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How will Covid-19 affect the Irish Telecoms sector? By Bob Hoffman

Covid-19 and Irish Telecoms Industry

In summary, this terrible Pandemic will have a very positive effect on the Irish Telecoms sector in the short to medium term.

One thing that 2020 will teach us in Ireland is that the Healthcare and Telecom/ICT sectors are vital industries for the security and well-being of us as a nation.

Although we are a long way from emerging out of the Pandemic, even at this stage, there would seem to be many lessons to be learnt and trends and predictions to make.

Let’s be clear before we start as to the difference between Telecoms and the ICT industry. There are none! The I, C and T in the term Information & Communications Technology has effectively blurred over time to the point that Telecoms and the ICT industries are effectively one and the same. To prove the point Paul Rellis, CEO of Viatel once said to me that he was moving Viatel from a traditional connectivity company (i.e. A to B) to a cloud player and then ultimately to a software company through the adoption of Software Defined i.e. SD-LAN, SD-WAN, SD-Storage and SD-Security.

The Irish Telecoms industry was going through a very positive couple of years before this terrible Pandemic hit our shores. One prediction is that with the rollout of the National Broadband Plan and the increased visibility and acknowledgement of the importance of Telecoms, I think our industry has a golden future going forward. In particular, already people are calling that the completion of the National Broadband Plan would be accelerated from 7 to 5 years. I wonder will the government implement legislation to safeguard the countries national interest regards Telecoms, now that we see how vital it is to the country in normal times and especially during a crisis. Would the government get involved in the Telecoms industry? With an investment into a public Telecom operator, perhaps ESB Telecom, to build and own the State’s own infrastructure such as satellites or submarine cables?

Another prediction I will make is that cyber security is going to increasingly become a boom sector. We recently recruited a Chief Information Security Officer and it was quite sobering talking to the candidates. The general message is it is not ‘if’ your company will be attacked by cyber criminals, it is when! Talking to Dave O’Farrell of Synoptic, he explained about the new concept of networks putting a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) safeguarding wall at the core network instead of relying on business customers to put it in at their premises. This is a great idea and I can’t see why all Telecom operators would not offer DDOS at the core in their networks.

A continuation of the theme of cyber security is disaster recovery and business continuity which will also be a boom sector going forward as companies realise that it is vitally important they can rely on this.

The retail sector has been aware of the threat of digitalisation for a number of years now but Corvid-19 has surely shown every retailer, no matter how small, that they need to have some level of online presence. It is no surprise to me that the Irish company Pointy was bought by Google only a few months ago. Pointy offered small retailers a gadget that effectually was point and click to get their stock online. A very timely investment on behalf of Google.

And finally, of course the prediction to do with the end user in the residential market is that people are now aware of the difference between their broadband speed and their bandwidth. Whether you can download a movie in two minutes or three minutes is not the point. The idea is the bandwidth will be significant enough that five or six members of a family would all be online at the same time. Whether you are on 20MB or 250MB, a website usually responds about the same.

In summary, although the Irish economy has hit a granite wall and consumer spending will be down in general for the rest of 2020, online and thus the Telecoms industry has seen a surge in usage and spending. It is a great time to work in the Irish Telecoms industry.