An unsteady step into the future of comms

23 Mar 2020

Image: © terovesalainen/

With almost everything moving online to quell the spread of a virus, our vision for the future of comms has been rattled by a sense of urgency.

Read all our Future Comms Week stories.

“Your internet connection is unstable.” Myself and my colleagues have been haunted by this alert on Zoom ever since our whole team went remote on Thursday, 12 March. It’s the kind of warning message that strikes fear in businesses trying to adapt to the remote working revolution no one asked for as it begs the question: is the infrastructure there for us all to work from home?

The European Union was quick to act on these concerns and, following a meeting between commissioner Thierry Breton and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, an agreement was made. Netflix would reduce the bit rate of its streams in Europe, creating a minor inconvenience for users who are particular about picture quality, but a small compromise to ensure home networks would not be throttled as many of us move to work and play from home indefinitely. YouTube and Amazon Prime Video have duly followed suit to see what they can do to alleviate any strain on networks during the pandemic, in which Europe is now the epicentre.

This is the future of comms. Much of our work, our education, our healthcare, our culture and our entertainment is now online from home. But rather than edging into it, prepared and well equipped, the future of comms has been thrust upon us. And, like every business in the midst of the global pandemic, providers are scrambling to adjust. The question now becomes: is the infrastructure there for everything to work from home?

‘Much of our work, our education, our healthcare, our culture and our entertainment is now online from home’

Since late last year, we at Silicon Republic had planned to explore the future of comms in the first quarter of 2020. At first, this was going to coincide with Mobile World Congress, which was due to be held in late February but was cancelled due to concerns around the coronavirus. This was an early sign that the world around us was rapidly changing, but we did not yet know where it was going to take us.

Since then, we’ve been putting Covid-19 mitigation at the top of our own business agenda and, like many businesses, our whole team is now working from home and unlikely to be face-to-face again for some time.

‘The future of comms takes on new meaning in a whole new unanticipated and unprecedented context’

When we first added Future Comms Week to our editorial plan, we did not anticipate that it would take place during a global pandemic when almost everything would be transmitted over networks.

Of course, businesses continue to operate online on home networks rather than office networks, but all aspects of work have come with it.

Meetings, watercooler chit-chat, interviews and more are all now remote. E-commerce is now vital as footfall to bricks-and-mortar stores becomes a risky business for all involved. Educators are figuring out how to teach and examine students from a safe distance. For the safety of everyone, GPs are quickly rolling out virtual consultations, while workouts of all kinds now come via remote instruction. Even culture is now streaming on demand, with museums and arts institutions putting their exhibitions and shows online.

And so, our foray into the future of comms takes on new meaning in a whole new unanticipated and unprecedented context. The discussions we hoped to raise around serverless business models, streaming media, remote working and doing business online are still relevant today – albeit in a more urgent context.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.