From the coronavirus to geopolitics, the global supply chain is facing more external challenges today than ever before, especially when it comes to the semiconductor sector

So far, 2020 has been a tumultuous year for the global supply chain of the telecoms industry. From the intense disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak to international strain caused by geopolitical conflict, the supply chain faces challenges like never before.

In Total Telecom’s latest webinar, entitled How can we ensure the resilience of the global network supply chain, a varied panel discusses the many nuances of these latest challenges and how to overcome them.

Key to responding to these challenges is to recognise that the network supply chain is inherently a global marketplace, with buyers and suppliers from all over the world interacting dynamically.

“COVID-19 in the last three months has achieved far more for digitalisation than any digital initiative the industry tried before,” explained moderator Dimitris Mavrakis, Research Director at ABI Research. “That rapid digitalisation has really driven the argument for a global supply chain in any industry, not just telecoms.”

At the core of this global marketplace is the flexibility offered by a diverse supply chain. Competition on an international scale drives constant innovation, with standardisation playing a crucial role in creating a level playing field.

“it was very important for us to have a very flexible supply chain; once you have a standardised product, services, and technology, you have much greater choice in who to partner with,” explained Luis Alverinho, CTIO at Altice Portugal. “Standardisation has played a very important role in keeping the global supply chain diverse.”

This is especially important when it comes to responding to geopolitical challenges, noted Adrian Scrase, CTO of standards body ETSI.

“COVID-19 is something nobody had ever seen before, but geopolitics is nothing new,” he said. “It is imperative that we do not allow geopolitics to affect the standards creation process. It is our duty to make sure that that platform remains open, fair and applicable to all players.”

Mavrakis highlighted how the current level of political interference was something rarely experienced by the telecoms industry, which is used to progressing linearly, noting that the health of the supply chain was everyone’s responsibility within the industry. Prof Sally Eaves, Forbes Technology, CTO & Emergent Technology Strategic Advisor, agreed, noting that a lack of trust would not only drive up costs for operators but increase delays in projects such as 5G.

“We need to build a model of trust that can work,” explained Prof Eaves. “Open dialogue is absolutely key. The semiconductor industry has been a catalyst for so much innovation; if that part of the industry faces disruption, then it will affect so many different areas, and cost will be one of the impacts, as well as slowing innovation.”

The full discussion is available to view on demand below: