The fibre boom – and what it means for home and business users
The plethora or fibre – and fibre service providers – flooding urban areas, offering fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-business (FTTB) services has rapidly changed the way internet services are delivered to customers. Thanks to the open access nature of most fibre networks, the connectivity market has expanded exponentially over a relatively short period of time. This has paved the way for more competition, better pricing models, less lock-in contracts and the delivery of a greater number of internet enabled services than ever before.
For service providers, offering fibre provides real market pull. Pre-determining interest and, therefore, investment opportunities is relatively easy to accomplish in a market where there is a constant demand for faster speeds and more data. But what about customers? What are the benefits for them, and is fibre really that much better than ADSL?
The demand for more
More speed. More capacity. More, more, more. The advent of internet TV, the growing mobile workforce and the realised value of data are all big drivers behind the need for faster, better networks.
Video and music streaming has taken the home user market by storm, fast becoming preferable to traditional TV or radio services. Even gaming is driven by connectivity, today.
Home users are fast realising that mobile data and ADSL lines simply aren’t cutting it when it comes to the speeds and quantities of data required to access services such as Showmax or Netflix. ADSL typically has decent download speeds, making it suitable enough for streaming services, but the upload speeds of ADSL leave much to be desired.
People who work from home and have a need to access their office network remotely are finding that the upload speeds for ADSL are no match for those of fibre. The advent of the smart home is further highlighting the need for more reliable services – which fibre provides.
For businesses, being connected is no longer a want – it’s a need. Businesses cannot operate without speedy and stable connectivity. Many companies have their own interbranch networks and rely upon connectivity to communicate and exchange information, not only amongst themselves, but also with their customers. Telephony, video streaming, IP cameras and centralised systems all need stable and fast connectivity in order to function efficiently and effectively.
Fibre versus ADSL and mobile data
Over and above the slower upload speeds of ADSL, it also has the disadvantage of service deterioration the further the customer is from the Point of Presence (PoP). Add to this the often old, outdated, poorly insulated and poorly maintained copper networks, and the service ADSL offers is fast becoming unsuitable for most home users, let alone businesses.
Mobile networks still offer great convenience, particularly for people who work on the go and don’t rely on a fixed network. However, mobile networks in urban areas are often congested, with too many users clogging the network and reducing the overall quality and speed of the connectivity. As there are not enough frequencies available in South Africa to accommodate the vast number of users, mobile data networks are often over accessed, which reduces them to best effort services.
Fibre offers much lower latencies and faster speeds than either ADSL or mobile networks. This is great for home users, but critical for businesses. If an organisation wants to run real-time applications such as IP telephony networks or video conferencing, quality of service (QoS) is of utmost importance. Businesses running private cloud services such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems need a reliable and fast network to do so.
Fibre provides the speeds – upload and download – and stability that ADSL and mobile networks are not able to. And all of the choice.
Too much choice?
Due to the open access nature of Fibre networks, customers are faced with an often confusing array of choices as to services and service providers available. However, this is not bad news at all.
ADSL services were offered by many service providers as well, however the copper infrastructure was controlled by the incumbent telecommunications company, and pricing was not very competitive as a result. There are only four mobile network operators, so pricing models for mobile data are also relatively static.
Fibre typically offers users a choice of 6 – 10 service providers, each offering different benefits, services and pricing models. Because of the increase in competition, fibre pricing is quickly becoming cheaper than ADSL, which only adds to its attraction.
Another benefit of choice is that many service providers, incentivised by the competitive nature of open access fibre, are honing their customer service skills and offering much more contract flexibility than ever before. The service may not be fixed, but the fibre is, so changing a service provider is much easier than it is with a mobile or ADSL service. If a customer is unhappy with a service provider, they can often make the change to another service provider quite easily.
The case for fibre, made
With Fibre, you only need the platform in order to access a range of services, at competitive prices, and with superior speeds and quality. Most fibre contracts are bundled in with ISP services, too, so there is little need for multiple service providers and a simpler interaction model is enabled.
Businesses are able to extend their corporate environments into their employees’ homes, as more and more people choose to work from home. So, not only does the business enjoy fast and stable connectivity, but they can reduce their overheads and office footprint by mobilising their workforce.
Fibre enables the delivery – and development – of new services and products from service providers too, which brings a range of new opportunities to all users, and encourages a fast growing, more connected world than ever before.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”