Bernie Marolia, Sector Director of Enterprise, SSE Enterprise Telecoms, comments on the need for first-class networks to cater for the sudden increased digital consumption rates.
COVID-19 has impacted our professional lives more so than any event in recent memory. A by-product of this is that we are now spending more time than ever before at home, consuming an increasing amount of online and TV content. The current circumstances might seem like an opportunity for media companies – ranging from broadcasters, to digital delivery, to gaming and podcast companies – but unless they have the right networks in place to adapt quickly, they will be unable to cater for the increased user demands.
The impact of increased consumption
With the UK lockdown enforced on the 23rd March, and restrictions still in place today, people have had to adapt to a new digital reality. Nearly all aspects of our lives, from working, to grocery shopping and social activities, are now performed online. Entertainment is no different.
Audiences in virtually every household now consume more media and are on the lookout for new, engaging and tailored entertainment. In fact, on-demand video providers have experienced a surge in subscriptions since the lockdown began. But the sudden and continuously high levels of consumption of online content can cause multi-faceted implications for the media.
Already voluminous, the amount of data media companies deal with now is ever-expanding, with high-quality content being streamed on multiple devices simultaneously. Indeed, government concerns around the immense pressure streaming usage puts on networks is growing. A good example of this is the European Union authorities who have had to request entertainment giants including Netflix and Amazon Prime to reduce streaming quality in Europe, as their high-definition content could lead to severe connectivity issues.
Another pressing issue for media providers is changing user behaviour. We know that people are sophisticated consumers of media across devices. For media companies this means high bandwidth requirements that may change quickly in line with connectivity solutions that can cater to nation-wide audiences. Furthermore, staying at home is synonymous with a vast increase in media consumption with more people willing to subscribe and pay for services with viewers expecting a first-rate experience from the media companies they use.
Bearing in mind these challenges, ensuring greater capacity and reliability of the services media companies offer is vital.
Outperforming the future
Current issues media organisations are facing can be boiled down to how robust, future-ready and reliable their connectivity solutions are. Networks need to be able to support high-volume applications immediately – from high-quality video streaming and HD mobile gaming to virtual learning. For instance, streaming quality depends heavily on low latency capabilities, particularly as the era of 4k and even 8k gaming sets in. A high-capacity network is vital for media organisations that have to flex to cope with significant data and device demands.
For IT leaders within the media industry, this all comes down to reliable infrastructure. If they have the underlying connectivity in place, they will be able to support increasing user demand. Without that, it’s almost inevitable that they, and their organisations, will struggle with the increased engagement.
Developments such as SD-WAN can support IT teams, helping them to spot opportunities to enhance speed and flexibility. However, it is the swift adoption of 5G that promises to bring a massive change to media companies as well as their customers. Although still in its infancy, where it is operational, 5G is indicative of what the future will look like in terms of real-time, high-capacity connectivity. 5G will see connectivity challenges like video buffering and unstable internet connections become a distant memory. Furthermore, high-speed pervasive networks will make it possible to apply more advanced and future technologies to traditional media experience such as augmented and virtual reality.
The media industry’s need for fast and dependable connectivity means that there’s a gap for telecoms to bridge. It’s a great opportunity to grow and support the media, whether it’s by developing new networks or by utilising already existing infrastructure. And if leaders can procure fibre connectivity that’s of sufficient calibre, they’ll be able to do all their organisation asks of them today. What’s more, they’ll be able to provide the bedrock for further innovation and development that will ensure they thrive in the future.
Media is inherently fast-paced and forward-thinking. The current crisis has shed light on how essential dependable networks are in delivering best-in-class user experience for digital audiences.
Media has always been inextricably linked to technological development, from the earliest written tablets to the first phonograph to the successive eras of radio, cinema, television, on demand streaming and podcasts. It therefore makes sense that media will be one of the key industries to be influenced by the rise of next-generation connectivity.