Verizon Business keeps enterprises' wheels turning in face of COVID-19

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Verizon Business is hard at work turning up capacity for its customers during the coronavirus pandemic. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

Verizon Business has ramped up its efforts to keep its global enterprise customers up and running during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Verizon's network has been up to the task of serving entire work forces conducting business out of their homes, Verizon Business has taken numerous steps to make sure its services still function at a high level.

"I keep telling our people that it's a two-phase process," said Verizon Business President Sowmyanarayan Sampath. "The first is react.  As our clients are reacting to COVID-19, what can what do we do to help them? So that's the first step.

"The second phase is the re-imagine phase, which is, what do we do when things settle down, and then how do they ensure that next time they're significantly better prepared than they are right now?"

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Sampath said the first phase has included enabling millions of customer employees working from home. He said Verizon has about 80% of its own more than 130,000 employees working from home now, "which has helped a lot because when you do it yourself helping customers becomes second nature."

Verizon Business has a revenue stream of about $30 billion and roughly 5,000 global accounts across healthcare, banking and other large verticals. Prior to the coronavirus becoming a pandemic, Verizon Business sent out a global customer outreach checklist to almost every one of its customers.

"We sensed this was coming," Sampath said. "The checklist based approach is very helpful because at that time our customers didn't want to have long-winded discussions around architectural and solutions. They said what can you do today?"

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Like other service providers, the first step for Verizon Business included turning up remote network capacity. Prior to COVID-19, Sampath said typically about 20% of a company's employees worked from home while the rest were office-based, but that flipped almost overnight in some instances.

500 GigE for enterprise

"It just changed the network topology completely," he said. "So how quickly could we enable remote aggregation and the classic VPN stuff? But the bigger piece is network capacity. We've been adding so much network capacity. We had one of our larger clients add 500 GigE circuits overnight. So you have a lot of adds on the network capacity."

Sampath said there were two large capacity related projects that needed to be done. The first was that Verizon Business added more ports and more servers to enable VPNs.

"But the second part that is interesting is on the collaboration side," he said. "People think that everything is happening on the internet. No, actually a lot of technology tends to happen on a VOIP network. And for VOIP just adding trunks has been massive. In fact, there was one client where we added almost 1,700 trunk groups in a day.

"Typically something like that takes 20 to 30 business days to get done. So a lot of voice trunks are being added, both for inter-company but also to support the collaboration pieces."

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Security is also a top concern as employees have moved out of their secure work environments into homes where they share connectivity with other members of their apartments or homes. Verizon Business has been enabling its Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) technology, which is a service that provides connectivity at the application layer instead of using traditional network-based access controls, to customer endpoints as they work from home.

Verizon Business has also been dropping off remote access points for employees that need better quality of service, security and bandwidth at home. The remote access points from companies such as Aruba and Juniper Network, can be placed in front of a router and don't need a technical to install and configure them.

On the wireless side, Verizon Business has been adding hotspots for field hospitals or curbside delivery by retail companies or restaurants via its MiFi Jetpacks. The Jetpacks are plug and play devices that come with an LTE connections and SIM cards to support up to 20 WIFI users. Sampath said they could be configured remotely 5 minutes.

Verizon has also seen a large increase in demand for virtual contact centers as companies work to support their own customers from home. Verizon’s own call center agents are also using remote work functionality to support customers. Almost all of Verizon’s U.S.-based consumer call center employees—roughly 17,000 people– are working from home, alongside 95% of the Verizon Business service operations teams.

"As most companies are moving their agents to work from home, you just don't have the infrastructure at home," Sampath said. "So with the virtual call centers that are in the cloud, the IVR (interactive voice response) can be re-positioned quickly, and they plug into the PC through a secure tunnel with broadband.

"By making changes to the IVR on the flyy, I can scale those quite easily if you need to add in 100, 200, 300 or even a 1,000 seats. It doesn't take months. It takes hours, if not days, to do something like that. "

Sampath said that within 12 to 14 hours of a city or country going on lockdown, Verizon starts to see capacity spikes on its networks.

"We run an international network, so when India went into lockdown we saw a huge spike," Sampeth said. "So part of this is network planning around which countries or cities are going into lockdown.

"Sometimes running a network at scale helps. We plan ahead and we get access to a lot more equipment because of our size. We don't see any problem in the immediate future."

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