21 to March 24 (first quarantine weekend), taking the peak level of the previous week (March 15 to 21) as a baseline:

What to Expect Ahead

As most people involved in technology, we tend to think that everyone uses technology as thoroughly as we do. But generally, it’s not the case. Market penetration of video calls, remote education, streaming, e-commerce, and remote work still has a lot of room to grow. This crisis is forcing most people to either get familiar with those technologies or at least lose the fear of it. Necessity is a powerful driver, but don’t expect the numbers to be at that level once the COVID-19 pandemic finishes. But undoubtedly won’t go back to the previous level.

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