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Users’ network expectations change in new normal

Ciena study reveals how sustainability, connected industries and always-on connectivity are shaping the UK’s digital post-Covid landscape

Research from networking systems, services and software company Ciena has revealed that the new networked economy that will emerge post-Covid will be a substantially greener one than before, driven by a strong desire for added energy efficiency and work practices that reduce carbon footprints.

The study, conducted by Censuswide, surveyed 1,000 UK adults in April 2021 on their thoughts and opinions around internet consumption and future trends.

It found that 42% believe the future of the internet will be driven by a desire to become more energy-efficient and almost two-thirds (65%) were considering doing more activities virtually to reduce their carbon footprint, including healthcare appointments (25%), working (24%) and attending meetings or conferences (22%).

Ciena found that new technologies, including the internet of things (IoT) and 5G, have the potential to increase energy efficiency, and that Brits are ready to embrace more connected devices. IoT and smart devices are contributing to a cleaner and greener planet, and 70% of respondents see the benefits they are set to bring, with convenience and easier lifestyle, and improved efficiency among the leading reasons.

To gain better network performance and speed, 43% of the sample confirmed they were planning to upgrade their internet service in the next 24 months and 36% were willing to pay more for 5G services. In fact, 33% expected to have better access to the internet when 5G becomes widely available.

In addition, with sustainability and renewables top of mind for businesses and consumers alike, the survey noted that energy consumption was becoming an even more important consideration in the 5G era.

5G has the potential to dramatically increase data traffic, and therefore the infrastructure required to handle it, which could result in a twofold to threefold increase in energy consumption, according to a GSMA energy efficiency report.

Add to this the growing number of people using smart home systems and consumption control devices (25%), and Ciena concluded that it was easy to see how these market dynamics were placing new demands on metro and edge networks. It said there was now a clear need to evolve the network to make it more efficient and reduce energy consumption.

The survey also emphasised that as the home has now become a remote office for many, and at times a school, the reliance on the network is more crucial than ever. Almost a third (31%) of those surveyed said they would work remotely in some form after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. Ciena noted that the desire for reliable connectivity, ultra-low latency and improved speeds underscored the need for networks capable of handling the growing pressures of new applications, services and tools.

The need for constant connectivity was reflected in the survey’s findings in the way people were using the internet, with mobile phones outranking laptops (25%) and desktops (14%) as the most-used device, as cited by 44% of respondents. Respondents also stated that the most valuable part of the internet was having 24/7 access (30%), followed by the desire to stay digitally connected with friends and family (23%).

“Our experience and expectations around the network are changing,” said Jürgen Hatheier, chief technology officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Ciena. “There’s a greater desire to support a more connected, energy-efficient world, through smart devices, connected industries and new applications underpinned by high expectations for service reliability.

“Rethinking our approach to the way networks are built and managed is key to supporting the growing digital landscape. While demand and our digital lifestyle will continue to drive the future of networks, it’s critical that they become closer to users, smarter and faster to deliver an exceptional customer experience.”

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