Nepal has been under lockdown for more than 45 days due to the CoronaVirus threat. People keep themselves locked up in their homes, following government guidance for social distancing. In such a situation, communication services are key to people’s lives in this pandemic period.
Some even term the telecom services as oxygen as it is the only link to the outside world. Nepali Telecom operators have incessantly performed their duty in this COVID-19 pandemic situation for the maintenance of their works, support to the government and people. Let’s find out how the telcos respond and dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal.
The telecom industry workers were among the front liners in this pandemic situation to move outside despite the virus threat. They worked throughout this period to keep the system up and running & more.
Increased usage and meet the demand
As people keep adhered to their smartphones and computers, internet usage from mobile data has surged heavily. It is not only the multimedia consumption for entertainment but also the usage of mobile data by professionals for Work from home. Similarly the huge number of webinars, online meetings did mark up the data usage from both ISPs and Telcos. Here we focus on the telecom services only. Find the challenges of ISPs in this pandemic period.
The increased demand and the obligation for seamless network availability had put the telcos under pressure in these difficult times. As there could be congestion in some parts of their network or specific location area. For which the telcos did put additional resources and performed optimization.
It is interesting to note that while the data demand surged by more than 50%, the voice call dropped off. The reason might be due to the usage of OTT apps as the people you need to contact is found online.
Maintenance of network
Despite the threat, the telecom companies were challenged to deploy their employees for the regular maintenance of their network. With their obligation to provide seamless telecom services, the operators and their employees did not stop working to resolve the problems in their network.
They even send their employees to various sites (including some of the remote locations) for maintenance at a time of such virus threat. Some of the maintenance activities for the mobile networks, landline, fiber internet also needed a huge workforce and efforts to resolve. The telcos even executed the daunting tasks without any hesitation.
All these times, the telcos urged their employees to follow the distancing guidance with proper sanitation and putting face masks.
For some issues, they even performed such bug fixing or system upgrade activity in the late-night period by reaching to their data centers. The activity in the wee hours prevented people from noticing the network outage while it improved the performance, quality of service. The telcos took the network maintenance, quality as the top-most priority.
Work for support
More people adhered to the network for a long time also raised the bar for the support requirement. During the first few days, they had closed their customer center while providing the needed support from online mostly from their social network sites like Facebook. Then they started resuming their counters to provide support from the customer centers. The telecom companies did provide on-site support for home internet and landline phones wherever it was feasible.
Encouraging digital payment.
As it was quite difficult to open up all of their counters and ensure the availability of recharge cards, they asked their customer to go digital for all of their mobile, internet, and telecom services payment.
People can use all of the mobile banking apps, digital wallets, and direct bank transfer for the payment, recharge of telecom services. So, the telcos had to encourage people for the same. That resulted in the huge adoption of such an online payment solution which enabled people to keep up their mobile, internet account. Find the online top-up alternatives to the recharge card in Nepal Telecom.
The telcos and the digital payment providers also need to put massive efforts into educating people for paying, recharging online.
Assistance to the government
The telcos did provide support to the government in this pandemic period with the contribution to the Coronavirus fund. NTA, Nepal Telecom, and Ncell deposited 15 crores, 12 crores, and 10 crores respectively to the fund for purchasing required tools and treatment of infected patients.
It was Nepal Telecom (NTC) which first initiated the coronavirus awareness message in the ringtone. They have changed the ringtone for more than 5 times till now. Ncell and Smart Cell also followed suit in playing the voice message in every call. They also sent numerous awareness information to people through SMS.
The telcos even assisted the CCMC (Covid-19 crisis management center) to collect the health status and identify the possible infected personnel by USSD based quick survey. You can take part in the survey
- in Ntc by dialing *1419# and answering few questions there.
- in Ncell by dialing *17100# and replying to the questions.
SIM details for Contact tracing requirement
As per the request of the government, the telecom companies provided data of about 60 thousand new SIM cards for the contact tracing purpose. This was done to track all of the people from abroad. Using those details, the Nepal army contacted them for the health status and implement the quarantine if found any symptoms.
Offers to customer
The telecom operators brought numerous offers to their customers to aid them in affordable communication in the challenging condition.
Bonus on recharge
The digital recharge was still out of reach to many due to the accessibility and literacy. So, as per the request of Nepal Telecommunication Authority, Ntc and Ncell both provided 100% and 120% bonus on recharge to their customers. Due to this, people can have prolonged usage of the data and voice service with the same amount. Though the bonus amount had some minimum validity period, we believe this delivered some concessions to the people.
Increment of balance transfer and loan amount.
To enable peoples access to the telecom services, the telcos even increased the limit in the balance transfer. They raised the number of such transfers and also the amount per day. This is more beneficial to the feature phone users who could not get online.
Ncell expanded the balance transfer service up to 20 times and Rs 10,000 per day. Similarly, Ntc increased the balance transfer amount to Rs 500.
Ncell even provided the loan credit amount to Rs 200 and then later kept the amount to Rs 80 which is actually double to the previous credit of Rs 40.
Free or credit service to needy people.
With the people’s inability to recharge and lack of communication services in this crucial period, telcos came up with zero balance, credit pack to those people who have zero or low balance. The telcos identified the customer with such balance and inform them of the special free or special credit pack to them. This helped the needy people (in millions) to make critical calls and access other services, even without sufficient balance.
NTC provided zero balance package to needy customers while Ncell permitted those customers to take a special combo pack as a credit service. Smart Cell also provided such data, voice pack to zero balance users.
Subsidized, affordable data and voice pack
Considering the need for large volume data pack in this period, the telecom operators brought subsidized data packs. This is specially targeted to those who consume huge data volume. This could be either for multimedia consumption or “Work from Home” connection or the alternative to the slow home internet. Here are the affordable heavy data packs from the telcos.
- Ncell Stay safe offer: 15 GB at Rs 293.69 (with 5GB on 4G) for a week
- NTC Stay connected offer: 10 GB at Rs 200 (8 GB on 4G), 4 GB at Rs 100 (3 GB on 4G) for a week. Find the affordable voice packs that came with the Stay connected offer.
- Smart Cell lockdown pack: 45 GB at 381.79 for 30 days
Ntc even brought a special data pack to help students participate in online classes. They term the offer as online education or eShiskya package which has two options of 6 GB at Rs 260 and 15 GB at Rs 500 for 30 days. Find more information on how to take the Ntc eShikshya package.
Extension of internet validity and waiving late fees.
During the first few weeks of the lockdown, Ntc extended the home internet services like ADSL, FTTH, and WiMAX. They also waived off any late fees for the people’s inability to pay for the telecom services on time. Later as they confirmed the availability of recharge or other payment options, they asked people to pay it from such digital means. As they started to open their counters, people could easily pay their bills from there.
Here are some of the other works done by the telcos in this pandemic period.
- Maintaining the supply chain.
- Even in these difficult times, the telcos tried their best to maintain the distribution of recharge cards and sim cards. They could manage such with the special delivery of those logistics from abroad.
- Taking down fake news, bogus websites
- As fake news circulated all around, the telecom operators and ISP took down a handful of content and websites that were spreading hoaxes. They made the website or content inaccessible to people, as per the request of the NTA and press council.
- Free consultation with a doctor:
- Ncell brought this special Call to Doctor service to provide health advice and counseling from home.
The telecom operators performed their best efforts in maintaining the network, supporting customers, and assuring service availability in this difficult time. So, we would like to express our sincere appreciation of their duty to the nation and people.
Some people have said they could have done more with their demand for more free offers and unlimited data. Providing free service to all is not sustainable and doesn’t guarantee the quality, availability of service in this pandemic situation. So, we felt the telecom operators did the very right thing to provide free communication service to needy people only.
Tell us what do you feel of the telecom operators’ performance and support to government, people in this COVID-19 Pandemic, in the comment box below.
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