MWC Session Recap: COVID Led to Creative Applications of Connectivity

When the global community went into quarantine last year, connectivity was a key part of keeping everyone connected. At one of the final sessions of MWC Barcelona, executives from NHS, Vodafone IoT and Airbus shared how connectivity helped them adapt to the impact of COVID-19 and accelerate their digital transformations across industries.


The aviation industry was grounded by the pandemic, resulting in lower revenues and passenger travel. At carriers like Airbus, the pandemic led them to change how they approached their business operations. Airbus launched products and solutions like health monitoring and predictive maintenance to address common pain points across airlines and support their operations.

Patrick Castagnino of Airbus said they took on digital acceleration projects to “improve our communication, […] to improve our digital and connectivity solutions, and to accelerate our rate of delivering the aircraft.”

According to Castagnino, the carrier has made several advancements in the area of connectivity, building a 5G Airbus campus to improve global connectivity for manufacturing. Airbus also has plans to make 5G available on their aircraft by the end of the year.


Before the pandemic, healthcare providers recognized they needed to provide care digitally, but COVID made that a necessity.

“There’s been this recognition that you’ve got to deliver care digitally if we’re going to cope with the demands that are out there,” said Adrian Smith, Director of Digital Transformation at NHS.

Smith said providers are using connectivity in innovative ways to deliver care.

“We’ve seen portable diagnostic equipment appear in care homes, enabling doctors and other clinicians to engage and complete a full diagnostic evaluation of a patient without going anywhere near them,” said Smith. “And not only has that reduced the exposure, but it’s changed the whole shift of patients to hospitals.”

Smith said providers should look at how they use connectivity across the whole spectrum of providing care, including preventative, emergency and long-term care, as there are currently many point solutions for connectivity in place.

“How do we get a much more strategic look at the power that connectivity can bring to shift where and how healthcare is delivered?” said Smith.

Internet of Things

No business knows the importance of connectivity better than a network or communications provider. And during the pandemic, consumer and business usage of data went up markedly.

“From our perspective, we’ve seen some big changes almost immediately,” said Phil Skipper, Head of Strategy & Business Development at Vodafone IoT. “We saw our network consumption go up by almost 50 percent in many countries.”

Skipper said connectivity enabled the distribution of work and is powering other use cases like IoT. A survey Vodafone IoT conducted during the pandemic found that 77 percent of respondents were accelerating their IoT. Over 80 percent of respondents said IoT had made their business more resilient, and 87 percent said that IoT is now central to their future.

However, an organization’s digital transformation goes beyond technology.

“When we talk about digitization, we have to bear in mind it’s a process, not a technology,” said Skipper. “So it’s much more important that you build these solutions so you can actually run them and replace the way that you were working.”

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