Reflections on 2020 and What to Expect in 2021

The worldwide pandemic of 2020 threw a major curveball at our way of life, work, and relationships. It has also influenced and will continue to have an effect on how we plan, design, build, and manage communications networks. Looking back at 2020, here are a few lessons learned we’d like to share with you and reflect on.

Continued Focus on Digital Divide

The pandemic of 2020 has forced everyone to face the digital divide. With the shift to telecommuting, telehealth, and distance learning, millions of Americans—particularly in rural areas—found themselves at a great digital disadvantage. Many network operators and service providers stepped up by taking the pledge, even to their own detriment. Federal and local government agencies opened up more funding and introduced more players to the market (e.g., wireless and satellite companies). But there is still a lot of work to do in 2021 and beyond: building and upgrading networks, collecting and reporting better data, and revisiting the definition of broadband, among others. 

Keeping Legacy Structures Viable

In 2020 the communication infrastructure was in the spotlight. There were fears that the pandemic would break the Internet. As we know, it didn’t. Yet very few network operators can claim their infrastructure was prepared for such a skyrocket in demand for broadband. The majority had to take a hard look at their network infrastructure and assets. Therefore, the focus in 2021 and beyond will be on getting the most out of legacy systems while continuing to upgrade and expand. As a result, CAPEX is expected to increase (we’ll talk more about optimizing your CAPEX in our next article).

An Industry Flex

The pandemic of 2020 and the push for 5G have really put a strain on the whole network lifecycle—from planning to managing. How do we increase our network capacity to meet growing demand? How do we execute on the projects and ensure the safety of our employees and customers? Which technology should we invest in to ensure our growth and satisfy our customers? Because no one had time to think about how best to resolve these issues as they arose, solutions were ad hoc, on the fly, and often not sustainable. In 2021, the focus will be on rethinking and adjusting to new ways of planning, building, and operating communications networks. Continued conversations with our peers will enable us to take what we have learned and get ready to grow our industry from here. 

Moving Forward

Going into 2021, companies are figuring out what needs to be done. There will be a lot of work: more building, smarter hiring, and passing on knowledge we’ve gained to do it better next time. An unintended consequence of the push to build has disrupted the material supply chain. Most of you know that the supply chain was stretched as it was. Now, you need to be planning and ordering materials even further in advance. In addition, as in the past year, we will continue hearing about 5G, digital transformation, automation, AI, and so on.

2020 was a year of disruption for many industries. That’s not a bad thing. 2021 will be a year of renewal and technological advancements. We look forward to being a part of it.

For help managing your network better, contact one of our experts today

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