COVID-19 impacts on network development priorities (chart)

Source: STL Partners, based on a survey of 202 respondents (including operators, vendors and telco experts) between 21st April and 8th May 2020

Research by STL Partners indicates that telecoms industry respondents believe COVID-19 would positively impact the priority given to network development in the near term, with the possible exception of 5G. Increased emphasis on network resilience, fibre and core, trunk and backhaul upgrades can be explained by the need to ensure that people remain connected while they adopt more socially isolated patterns of behaviour.

The outlook for 5G may not be as negative as it seems at first glance: respondent opinions on 5G development trends were already divided, the survey results may reflect that these views have become more polarized. In the markets that were originally keenest on 5G (notably the US, China and Korea) the pandemic has not introduced reasons to change track (political and competitive incentives are strong and the markets are large and wealthy enough to continue with 5G plans, despite any logistical and operational problems from COVID-19). In Europe, on the other hand, the market is more fragmented than in the afore-mentioned markets and operators have adopted a more cautious outlook regarding 5G returns on investment (COVID-19 is likely to amplify the cautious voices in the near-term). In lower income economies, 5G is not a consumer priority.

The anticipated focus on core, trunk and backhaul upgrades will also be positive for 5G developments in the long run as this will increase market readiness.

See our research on COVID-19 and 5G readiness: