What’s top of mind for network operators in 2024 and beyond?

April 10, 2024
Service providers need to ensure that access to connectivity is consistent for consumers and businesses.

By Tony Thakur / Great Plains Communications 

The demand for higher bandwidth (400G bandwidth speeds (and the possibility of 800G), the next generation of cloud infrastructure and hyperscalers, mobile 5G network deployments, and more bring new challenges as network operators work to deliver services today while positioning their networks and customers for the future.

We all know that consumer demands change, at times seemingly overnight. Household connections for work, school, and entertainment now include streaming video, music and videoconferencing, online multiplayer gaming, security cameras, and maybe even virtual reality. Customers assume access to these technologies will always be available simultaneously from all over the house.

Among top business requirements is the flexibility to scale for surges in data traffic and the ability to provide reliable, fast Wi-Fi networks for employees and customers. Reliable business Wi-Fi is expected to be available if a customer wants to work at a coffee shop.

Today’s households and businesses require faster, reliable internet service with low latency. While the expectation is that severe weather shouldn’t hinder accessing internet services, quick communication and updates help mitigate a negative experience for consumers if there is an outage. Businesses need a wireless backup solution to kick in and keep them connected during weather-related outages.

How many customers have switched their broadband service provider because of a poor experience or complained on social media? Network operators value their customers’ experiences more than anything else. However, “the customer is always right," “listen to your customers,” and other expressions are meaningless if there’s no plan to safeguard and improve customer experience.

Network must-haves

Here are solutions to help your network keep up with higher bandwidth demands, improve performance, and provide a superior customer experience. 

Highest Reliability and Redundancy. A good network design and architecture has the end user in mind. For example, with ring topology implementation, the customer may not realize an outage has occurred. Redundant equipment and alternate backup routes also help minimize disruptions.

Network and Internal Security. When a company experiences a cyberattack (or disruptions) on its systems, the result can have a devastating impact on a business, including financial loss, loss of productivity due to downtime, and potential loss of customer trust. Security must be at the forefront of mind, with policies and procedures to protect networks against ransomware and other attacks. Best practices such as multi-factor identification access management can reduce overall risks. Customer-facing networks should have technology such as DDoS tools to mitigate a service attack. For example, examining real-time signatures and device management to prevent unauthorized passwords should be tracked closely. 

Network-as-a-Service (NaaS). NaaS is another exciting service model for some customers. This cloud-based networking model enables businesses subscription-based access to networking services, freeing them from maintaining their networking infrastructure. It is more of a self-service or a service-on-demand product. Companies can do this with their network or extend to multiple networks. It offers flexibility for bandwidth on demand if they don’t need traditional dedicated services.

AI: The Pros and Cons (and Hype). Some say AI is hype, and some say it’s now the real deal. The pros and cons of deploying AI or any new technology must be weighed carefully. AI can automate and simplify several processes for service providers. For example, it’s an excellent tool for monitoring services, gaining deeper visibility, and trending into network performance. AI-powered chatbots can provide a quick and personalized response to basic customer inquiries and valuable feedback on the interaction. Another interesting consideration is that running the algorithms required by AI requires more computing and storage, creating a demand for more data centers and ultimately creating more demand for connectivity and higher bandwidth.

Operations: Focus on customer experience

Over the years, customer expectations of their network providers have evolved beyond simply providing a service or product. Customers want to be ensured they are receiving the speeds that fit the needs of their homes and businesses. They are working with a responsive company that will keep them informed during an interruption or outage while striving to get them back up as soon as possible. They want to scale up quickly when needed, and they want doing business with their service provider to be easy. That means easy-to-understand notifications, an easy online ordering process, clear and straightforward billing statements, an online account system, and fast and transparent service alerts. To differentiate from the competition, providers need to ensure they simplify the entire customer lifecycle experience, end to end.

Advanced technology tools should be deployed in the network to predict, uncover, and solve a problem before it becomes an outage. When communicating with customers about network events like upgrades, maintenance, downtime, or any other service-related notifications, it's crucial to provide timely and transparent information. As for customer care, it’s more than deploying chatbots. Customer service representatives should be trained to be good communicators who genuinely enjoy working with customers, listen to their concerns and respond with the best solution for each unique customer and situation.

After all, in today’s competitive environment, serving customers and creating the best customer experience sets top network operators and their services apart.

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