A10 Networks conducted research to understand how COVID-19 has impacted communication service providers. The study analysed the challenges and issues that senior IT professionals in communication service providers are facing, and how they are adapting to a post-pandemic world.
The switch to remote working and continued lockdowns across countries and regions saw almost all of the 1,200+ respondents experience an increase in demand for data and network bandwidth from their customers and subscribers. Communication service providers with gaming customers witnessed the highest increase in demand, followed by government sector respondents and then ecommerce and retail.
This increase in demand has affected communication service providers in several ways. More than half stated that they had to scale up infrastructure across their entire network; half again had to scale up in specific high demand locations; and just under half invested more heavily in security technologies.
The rapid surge in demand meant that communication service providers had to quickly expand their capabilities. As organisations moved to a remote set up, the attack surface has also expanded and intensified. This meant that respondents had to invest heavily in security technologies to protect their networks. Likewise, demand has come from multiple different locations. Previously customers/subscribers were more likely to be in offices together. Now, workforces are geographically dispersed, creating broader and heavier spikes in multiple locations.
When asked whether COVID-19 had accelerated network transition to a more distributed network (edge) and how much of the total network traffic has this impacted, respondents serving the healthcare and utilities sector witnessed above average acceleration: 66% and 67% respectively, in the ‘by over 25-50%’ category.
Providers serving the healthcare sector were most likely to be investing in security. However, communication service providers with customers in the government and education sectors were pausing investment plans.
In terms of how this has changed relationships with customers, over half of communication service providers have seen an increase in demand for online platforms such as customer service portals from their customers. Half of respondents claimed that customers are more concerned about business continuity and resilience than before the pandemic, and 44% said that customers have increased their expectations around security from network service providers.
In terms of the security challenges enterprise customers/subscribers are facing, the education (62%) and healthcare (61%) sector respondents were more likely than other sectors to say that their customers need to revise their employee cybersecurity training programmes. The financial services sector ranked highest in terms of ensuring that BYOD policies were more robust. Additionally, when asked about the highest priority security investments for 2021-2022, ecommerce and retail were the most focused on the upgrading of firewalls and other security appliances.
Altogether, the impact of COVID-19 on communication service providers has been enormous. Although there have been variations across different vertical sectors, there is a general recognition that resilience and security must be priorities as businesses adjust to a future of hybrid work environments.