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How will changes to telecommunications in 2022 affect UK businesses?

The last two years have been challenging for many businesses, with the pandemic disrupting their working practices and forcing them to adapt almost overnight.

2021 saw a continued uptake of new business technologies, with the ongoing rollout of 5G equipment, increased remote and hybrid working, and the move to more cloud-based systems.

This year, we can expect to see a rise in the use in 5G, an increase in cloud-based systems, and the rollout of Wi-Fi 6.

We spoke with Oliver Rowe, CEO and founder of Fusion Communications, to find out what these developments will mean for businesses and connectivity over the next 9 months.

Research conducted by Fusion Communications found over 52% of businesses plan to adopt hybrid working long term post-pandemic. How do you believe telecommunications demands will change this year as a result?

“The role of telecommunications has already grown considerably due to many businesses adopting a ‘hybrid’ [a combination of remote and office-based] working model long-term following the pandemic.

“As a result of their new working patterns, 54% of businesses have increased their reliance on telecommunications and this demand is only set to increase.

“With the continued rollout of 5G and the unveiling of Wi-Fi 6, businesses will need to consider whether their current solutions are still suitable for their needs.”

Are you surprised that so many businesses have adopted a remote or ‘hybrid’ working model?

“I think many office-based businesses were always going to move towards hybrid and remote working eventually, but the pandemic accelerated the shift. Companies now realise permanent remote work is the future of work—pandemic or not.

“Some of the world’s biggest organisations have paved the way for this. In June 2021, Amazon stated its employees whose positions allow them to work from home could do so two days a week, and Apple now offers 100% remote work options for some of its roles, as well as a hybrid work model for others.

“For some, hybrid and remote working is a ‘no brainer’ – not only can it allow companies to reduce their overheads by removing the need for expensive office space, but it can also provide workers with the freedom to create their own schedules and work from wherever they please.”

As businesses continue to adapt their working models following the pandemic, what benefits can they expect to see from increased 5G coverage?

“5G will provide businesses with better connectivity and clearer video communications, resulting in better quality hybrid meetings and the potential for increased employee productivity as a result.

“However, 5G’s capabilities for network splicing will alter the landscape of remote and hybrid working, as it offers the ability to dedicate a piece of bandwidth for specific application.

“In essence, businesses will be able to prioritise their meeting software, meaning they won’t sacrifice quality or lose connection, no matter what else is putting stress on the network.”

According to the CCS Insight report, this year, global 5G network connections are expected to reach 1.34 billion. How will this expansion affect telecommunications technology?

“The benefits extend beyond businesses to the telecommunications sector itself. There is the opportunity for new revenue streams, specifically by supporting service providers relying on 5G, in addition to end users.

“5G will allow telecommunications companies to begin monetising their networks and adapting delivery to suit a wide range of cases.

“To achieve this, they will need to focus on maximising country coverage by focusing on 5G services that are already compatible with 4G core mobile networks, followed by expanding high-speed availability, before finally reimagining their products and revenue streams with new business opportunities.”

The popularity of IoT [Internet of Things] technology grew throughout the last two years, as businesses were forced to adapt to a new way of working. Do you believe IoT solutions will continue to benefit businesses’ connectivity throughout the remainder of 2022?

“Significant growth of IoT is expected over the next decade, with the quantity of connected devices expected to reach more than 25.4 billion in 2030.

“IoT allows workers to complete vital tasks without the need for physical presence, providing more freedom and flexibility.

“As businesses continue to adapt to hybrid working, IoT will allow them to maximise output, collect data, and analyse behaviour of employees both home and office based.”

Remote and hybrid working has increased the demand for ease of access to relevant information. What are your thoughts on the rise of multi-channel communication platforms?

“Communications are no longer limited to straightforward face to face meetings, phone, or email. Businesses are making the most of social media, instant messaging, and web portals, and multi-channel platforms allow them to integrate their means of communication into a single solution.

“For businesses, having the option for attendees to join a meeting remotely expands the meeting’s reach beyond just those who are available to attend in person.

“But whether they opt for a Bring Your Own Meeting [BYOM] solution, or a meeting room solution, it is essential that businesses choose technology that works well for them and their teams.”

How can businesses expect the recent launch of Wi-Fi 6 to change their connectivity?

“Workplace access demands have changed with the rise of hybrid working, and users no longer rely on a single workstation, likely requiring their office and workspaces, a mobile device, and potentially a smart accessory.

“Wi-Fi 6 will help businesses scale their working environments without sacrificing user performance. It offers faster connectivity speeds, improved battery life, and less bandwidth congestion.

“Businesses will benefit most from Wi-Fi 6’s MU-MIMO [multiple users, multiple input, multiple output] offering, which lets multiple users connect and access the network simultaneously, so they won’t be battling with other IoT devices for bandwidth.”

Will businesses find the transition difficult?

“Devices that support Wi-Fi 6 are becoming more common, but it’s likely that your older electronics are limited to Wi-Fi 5, or maybe even Wi-Fi 4, and won’t be able to take full advantage of a Wi-Fi 6 setup.

“Before installing a Wi-Fi 6 router, businesses should determine which of their devices are already compatible and which will need to be upgraded.

“The short answer is; don’t rush. While businesses might be keen to upgrade, forward planning will allow for a smooth transition without affecting connectivity, as well as reducing potential teething issues.”

2022 brings us one year closer to BT Openreach’s PSTN and ISDN switch off. How will businesses’ telecommunication demands change throughout the next 10 months?

“The BT Openreach PSTN [Public Switch Telephone Network] and ISDN [Integrated Services Digital Network] switch off means around 16 million lines and channels will need to be upgraded to alternative products, and thousands of businesses could be affected soon.

“With the clock ticking, businesses must work closely with their telecoms providers now to find the right solution for their operations and avoid major disruption.

“By getting a step ahead, companies can ensure all their requirements for a digital network are met and that they have plenty of time to transition to a new system and get to grips with its features.”

Fusion’s research found that half of UK businesses are unprepared for the switch off, leaving them at risk of being without telephony services. What advice do you have businesses who want to prepare and get ahead?

“The switch over to digital networks comes at a pivotal time, when the world of work is becoming more and more digitalised, and it will undoubtedly liberate communications from the confines of an office.

“However, to minimise disruption and reap the benefits, businesses must not only ensure they have a suitable alternative solution in place, but they also need to provide their employees with support and guidance to use the new system to its full potential.

“By preparing now, businesses have the opportunity to re-examine their requirements and find an optimal new solution, making it easy to collaborate anywhere.”

Lisa Baker is Group Editor for the Need to See IT Publishing Group. Lisa writes about HR, Technology, Health, the Environment and Business.
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