View: Role of India's telecom sector in mitigating the pandemic

Chief information officers (CIOs) now have the onerous task of planning a 100% business continuity plan (BCP) integrated into all aspects of systems, processes and operations within affordable IT budgets.

By Abhijit Kishore

The most effective way of emerging victorious against the battle with Covid-19 is by social distancing, and staying home to avoid any physical interaction. While this is the best way to keep people safe, businesses have been devastated with plants and offices shut down. Even industries recognised as essential services are not working at full capacity.

In this scenario – and with Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the extension of national lockdown till May 3 -- telecommunication has emerged as a lifeline. The world is reliant on it to keep banks, utilities, ecommerce and other indispensable public services running. So far, organisations have been planning business continuity scenarios for limited outages, e.g. internet leased lines (ILL) and multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) connectivity.


Chief information officers (CIOs) now have the onerous task of planning a 100% business continuity plan (BCP) integrated into all aspects of systems, processes and operations within affordable IT budgets. Software, applications and IT policies will now need to be designed and enabled for secure access over different connectivity media, offering varying performance levels of throughputs and latency. Telcos will witness shifts in data hotspots locations, peak traffic times and consumption patterns. Upstream traffic will surge as people use video conferencing and other solutions to collaborate.

Future expectations of services will undergo a paradigm shift as work, and personal life boundaries and locations merge. Each industry sector will have to look at their business life-cycle in the ‘new normal’ and adapt, fast. Solutions for moving from face-to-face selling, on-boarding and servicing, to digital and remote collaboration tools and documentation will require the complete re-training of value chain.

A framework to digitally enable and empower these businesses during this critical time needs to be set up.
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*Customer first: Customer demands are shifting rapidly in this crisis environment. Security and flexibility are the top drivers of network requirements, along with bandwidth and volume. There is a surge in the demand of workforce management and collaboration tools. Better mobile data plans, competitive prices on audio conferencing services, pay-as-you-go model on collaboration products are on offer.

*Agile processing: Speed in execution is the key. Processes have been redefined and reprioritised, and customers encouraged to adopt digital self-care tools that require no manual intervention.

*Maintaining quality service: In such a crisis, telcos have to assure customers that they will continue to be serviced in the best possible manner, with a robust BCP communicated across various platforms.

*Empowering businesses: Telcos should ensure that all businesses, small or large, stay connected securely, everywhere, and at all times. Secure and seamless connectivity services allow employees of large and global corporates, and public sector customers to virtually connect with people across the world. To digitally empower small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), collaborative products with features enterprise grade email, high-definition video conferencing, cloud-based storage on a pay-per-use model are also being provided.
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*Working for the greater good: People need to stay informed during this extended lockdown period. Hence, the need to focus on improving the dissemination of critical and correct information about lockdown measures, precautions to be taken, and availability of essential services via every digital medium.

As proven by the unexpected impact of Covid-19 on the economy and businesses, companies have understood the need to prepare a BCP that is dynamic and helps them to operate as far as possible as they would have under ‘normal circumstances’. To succeed in the coming years, businesses will have to equip themselves with digital-first and proactive approaches.
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While as a nation, we are doing our bit to rid ourselves of this pandemic by social distancing and maintaining lockdown, India’s telecom sector needs to work -- and is working -- round-the-clock to ensure that it helps the country to get back to business by having employees, customers, partners and other stakeholders of businesses stay securely connected through telecom services.

(The writer is director, Vodafone Idea Business Services)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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