This article was originally published by The Fast Mode.
“Are We Still on Mute?” – Five Predictions in 2021
2020 forced us to rethink how we build our networks and question the fundamental structure of the network to make it more modular in a vastly different way. This was an extraordinary learning period for us – from a bandwidth demand side in a three-week span we saw a full year’s growth. From a professional side, myself and most of our staff went from one day working in offices to working from home. What seemed like a temporary disturbance in our lifestyle – turned into an entire year of remote work. Seeing that everyone can perform just as well when working from home has had a big impact on the way our customers think about building the network. As we prepare for 2021 what are the opportunities and challenges that are part of the aftermath of a pandemic year?
#1: WE WILL NOT GO BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS BEFORE
In the past, the service provider market was used to looking at a steady growth pattern in demand, characterized by predictable behavior and marked by seasonal peaks and valleys. This way of thinking was thrown out the door with the pandemic and the unexpected demand that it unleashed. As we shared earlier this year, every day was like Sunday when it came to bandwidth with no downtimes. In 2020 we had to reformat our way of thinking, to cater towards ‘surprising events’ and big shifts. It boils down to the fact that the Internet must function because it is such a primary means of communication for everyone. And it is our job to maintain operations and a sufficient level of network capacity to handle unexpected hikes in traffic to safeguard global communications. As an ecosystem, it’s not enough if we just upgrade our own network, everything is interconnected.
We must continue to simplify how we structure our network domain to make it easier to modularize and scale. There have been actions in that direction, but we need to make it happen a bit quicker. Automation will also get a kick start, especially the automation of information flows and ways to access information completely differently than before.
#2: WE WILL LOOK TO THE SKY WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR SATELLITE INTERNET
We saw some progress this year but not much, but there are some exciting things on the horizon for satellite Internet. Large tech companies will continue to push forward with plans to beam Internet down to Earth from the sky, examples like SpaceX’s Starlink, or other low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites – the potential for what this may drive, or not drive, will be an interesting development in the coming years. The potential commercialization of high-speed broadband Internet to hard-to-reach locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or unavailable can be a game changer for rural and underserved communities.
#3: UNDERSTANDING CONNECTIVITY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PUBLIC INTERNET
Beyond domestic applications, the increasing reliability of the public Internet during recent years means that it is fast becoming a compelling alternative for business applications. Cloud services have been around for some time in the IT world, but by making use of the public Internet, these clouds are now much more accessible to everyone. Certain specialist applications will still require dedicated cloud access, but increasingly, the public Internet is being used as a pathway to applications and data storage in the cloud. Once again, the ubiquity of Internet access – the fact that you can connect from virtually anywhere on the Internet, is a major driving force behind this change. There will continue to be discussions about how to improve the use of the Internet – how you secure it, how you make it business-critical and how to shift workloads to the Internet? The challenge is that there is still a fair bit of suspicion of the Internet and ensuring security concerns such as the denial of service attacks (DDoS) and reducing the risk of accidental route leaks and hijacks (RPKI) that need to be worked on.
Hopefully in the next 12 months we can start to look beyond the pandemic, to better define a new work reality – What does it mean to have flexibility? What will it look like? How will offices look and provide services to employees?
#4: OPERATORS WILL LOOK TO SIMPLE, SINGLE LAYERED ARCHITECTURE
For large scale wholesale providers – the challenge will be to demonstrate that we have an abundance of capacity and ability. Historically, scaling and operating a multi-layer architecture has always been a challenge. Thanks to game-changing innovations that span across silicon, optics, and routing systems, complex layers can finally converge into a simpler and more scalable architecture
This means looking at things like standardized coherent pluggable modules, the next natural step in evolving cost structures, efficiency, and scaling capabilities. Adding support for pluggable 400G optics directly into mass-scale routing platforms allows operators to converge historically complex infrastructure into a simple, single layered architecture. The benefits will be networks that are easier to maintain, faster to adapt, and cheaper to operate – we expect communication service providers to aggressively transition existing metro and long-haul networks in the coming year.
#5: 5G INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS WILL CONTINUE
This will be a continuing topic to build out networks and deliver on the promises of 5G. There are lots of service providers needing to look at how to realize the value in a new way and offload debt and the cost of building out the necessary infrastructure to deliver 5G. The challenge from the industry is to figure out how to avoid this becoming just more bandwidth with the same price tag. Cost is an important factor for the telecom networking industry. We need more compelling use case verticals to demonstrate how we can elevate the way we do business.
In 2021, and beyond there is lots of work to be done
It has been a challenging year for all businesses. For us, it has been hard to reach out to new market segments when no one meets in person any longer. Resistance to change and getting people to make new decisions in an environment when many businesses are just trying to survive. But there is something to doing mission critical work that gets us out of bed in the morning. Many people in our organization truly believe in what we do, our ambition is to connect everyone to provide equal opportunity and access – ensuring a primary means of communication for everyone.
Ultimately, connectivity is extraordinarily important – yet there are so many markets that are still underserved, not just in developing regions in Africa and Asia, but even areas in Europe, and the US. From a global scale there is lots to be done. Things such as decoupling on the optical side, open networking like the TIP project, while we have not yet seen in full scale commercial mode, we would like to see this succeed. And perhaps in the next year, but likely closer to 2022 – we will see major cable constructions in and along the African Continent – it will be interesting to follow how this market unleashes connectivity over the next few years.
Staffan Göjeryd, CEO