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COVID-19 Outlook on the US Telecom Industry

Recover: Insights from The Center for Technology, Media, and Telecom

Telecoms, facing surging bandwidth demand, have thus far held up—and that offers an opportunity to build customer trust in the months and years beyond the pandemic shutdown.

Positioning US industries for a stronger future

The continuing COVID-19 crisis is creating enormous uncertainty and change—and questions with no obvious answers: Which changes will persist? What will the new world look like? How will people and firms adapt? Even as US technology, media, and telecommunications companies focus on responding to the global pandemic and its immediate repercussions, they hopefully will soon need to pivot toward recovering from the crisis and setting themselves up to thrive in the next era. Sudden change can loosen old foundations, creating opportunities for greater progress. Companies should reassess what and how they sell, how they operate, and how they can forge stronger and more direct relationships with customers.

This series will frame a discussion and explore what’s changing, what strategic issues to consider, their impacts, key actions to take, and questions to ask. There are many different scenarios, and we may not have all the answers yet, but we can act with foresight to better position ourselves for a stronger and more resilient future.

COVID-19 Outlook on the US Telecom Industry

Key takeaways

Telecoms, facing surging bandwidth demand, have thus far held up—and that offers an opportunity to build customer trust in the months and years beyond the pandemic shutdown.

  • With closed stores and restricted customer mobility, service providers should look to understand usage patterns with an eye toward strengthening their value proposition.
  • The possibility of supply chain disruptions suggests that carriers should consider planning for adverse conditions to materialize.
  • Telecoms should keep up their performance under stress—and potentially use their success as a platform for future moves.

Beyond bandwidth

The COVID-19 pandemic has pressed huge sectors of the population into staying at home nearly 24/7, with a resulting explosion in remote working, telemedicine, online learning, and streaming in-home entertainment. US networks have thus far managed to cope with the unexpected skyrocketing demand for mobile and home broadband connectivity and bandwidth.

At a time when people are more dependent than ever on carriers, the focus should be on responding to employees’ and customers’ immediate needs. But service providers should keep one eye on the future—and take proper action to ensure they recover stronger in the medium term while positioning themselves for the new long-term normal. Today’s unprecedented environment presents carriers with not only challenges, but also unique opportunities to gather insights that can help them to make bold strategic decisions with greater confidence.

Recovering in the medium term

For carriers, a thoughtful recovery can expand on strategic opportunities that leaders may not have prioritized, but which may prove essential to stay connected to customers.

Thriving in a new era

The pandemic, and the accompanying shutdown of public life and commerce, can present opportunities to change the paradigm in which telecoms operate.

Telecommunication can help us heal

The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented in its impact on the normal functioning of society. Uncertainty will likely persist for some time, yet we know we will eventually recover, albeit with aspects of our lives changing permanently. And telecoms can play a real role in that recovery. In a world where social distancing may remain a norm for months or longer, network connectivity may prove to be the bedrock underpinning our society, mitigating its negative impact by allowing us to stay in touch with our communities.

Sudden change allows us to reevaluate our priorities, strengths, and weaknesses, and make change for the better. In the end, we can become better prepared and more resilient to face future challenges.

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