For better or for worse, communication that is to say, how we talk, who we talk to, and what we talk about—is set to change in profound ways over the next decade. The majority of us are reading this article from home quarantine due to the global pandemic that has caused in-person business communication to grind to a complete halt. 

Digital modes of communication-social media, online advertisements, augmented reality, and video conferencing are no longer optional “nice-to-haves” but have become essential in the new world. While COVID-19 is certainly playing a major role as a catalyst, the paradigm shifts in communication have been evolving over the past decade. The number of smartphone users in India alone is expected to cross 500 million by the end of 2020. By the end of this decade, smartphone penetration will be near-universal, as will access to mobile or broadband internet. 

As on-demand communication platforms become more robust, and as India and China, the growth engine of new communication brings hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, it becomes important for decision-makers around the world, thousands of miles apart, to be in regular contact. 

Many telecom players – from broadband to mobile to data center operators – have benefitted from a surge in the traffic of data and voice. As a result, the telecom sector is performing well compared to other infrastructure sub-sectors. In sharp contrast to many other industries, the telecommunication sector has been generally exempted from major COVID-19-related restrictions, such as stay-at-home orders and quarantine requirements, as it is recognized as an essential service. 

Some telecom companies have been strengthened by the short-term spike in data traffic and increased use of broadband services, as more people are working from home and rely on video conferencing to hold meetings. Traffic growth has, in fact, demonstrated increased reliance on connectivity and digital services

Businesses need to leverage this disruption in order to scale up and offer better solutions. Digital communication platforms are seeing a massive upsurge in user counts. The big opportunity here is for businesses to build in more robust communication solutions for their platforms. The long risk here is for businesses who assume things will continue as normal. Those who fail to adapt to the changing communication environment will be left behind once the current crisis ends.

At the end of the day, communication has always been about people and ideas. It would be disingenuous to describe the ongoing change as a paradigm shift in communication. Communication itself—and its end goals—are not changing. Rather, the ways in which we talk to ourselves are, presenting immense opportunity and risk. Savvy businesses will pay close attention to these emerging trends and align their communication strategies to leverage this.