The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has truly disrupted the way we work and live. Several of these changes are likely to continue even after the travel and social distancing restrictions are eased. High-speed broadband is increasingly becoming crucial to carry out our day-to-day tasks. We, at Total Telecom, attended the Target Network panel, which saw the participation from several industry experts at Huawei Better World Summit NetX 2025 and X-Tech to learn more about the network transformation of the telcos in different parts of world.  

"The requirements of our customers have changed significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The need to be connected has never been higher, but the consumption pattern has shifted. For instance, the improvement in residential connectivity for reliable high-speed services is paramount now because of remote working," says Joachim Horn, Chief Technology and Information Advisor at PLDT Philippines. 

There is a growing realization that high-speed reliable connectivity will be more relevant than ever in the post-COVID-19 world as remote working, telehealth and remote education become the new normal. 

The service providers need to leverage this disruption to build future-oriented targets networks, so they are able to meet the evolving needs of their subscribers. This is also crucial to develop innovative use cases and new revenue streams. 

The next five years are going to witness a plethora of different use cases based on new technology concepts like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT), and Industry 4.0. These demand ultra-high-speed mobile broadband networks with extremely low latency. 5G technology can help telcos in addressing the increased demand for ultra-high-speed connectivity. It enables high-speed broadband with extremely low latency, which allows several pathbreaking use cases. It promises to power the future digital world. 

There will be around 1.4 billion 5G connections by 2025, according to GSMA. By 2025, more than 75 billion devices will be used to connect devices, people, and enterprises, according to IDC. These devices will generate 79.4 zettabytes of data by 2025, with most of it coming from video and security surveillance. Clearly, the legacy networks are not equipped to meet these demands. 
So, the question is, what should be the future networks be like? The future-oriented networks are agile, flexible, and programmable. Unlike traditional networks, they are not hardware-focused. The future-ready networks are software-centric and use big data analytics to analyze the data in real-time to better address the end customers’ needs. 

AI-powered networks 
Artificial Intelligence is going to be a crucial part of the future-oriented networks. It enables telcos to use automation for simplification and better management of the networks. AI-based automation of network planning, deployment, optimization, and service provisioning will allow telcos to simplify the network operations and management. Further, AI-powered networks are intelligent and enable service providers to leverage the full potential of the networks.
"The pace of change has accelerated in the telecommunications industry. For me, automation, orchestration, capabilities which allow us to introduce services remotely and promote self-service are going to play a big role, particularly in these unprecedented times," says Cesar Zhinin, Head of Planning and Engineering, Telefonica Ecuador. 
The scale of automation will increase for telcos to be able to meet the new challenges. AI-powered automation allows telcos to implement full-process automation, covering planning and design, deployment, optimization, maintenance, and service provisioning. 
The 5G Era 
The future-oriented networks will be powered by 5G technology, which enables ultra-high-speed broadband and extremely low latency. It enhances reliability and enables several mission-critical tasks such as remote surgery, self-driving cars, and improved public safety infrastructure. 5G technology opens up vast opportunities and will impact all aspects of our life. 
“In the next five years 5G will be deeply involved in the digital transformation of various industries and there will be an explosive growth of industrial applications. The traditional networks cannot meet the differentiated requirements of different industries. In the next five years we will propose a new network organization model and promote innovation in the network planning methods,” says Gao Peng, Vice President, China Mobile Design Institute.
The communications sector requires additional capacity, efficiency and reliability in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. The 5G technology can play a crucial role in addressing these growing demands. Several telcos have accelerated their 5G deployment plan for this reason. 
A vital component of the future-oriented networks is that they will help the service providers offer new and innovative use cases, especially so for the enterprise segment. Carriers need to quicken the pace of 5G commercialization in the business-to-business (B2B) segment to open up new and exciting opportunities. 
The B2B market is key to the commercial success of 5G. It is then crucial to opt for the right industries and build capabilities to target this segment. For instance, the healthcare industry demands real-time access to patients’ records while the manufacturing sector requires automation of the factory processes to enhance productivity. 
"We need to move from providing just basic connectivity to build a robust partner ecosystem. This will play a crucial role in helping us provide relevant use cases to different business verticals for effective monetization of the technology. This is also important to provide appropriate customer care," says Sasa Lekovic, Chief Technology Officer, Telenor Serbia, and Telenor Montenegro. 
5G will be crucial for carriers to provide new-age services and products in line with their subscribers’ needs. Service providers need to provide good coverage and network infrastructure. Fiber-based backhaul will be needed to meet the growing data consumption of the people in all segments. 
The Analytics 
More so than ever, the telcos will need to focus on customer care as they move beyond offering just basic connectivity. 
“Applications like AR/VR and autonomous vehicles will have greater capacity demand on the network. Further use cases like remote education, telemedicine and other applications require a low latency network. All this means that the telcos will need to optimize and modernize the networks to address the evolving needs of the customer,” says Tang Xiong Yan, Chief Scientist, China Unicom Research Institute. 
The growing consumption of the data allows the service providers to analyze the end consumers’ behavior and accordingly offer services. Big data analytics will be a crucial component of future networks. It will enable the service providers to provide the right product at the right time to their subscribers, thus enhancing their revenue potential. 
From self-driving vehicles to remote surgery to automated factory floors, the demands from future telecom networks will be vastly different from present-day networks. The time is right for the service providers to upgrade and modernize the networks to leverage the vast potential of new technologies and innovative use cases.