When COVID-19 struck, people were looking for masks, gloves and toilet paper. But for enterprises, they were demanding data network, and lots of it – to ensure their connectivity remains strong for remote work collaboration. Telstra’s business is to connect the world to Asia, and Asia to the world; our network – including the largest subsea cable network in the Asia- Pacific region – was the very first to see these data demands. Our international network sees a dizzying amount of traffic on any given day, but the increase in data being sent back-and-forth during COVID-19 is truly massive. The demands for data have spiked significantly, seemingly overnight, by up to 50%.
The pandemic was a wakeup call for organisations and governments alike, as it unleashed the biggest experiment of digital transformation overnight. In fact, a recent study found that only 20% of Asia Pacific (APAC) organisations were fully prepared to deal with the pandemic.
In Singapore, when network went down for a day, workers experienced massive disruption to their work. Amid growing dependence on data network, the sudden absence of it brought numerous processes and workflows to a standstill. This experience has prompted companies to look at implementing a business continuity plan that ensures they’re keeping the network performance for everyone who needs it.
Looking at how the world has managed to navigate through COVID-19, technology is clearly the backbone ensuring connectivity whilst the people working on business continuity plans are the brains bringing back some degree of normalcy for our lives.
As organisations pivot to implement rapid workforce transformation, we have seen a sudden and significant spike in traffic coming from several sources. These include an uptick in use of video for work, play and education, as well as large-scale Software as a Service (SaaS) adoption from companies moving their businesses online. For instance, we also saw a huge spike in customer requests for voice capacity – a near 300% increase in some voice applications.
Companies rapidly adopting online tools such as Cisco WebEx and Microsoft Office 365 are particularly keen to ensure their connectivity stays strong. For example, WebEx traffic grew significantly and globally, and Cisco’s traffic in March alone increased by 66% compared to pre-global lockdown.
With this pandemic, keeping the world online is ever more crucial, and we needed to double down and ensure our network stays strong, connected and resilient for everybody. In Singapore where a partial lockdown was imposed, businesses of non-essential nature had to shut and employees had to work from home during the "circuit breaker" period. Whilst telecommunications was classified as an essential services, we had to apply for exemptions for the Network Operations Centre (NOC) team not once, but twice after the circuit breaker was extended by another month.
To that end, whilst our priorities were on the health and wellbeing of our team, we also needed to ensure that our teams could continue working on our network at sea as cable maintenance ships worked with port operators around Asia.
Once again, we saw the importance of having the right business continuity plan in place along with the required adaptability and speed to keep the world connected. In the face of difficult business conditions and market volatility, businesses worldwide – ourselves included – now realise the need to plan for unexpected network surges. By now, we’ve all experienced the same frustrations: The mental stress of feeling disconnected from the world and unable to communicate amidst disruption.
Network infrastructure plays a critical role in keeping businesses and people connected regardless of where we are – this is even more important in times of adversity. Being able to augment the network quickly can make a big difference to an organisation’s ability to deliver the right customer experience when there’s a strain on networking resources.
Data network demands are unlikely to drop, even as restrictions are scaled back around the world. The need for networks to manage a significant increase in traffic with minimal impact on services is going to be ever more critical for the world.
It’s important to scale the network to meet a surge in business demands. Network is the glue to keep the world online – and to bring everyone together.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Marjet Andriesse is the Managing Director in APAC and responsible for leading and driving the growth strategy and customer relationships for Telstra’s Enterprise and Wholesale business across the region. Marjet is also a leader on Telstra’s Diversity and Inclusion council, where she advocates and leads inclusion initiatives within and on behalf of the company.
She has more than 25 years’ experience spanning industries including telecommunications, logistics as well as HR Services in a variety of leadership positions. Marjet has particular expertise in driving customer experience, revenue and profitability growth, leading companies through transition as well as organizational management for technology and professional services firms across Europe and Asia. Prior to joining Telstra, Marjet served as Managing Director across Randstad’s businesses in Eastern Europe, the Netherlands and Japan. Marjet is a Dutch native and holds a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.