How’s the Weather in Telecoms These Days?

March 22nd, 2018

As weather phenomena seemingly bring our world to a standstill…. what has telecoms ever done to help

After the recent MWC event in Barcelona, I, like many others, found myself stranded at the Barcelona airport unable to return to home due to snow fall at UK airports. It was a sobering thought, that after 5 days of discussing the incredible advances that telecoms will soon make a reality, a simple natural phenomena like snow can seemingly bring the world to a halt.

Many years ago, I had a similar experience at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam where snow had closed the airport. On that occasion, it took many hours standing in a long queue to arrange a new flight and a further hour or so to sort out overnight hotel accommodation. Fortunately I had a mobile phone so I was able to phone my family and tell them what had happened, but no mobile broadband or airport Wi-Fi to help pass the time.

My experience this time was totally different, and this was many due to the technological advances that telecoms has enabled. So to paraphrase a famous Monty Python storyline.

What has telecoms ever done to help us?

  • “Improved connectivity”

Telecoms has massively improved global communications. Like most airports Barcelona offers WiFi and good 4G mobile connectivity. Using this, not only was I able to contact my family, I was able have a video call with them. In addition, I was able to connect to my company’s network to make use of the time I had to catch-up with some work and I was able to stream music to help block-out the background airport noise.

Well, yes obviously communication, communication goes without saying, but apart from communications – what else?

  • “Improved, real time information systems.”

As soon as the flight was cancelled I received an SMS on my mobile. This enabled me to rapidly connect to my travel agent to arrange alternative flights, and in turn they could use the real-time flight booking information system to re-route me to London (rather than Bristol, my original destination) via Frankfurt. Unfortunately the flight into London subsequently became cancelled as well. The process of getting me a new flight, the next day, and a hotel room took about 20 minutes rather than the 4 hours it took on my previous Amsterdam experience. This due to the transfer desk staff being given real time access to the online booking systems expediting complex reroute scenarios to be performed for many people, very rapidly.

As I was now to land in London rather than Bristol, I needed to take rail and bus to Bristol to pick-up my car and it was unclear if the rail and bus networks in the UK were also affected. I was able to monitor this by accessing the rail and bus networks live travel information sites. In addition, I wanted to know if I could actually get my car out of the car park and how bad the road conditions were for driving. Again technology helped me out with this, I was able to access multiple webcams that showed me the snow conditions in the car park in and multiple road cameras showed me the road conditions.

All right I’ll grant you communications and transportation services – but what else

  • “Improved customer service in mass transportation hubs”

I have already mentioned the WiFi which is now common place in most airports and the rapid information I was given about my flight being cancelled. However, by logging onto the airport information systems I was also able to choose where I wanted to eat and where might to a good quiet location to do some work from.

Final thoughts

Like the people in the Monty Python sketch, we often take for granted the capabilities that good communications networks have enabled in just a few short years. It takes something outside of our normal routine to understand just how much these communications networks have improved our lives

Whilst we don’t have the technology to change the weather yet, the use of modern services offered by the transportation industries allow us to minimize the disruption to our lives caused by abnormal events.

So after all the experience of being stranded in Barcelona, the lay over in Frankfurt was not that bad after all.