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How should the regional telecom industry navigate the Covid-19 reality

How should the regional telecom industry navigate the Covid-19 reality

Telecommunication companies are an essential part of the overall pandemic solution, and all should reaffirm their unique position to help people during this crisis

The Covid-19 outbreak has shaken global communities on an unprecedented level.

And due to its unpredictable nature, the situation continues to evolve at an astonishing pace. All industries have been impacted; every company is facing financial stress and operational continuity challenges.

The telecommunications sector is no different, and organisations in the Middle East must understand the broad implications of the crisis and determine the pragmatic next steps they will take in response.

Now more than ever, it is time for telecommunications companies to embrace the critical role they play in society. Short-term supply-side and operational risks need to be addressed, and organisations must also uphold their commitment to serve respective populations and keep their people out of harm’s way.

At its core, there are implications on four dimensions:

· Demand: we are witnessing reduced customer demand, especially for devices and roaming, and liquidity and payment challenges are inevitable, particularly on the part of some B2B customers.

· Supply and installation: disruption to supply chains and the collapse of retail channels have been detrimental to device sales and deliveries. The same can be said for roll-out and installation capacities due to the network equipment supply being hindered and lack of ability to deploy due to reduced capacities and access to premises.

· Operations: the pressure of fault resolution and network stability will become more significant. Besides network demand increasing, effective service and maintenance operations are at risk because of potential staff shortages, limited access to sites, and possible constraints on critical equipment components.

· Business foundations: there are definite risks concerning productivity and the health and well-being of employees, as well as a looming threat of cash flow pressure caused by delayed demand and inability to pay B2B customers.

Telecommunication companies must act now to mitigate the implications associated with these vital areas – with fast, decisive actions to emerge stronger from the crisis.

For starters, accommodating both B2C and B2B customer needs is essential, as is addressing higher connectivity needs, ensuring stable online and inbound channels, diverting retail and incoming traffic, investing in resources to identify capacity shortages, and implementing upgrades wherever possible.

At the same time, employees must also be protected, with measures taken to ensure their health and well-being: create modular teams, encourage and enable remote working, promote workplace hygiene, support and monitor their health, communicate with transparency and empathy.

Another immediate priority should also be ensuring supply chain stability: inventory levels must be monitored and adjusted in real-time to mitigate critical supply chain ruptures, while essential suppliers and partners also need to remain stable.

Moreover, Covid-19 operations must be resilient, ensuring continuity in NOCs and call centres, establishing strict and alternating shift schedules, creating physical barriers and separating team locations, exploring redeploying underutilized roll-out teams to fault resolution operations.

Beyond these immediate actions, companies should prepare for rebound and get business back on track as quickly as possible. Monitoring channels to detect recovery of the market by proactively developing and iterating scenarios through analyses of points of scale and service action would be prudent, as would preparing for the comeback – catching retail demand by building virtual stores and devising related marketing strategies.

Creating transparency, prioritising across order back-log and halted operations, and planning resources to ensure fast procurement and delivery across channels for when the outbreak recedes should also form part of all telecommunication companies’ strategies.

In the aftermath of the ongoing difficulties, making operations more crisis-proof, continuing to care for employees, planning financially, and robust communications will all be necessities.

Telecommunication companies are an essential part of the overall pandemic solution, and all should reaffirm their unique position to help people during this crisis.

Without them, the public social distancing we are seeing would be far more difficult as they enable all of us to work and learn remotely and remain connected.

David Panhans is the managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group

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