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Was May all about reflecting on the experience and looking forward to life after COVID-19?

Perhaps. The global telecom industry has been the glue of planetary life in lockdown. But it has not escaped fully unscathed. The financial impact may yet arrive, although negative outcomes may be temporary and sectoral valuations continue to hold up. Depending on where you sit, some industry supply chains have remained relatively unaffected. Unsurprisingly, global bandwidth demand has continued seemingly unabated. Nevertheless, revised predictions for 2020 warned variously of slowing smartphone sales but a speeding up in private 5G and content delivery network plans.

The satellite sector, however, continues to see huge upheaval. Intelsat filed for bankruptcy (largely driven by spectrum tussles rather than COVID-19 fallout), the latest in a series of collapses. After two recent failures in the LEO space, we looked for lessons but saw optimistic signs in Telesat’s commitment to manufacturing plans.

Nevertheless, not every space startup can be saved. Some foresee a shakeout in the small launch market, but others saw a future Space 3.0 emerge from the crisis. Some questions persisted. Do we need a supportive industrial strategy to protect critical assets? How essential is some of the “essential” stuff? Will we see much more collaboration and innovation especially in military space futures?

Subsea commentators meanwhile enthused over 2Africa, a new 37,000 km-long Europe/Middle East/Africa cable, and mused on subsea futures and system dependencies. In the data center community, experts likewise mulled the overall impact of COVID-19. Some key players pondered the resiliency and reliability of networks in Asia-Pacific as we head to hyperscale.

Policy (as ever) intruded, especially in examining the regulatory response to the crisis. But we also asked if nuclear and energy legal frameworks can lead to space decommissioning initiatives. Curiously, self-driving vehicles have not appeared in a locked-down world. Experts cited more consistent regulation and even new “biosafety features” were needed to get them going.

Time for a Reboot?
So, how do we reboot Asia-Pacific economies and their global supply chains? ADB said at least 68 million jobs in Asia-Pacific may go permanently if we cannot. Fresh thinking and new directions are required. Leaders will need to envisage and reimage futures, plan new scenarios, push complete organizational reskilling, and even develop new organizational muscle, experts said.

Being online matters, everywhere. Individually, we wanted more data than ever. The World Bank said the crisis shows digital financial services are now indispensable to everyone, especially those already marginalized in remote communities. In May, we did indeed see the world’s telecom glue as vital. It might accelerate digital trends, further encouraging cloud adoption to meet high expectations.

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