The world produces more food then it consumes, and France has ordered that big supermarket chains donate unsold food or face a fine. This had a beneficial consequence in fighting hunger, yet it also boosted the supermarket’s image as well!
The world also has more communication capacity than it uses.
Consider that South Africa has a massive embedded, co-located urban poverty which we call informal settlements. It is, for instance, possible with appropriate technology to leverage existing citywide access and provide connectivity to these underdeveloped informal settlements using LTE technology.
This access may be limited to evenings or to provide education to our unconnected citizens which will, in turn, create employment.
Employed people will purchase data bundles. In this scenario, the provision of access as a human right is an investment into a future paying client.
But what about the rural divide?
This action is also necessary for the sector to regain market credibility, given the reports on excessive data cost have fortified a trust deficit between the consumer and communication providers.
Providing access to people is an investment in an ISPs future, not a grudge expense. If Google wants to connect more than a billion un-serviced people to the Internet through blimps, should we not creatively connect our informal settlements?
COVID-19 has rendered physical and social distancing obligatory while transforming us into stay-at-home serial video conference attendees, the term we use for gig economy employees.
Our communication technology must therefore take credit for arguably saving tens of millions of lives through reduced physical contact.
ISPs connections have crucially kept the economy alive while maintaining the sanity of our marooned citizens. Of course, the demand for continuous, high-quality lines have shifted to residential areas.
The number, size, shape, and offerings of ISPs will steadily evolve – and we already have ISPs offering e-learning, shared services, financial services, and so on. As easy and welcome as new opportunities arrive, so do they disappear.
Provide premium connectivity and add-on services, or die
Consider the CD/DVD which spelt the death of the vinyl, but not the recording industry. ISPs will not survive in the long term if they do not provide add-on services such as consulting or electronic publishing.
The previous supply-buyer communication channel silo has been usurped as potential and existing consumers talk and compare notes with each other about their respective suppliers before, during and after purchases.
They rant on social media over indifference and appreciably rave over excellent service. One cannot hide mediocre service or poor line quality.
Customers are more discerning, demanding more than just a connection into their homes. Customers are becoming intelligent buyers of ISP services.
The previous allure of low-cost 24-month contracts has diminished as clients increasingly prioritise a provider’s performance. Gaming, video chats, video conferencing, and smart/connected homes demand continual, consistent line quality.
The COVID-era ISP may be in a transition, but communication will always remain. While the shift from copper to fibre may be arduous, it is now dramatically fueled by unrelenting demand.
The consumer is more discerning and is learning the language of latency, ping, and jitter as they understand calories, carb content, and fat levels in food.
No matter how small or big of an ISP business you have, don’t compromise on customer services and line quality.
Smart partnering and strategic co-creation now mandatory
The customer remains the queen or king. When will ISPs evolve to accept that it is the customer who dictates the rules of the game, not the ISPs?
There was a time when each telco individually laid its cable to reduce roaming traffic to benefit from the interconnect rates (ICR) profitably. Now smart partnering and strategic co-creation are mandatory.
Consider e-learning. It may well be as much about the “e” as it is about the content, but to strategically partner with a university increases the product value.
South African-based GetSmarter partnered with UCT and other universities which grew its brand. The result? GetSmarter was later purchased for over USD100m.
Consider the India training provider NIIT, with annual revenue of USD120m. As part of its social responsibility NIIT’s Chief Scientist, Professor Mitra, toyed with the notion of access to the poor through unsupervised learning and computers since 1982.
Mitra created a hole-in-the-wall on an NIIT New Delhi premise providing free access to a PC to an adjacent informal settlement. This innovative act catapulted NIIT within the realm of the e-learning industry. Virtual education remains an increasing opportunity which requires further innovation.
During the early 1990s, there were just 90 ISPs in the USA according to the Gartner Group. It ballooned to 4,000 before shrinking to 500.
This growth-bust-growth cycle is set to continue if ISPs neither innovate nor value add.
The ISP of the future
This is why the ISP, in the context of COVID-19, must reexamine its reservoir of applications and latent skills to determine what they can repurpose. The ISP of the future will have to be streetwise as well as forward-thinking.
It will have to differentiate through 4IR technologies with smart homes, smart lights and smart kitchens.
The ISP must always remember that yesterday’s innovation is tomorrows standard feature. Consider Kodak.
They had a pioneering riveting slogan “Kodak moment”, yet they ignored the digital transition.
COVID-19 Temporary Spectrum relief has however provided a welcome temporary boon to our spectrum-depraved industry, particularly as home-based folk and business rush to upgrade their respective lines.
What value-added services should ISPs be investing in now and in the post-COVID era to nurture and grow brand visibility and loyalty within the market space? ISPs have come a long way in the last few years precisely because they were proactive to the changes seen in the market.
COVID-19 has forced us apart. COVID -19 does not know we can and have reconnected through technology. Now let’s add the “e-” to ubuntu.
Tsiko Tejas technology webinar
Tsiko Tejas is hosting a technology webinar on 5 August 2020 at 11:00 where they will be discussing their new UltraFlex approach that enables service providers to architect highly flexible, scalable, and agile optical networks that can rapidly adapt to such disruptive shifts in broadband networks.