Research into the changing habits of 2,000 UK consumers by consulting and IT services specialist NTT DATA UK shows that the Covid-19 lockdown has put connectivity front of mind for the UK population, leading to a surge in demand for better telecommunications infrastructure post-lockdown.
During lockdown, consumers have relied on connectivity for work, entertainment and to keep in touch with friends and relatives. However, this has increased pressure on fixed lined and mobile infrastructure. This period has raised expectations of fast Internet, with two-thirds (67 per cent) of consumers now having the expectation of fast broadband and a good mobile phone signal going forwards. The research found that there is an opportunity for the government and telco providers to meet these new expectations, as 49 per cent of UK consumers reported broadband issues and 31 per cent of consumers struggled to have reliable mobile phone signal.
Most concerning is the increasing digital divide during lockdown. A third (33 per cent) of UK consumers feel ‘left behind’ during lockdown because they believe their Internet connection isn’t good enough. This sentiment is particularly prevalent amongst younger groups, reported at 51 per cent amongst Gen Zs (16-24 year-olds) and 48 per cent of Millennials (25-34 year-olds).
“This research shows how important reliable connectivity has been during lockdown – whether via mobile or broadband,” noted Roei Haberman, Head of Telco, Media and Technology at NTT DATA UK. “Technology holds communities together, allows businesses to keep running and means individuals are able to stay in touch with those they love.”
“Looking ahead, lots of telecommunications providers are working hard to meet this clear desire from consumers for a more connected future. We are already seeing the big players invest in upgrading communications infrastructure and improving access to technology across the United Kingdom. Innovation will be the main priority for the industry moving forwards, with new frontiers being explored, such as the use of artificial intelligence for network capacity planning. It’s innovations like this which will keep operators responsive and ahead of future network challenges.”
Consumer needs from broadband providers have also shifted as the nation looks at the possibility of remote working in the longer term. Since lockdown, 57 per cent of UK consumers expect the infrastructure to work from home if needed. This ‘stay at home’ ethos requires a wide array of technology:
Age has a significant influence on the results. Respondents aged 44 and under were significantly more likely to be reliant on smartphones and video chat apps (52 per cent and 63 per cent respectively), compared to their older counterparts aged over 44 (35 per cent and 33 per cent).
“Digital now supports all aspects of our lives. The surge in demand for high-bandwidth activities during lockdown looks set to continue in the transition back to a new normality. Telco companies need the resources in place so their networks can cope with this sustained level of demand on infrastructure moving forwards and maintain customer loyalty during this challenging time. This should sit alongside an even more rigorous focus on keeping communications and critical infrastructure reliable and secure for businesses and individuals alike,” concluded Haberman.