As the remote workforce increases and those staying at home turn to streaming services for entertainment, how are Ireland’s telecoms companies coping?
Yesterday (24 March), the Irish Government announced that current social restrictions will continue until 19 April, with further measures put in place in relation to the closure of businesses and physical distancing due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
With much of the workforce now working from home, thousands of students learning and studying online, and a greater demand for streaming services while people stay indoors, increased pressure is no doubt being put on the telecoms industry.
In fact, following talks with EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, Netflix, YouTube and others have agreed to limit stream quality to ease pressure on networks during the pandemic.
In Ireland, a number of telecoms companies have said they are prepared to handle the increase in traffic throughout the crisis.
A statement from broadband provider Siro said that because each 1Gb Siro service is capable of managing 400 times the average user speeds observed on the network to date, the network can carry many multiples of the current data traffic.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Eir has said that its network is operating far below the available capacity, so the company does not foresee any disruption. “Working from home requires relatively little bandwidth relative to video services, so data levels still are far below what we saw during Storm Emma a couple of years ago, where data demands spiked by 75pc without any disruption,” they said in a statement.
BT Ireland has seen traffic on some network platforms increase by more than 50pc and it has had roughly a years’ worth of traffic growth in one month.
However, speaking to Siliconrepublic.com, BT Ireland managing director Shay Walsh said the network core is built to support the evening peak of network traffic, driven by high-bandwidth applications.
“BT has seen weekday daytime traffic increase 35 to 60pc compared with similar days on the fixed network and this is still only around half the average evening peak,” he said.
The impacts of Covid-19 on the telecoms industry
Walsh added that the current crisis is certainly going to change the ways most industries operate in the short term.
“The immediate impact of the pandemic is the need to adhere to social distancing and the introduction of flexible working practices to enable people to work from home,” he said. “The real challenge is Covid-19’s impact on people. It has dramatically changed how we live, work and play.”
Walsh said remote collaboration technologies such as digital whiteboards may form part of more workspaces in the near future, while distance schooling and remote learning is something we may see more of in the coming weeks.
“The telecoms sector and the education sector might need to look at that in the future, and it’s an area that our collective approach may change.”
In terms of the long-term view, Walsh said this crisis might accelerate a swifter adaptation of future technologies into mainstream business.
“Technologies like terabit (1,000Gb) circuits into data centres, dynamic bandwidth circuits, agile, flexible programmable networks and SD-WAN networks are all likely to be needed in the future to meet our growing telecommunications needs,” he said.
“We may see even higher demand and engagements for cloud-based data analytics and cloud-based AI/machine learning platforms.”
Walsh added that he expects the demand for unified communications and digital workplaces to increase, as well as virtualisation technologies and 5G deployments.