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Beyond Bandwidth: Zayo Leaders Predict 2024 in Tech and Telecom

Each year tech manages to surprise us. As we enter 2024, we’re truly standing on the precipice of revolutionary change. 

No doubt – 2023 was a big year for telecom. The U.S. government granted billions of dollars in funding to help close the digital divide, AI dominated discussions across industries, and network providers found new ways to engage with customers. 

But 2024!  Will this be the year AI finally replaces human cognition? Will hackers finally win? Will every student finally have access to adequate broadband? 

Zayo’s leaders have a unique view of technology and telecommunications trends. Read on for their 2024 predictions. 

1. Providers will race to supply enough capacity for bandwidth-hungry AI

Leading organizations across industries are racing to find new and innovative ways to take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) – or risk being left behind. The telecommunications industry is no different, and industry leaders are using AI today to improve the customer experience, streamline operations, and act on data

But with every organization in every industry scrambling to take full advantage of this resource-hungry technology, what does this mean for bandwidth?  

 Finance perspective – Tory Bauman, VP, FP&A: “We’re at the brink of a significant market shift. Hyperscalers in the tech industry are hungry for substantial fiber capacity to fuel AI and cloud computing. The demand for AI models is spurring data center expansions and high-capacity fiber connections, marking a pivotal moment in the telecom landscape.”

As more companies begin to leverage AI, more bandwidth and computational power will be needed to fuel innovation. AI users will continue to pressure network providers to offer the bandwidth needed to power this increasingly popular application.

2. 5G, AI, and IoT will provide the perfect connected ecosystem for real-time customer experiences

5G has been critical in powering Internet of Things (IoT) devices to date, but companies have since struggled to pull meaningful insights from the data provided by these devices. AI has the power to derive more value from IoT devices by making better sense of the vast array of data they provide.

Product perspective – Bill Long, Chief Product & Strategy Officer: “AI will be the key to monetizing 5G by unlocking the value of IoT devices in sectors like manufacturing and retail. 5G powers the IoT ecosystem, but extracting insights from these devices has been a challenge for many organizations in sorting out the signal from the noise. Through AI, service providers can drive more value through 5G and IoT in delivering the consistent, real-time data customers are demanding.

This ecosystem of technologies will be a game-changer for industries like manufacturing that rely heavily on connected devices to improve processes. 

3. Innovative companies will continue to expand to the edge

Customers today demand optimized, personalized experiences across platforms and industries. Edge networking makes a seamless, connected customer experience possible by bringing data closer to end-users, allowing companies to take control of their data, analyze it, and act upon it in real time.

Sales perspective – Derek Gillespie, Chief Sales Officer: “The telecom sector will experience a sustained rise in edge computing. Edge data centers, SD-WAN, and SASE will dominate discussions. Customers will reevaluate their strategies for core data centers, remote locations, and user configurations. We’ll see a notable shift with the growing prominence of edge capabilities and the increasing demand for managed services.”

Leading organizations will continue to use edge networking technologies like SD-WAN to create data-driven customer experiences across channels. Ultimately, companies that can provide timely, seamless experiences for customers will edge out the competition – pun intended. 

4. Telecom customers will demand always-on support and services and personalized experiences

The telecommunications industry isn’t exactly known for providing a stellar customer experience – and it has a direct impact on customer loyalty, hurting a company’s bottom line. In fact, 92% of telecom customers unhappy with their experience churned to a competitor

Customer success perspective – DJ Leckwold, SVP, Global Customer Success: “Customers now insist on support that’s available when, where, and how they need. They require unwavering network reliability and performance assurance. Their expectations include round-the-clock availability and instant support, consistent experiences, proactive issue resolution, and robust data privacy and security. Personalization is paramount, with customers seeking tailored portal access by user type, self-service options, and a stronger focus on sustainability and social responsibility.”

Those who focus on providing the best possible customer experience in 2024 with greater personalization, 24/7 support, and a variety of service options will better retain and satisfy customers than the competition. 

5. Sustainability interests will influence practices and strategies in the communications infrastructure space

With 73% of B2B buyers willing to pay more for a product from a socially responsible company, socially conscious business practices directly affect an organization’s bottom line. 

Finance perspective – Tory Bauman, VP, FP&A: “Sustainability and ESG initiatives will wield significant influence in the economic arena. Companies adopting eco-friendly practices and transparent ESG reporting will gain a strategic edge, as sustainability takes center stage. Investors understand that a company’s impact on the environment and society is intertwined with its financial performance. This shift is driving the surge in ESG-linked financial instruments, including term loans, incentivizing companies to meet sustainability goals. It’s not just a trend; it’s a fundamental shift in how we approach investments and business.”

When it comes to network infrastructure, business customers are putting pressure on providers to adopt sustainable, socially responsible practices and share progress. Zayo releases a sustainability report every year that details our commitment to ESG initiatives to keep customers informed.

6. The digital divide will begin to narrow 

Today, more than ever before, we depend on reliable bandwidth to work, learn, and play. With at least 9.3 million rural Americans lacking access to adequate broadband, the onus is on network providers to close the digital divide and spur rural economic development by bringing broadband to underserved communities. 

Network operations perspective – Nadine Heinen, VP, Global Network Operations: “Governments and organizations, like Zayo, are steadfastly investing in initiatives to bring broadband connectivity to rural areas, thereby making online access readily available to businesses, schools, and families who previously lacked access to online resources.”

Government funds earmarked for the middle-mile infrastructure needed to help close the digital divide will ensure that everyone can take advantage of the benefits of the Internet, no matter where they are. 

7. Fixed Wireless Access and Fiber to the Home (FTTH) will shake up the consumer connectivity landscape

Cable companies will face pressure from both sides of their operations in 2024. First, from FTTH providers, whose overall capacity potential far outweighs traditional cables. And second, from wireless providers – who don’t need to dig up the ground to increase their overall neighborhood footprint.

Technology perspective – Aaron Werley, VP, Technology: Fixed Wireless Access and Fiber to the Home (FTTH) are set to take center stage, with 5G hotspots increasingly replacing traditional cable connections to homes. This shift will lead to wireless carriers gaining ground on cable providers, driving a surge in demand for wireless backhaul solutions. Moreover, FTTH providers are expected to put pressure on traditional providers, leading to the growth of startups and the expansion of high-bandwidth connectivity into more markets.”

8. Data privacy and security will remain essential for the telecom industry

As the data and networking landscape becomes increasingly complex, so does the threat landscape. Customers depend on network providers to secure their networks to ensure minimum downtime – and they simply won’t settle for anything less. Both providers and customers share the burden of keeping the network secure from edge to core to cloud

Sales perspective – Derek Gillespie, Chief Sales Officer: “In 2024, data privacy and security will remain paramount in the telecom industry. Businesses will focus on fortifying their networks, controlling access, and determining the value of data behind the firewall. Zayo will continue to lead by enhancing core network capabilities and implementing robust security protocols at the edge, ensuring a dominant role in safeguarding infrastructure from potential threats.”

Customers will increasingly opt to work with network providers that care about security as much as they do. As the threat landscape evolves, having an equally vigilant network partner will be key to remaining secure. 

9. The re-industrialization of North America will drive massive network infrastructure investments 

An industrialization rebirth is occurring in the Americas – not just in our factories, but also digitally. If we think of data centers as the crossover point between the physical and digital economies, where they merge, we can see that we’ll need massive investments in the underlying digital infrastructure serving both data centers and manufacturing facilities. 

Product perspective – Bill Long, Chief Product & Strategy Officer: “The re-industrialization of the U.S. is absolutely happening, driven by strains on global supply chains, rising manufacturing costs and geopolitical tensions. The factors at play with this resurgence are uniquely American — including a strong domestic market, government support, a robust manufacturing ecosystem, a culture of innovation, and a commitment to quality — with a fusion of skilled labor and advanced technology to support a high level of automation. 

But this technology requires a new set of connectivity infrastructure to power it. Government funding — including a $45 billion budget earmarked to bridge the digital divide — reveals the inadequacy of existing network infrastructure to meet industrialization demands. Bandwidth and compute will be the raw materials of this reinvigoration of the industry but will require massive network infrastructure investment to bring it to fruition.” 

The data center capacity requirements of the past are becoming the “factory” connectivity requirements of today. A 50 Mbps connection to the Internet is no longer sufficient and 10G connection is barely table stakes. Data centers and factories need the huge bandwidth only fiber can provide.

10. 2024 will be a landmark year for connectivity innovation

Technology never sits still, and 2024 will bring innovations that will allow us to better consume the data crunched by AI. From 400G ZR to address the massive high-speed, low-latency bandwidth needs of newly distributed data centers, to multicore fiber to boost the overall capacity between data centers by using multiple cores in each fiber, to the transition to IPv6 in enterprise Internet and LAN solutions – 2024 will be an exciting year of telecom tech innovation.

Technology perspective – Aaron Werley, VP, Technology: In 2024, the communications infrastructure sector is set for a game-changing shift with the increased adoption of 400G ZR and ZR+ pluggable technology. These cost-effective solutions enable high-capacity, long-distance connections, particularly in metropolitan areas over dark fiber, further fueling demand for dark fiber services.

Another technological transformation is taking shape: multicore fiber. This innovative solution, already in use for submarine cables, is set to revolutionize connectivity by leveraging multiple cores in a single fiber.

We also anticipate a significant shift towards the increasing ubiquity of IPv6 in enterprise networks. The longstanding call for the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is finally gaining traction as concerns over IPv4 scarcity grow. We’ll see this transition not only in internet connectivity but also within LANs. IPv6 isn’t new, but its significant adoption in 2024 will make it a prominent technology in the communications landscape.”

 

In summary, as we step into 2024, the tech and telecom landscape is poised for transformative changes. Here at Zayo, we’re dedicated to giving you the networking foundation to help you confidently step into the new year and take on an ever-evolving technology and telecommunications landscape.

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