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Role of Nepal Telecom in this pandemic period: Impact, Challenges, and Opportunities

Nepal Telecom is one of those telecom companies that has been providing continuous support to its users amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Nepal Telecom played a crucial role in handling the crisis situation and business activities by encouraging the ‘work from home’ approach during this lockdown.

Thousands of businesses and people have withdrawn from the physical world and switched over to the virtual world of the internet to continue with their occupation. In critical times like these, the value of internet connectivity in our society is suddenly more apparent than ever before.

Nepal Telecom offered various discounts, schemes, and packages on their services. While the pandemic has the economy of the country upside down, NTC continues to serve its users. We cannot appreciate enough the constant contribution of telecommunication employees who have been working continuously despite the pandemic threat.

Though NTC managed a slight shrug in their revenue, we cannot ignore how they are coping with various challenges, and strategically converting them into opportunities. To learn more about the works, challenges, and opportunities of NTC, our team communicated with the Managing Director of Nepal Telecom, Mr. Dilli Adhikari. Here’s the outline:

Roles of Nepal Telecom in the Pandemic

NTC has carried out some innovative steps for its user during the lockdown period. Some of its appreciable roles are as follows:

Public awareness

As the first step of public awareness, NTC started to spread information about causes, precautions, and preventive measures of coronavirus through the ringback tone.

Call center

Hotline numbers 1115 and 1133 were made available for the COVID-19 call center, through which people can consult for the COVID-19 related information.

Support to CCMC (COVID-19 Crisis Management Center)

Nepal Telecom initiated IVR and toll-free service to assist COVID-19 control in collaboration with CCMC. Moreover, NTC supported CCMC to set up the call center at its office premise at Chhauni complex.

Contact tracing services

A public survey was conducted with the help of the USSD service. The dial pin *1419# was used for contact tracing of COVID-19 suspects.

Bonus, Zero balance, e-Shiksha package support during this period

During the lockdown period, Nepal Telecom came up with numerous offers/services/discounts to support our current living standards such as:

  • 100% cash bonus on top-up for the first period of lockdown: (Nepal Telecom distributed 670 million bonus amount in the month of Chaitra)
  • 30% discount on GSM/4G mobile data internet services and a 27% discount on CDMA internet services in the unpackaged (pay-as-you-go) category.
  • 50% bonus (minutes) on voice package subscription and up to 400% data bonus on mobile data subscription under “Stay Connected Offer
  • Waive off of penalty on late bill payment for PSTN telephone service for the lockdown period
  • Zero balance offer: This offer was provided to the customers who do not have easy access to recharge cards and the digital domain for top-up due to the lockdown period. A bundled offer of voice, SMS, and data was provided to such customers who have zero balance and are not able to call, text, and access internet service without any charges. It was free and provided a one-time to the needy users in multiple phases.
  • Nepal Telecom has been providing an e-Shiksha Package targeting the students and teachers who are engaging in online learning during the lockdown period. This package is highly subsidized towards supporting the country’s education system.

Impact on business

Telecom operators are facing increasing challenges during the lockdown period. A huge impact can be noticed on their business as profit margins are decreasing. Some of the inevitable challenges that NTC faced as a consequence of COVID-19 lockdown are as follows:

  • Voice business has dropped by approximately 25% as there are no business activities carried out and people staying at home are mainly using social media for communication.
  • ILD (International Long Distance) business also went down by 20%. The expats do not have enough resources to call back home due to the recession.
  • International roaming service is heavily impacted as there is no movement of people, no international flights.
  • Overall, approximately 25% to 30% revenue decline was encountered as the major revenue stream is voice business which was hardest hit by the lockdown.
  • Though Nepal telecom has been offering a high bonus on data pack subscriptions and providing a 30% discount on a pay-as-you-go mobile internet service. Because of the reduced prices, the increase in data consumption has not reflected in the increase in data revenue.

A different set of challenges hinders NTC from running their business activities that can be categorized into two categories:

Challenges during COVID-19

During the lockdown, project work has been completely halted but some maintenance jobs were carried out. Executing these activities was a difficult task such as

  • Selling Recharge card: Distribution managed somehow but sales are low due to restriction in movement.
  • Fieldwork maintenance: Managed by limited manpower and resources
  • Customer support and core network supports: Managed by some employees from home and some stationed on sites as per duty charts
  • Allocation of limited manpower at remote locations while practicing social distancing. Managing food and shelter for the telecom workers was difficult.

Read: Top-up methods for Nepal Telecom number without recharge card.

Challenges post COVID-19

As the nation deals with the lockdown, the initial focus of the telecoms has been on maintaining their networks and meeting surging traffic volumes. NTC is facing challenges from the uncertainty caused by the pandemic; they are meant to react accordingly. Nepal Telecom responded to the crisis by offering various packages and services to its users, also in some cases, benefiting from access to additional resources to manage increasing traffic volumes.

Project execution

Most of the project execution will be affected due to economic decline, social distancing, and a new living standard. The working environment will not be the same as before as extra health precautions/measures need to be taken. The businesses post COVID-19 will adopt a new piece of software and hardware, shifting the business into remote working.

The shift in the business domain

The voice domain is likely to be replaced by the data domain but the data domain has less revenue margin than voice domains. So, as voice business declines and data domain increases, the revenue margins shall gradually diminish. Furthermore, the tough competition and necessity to provide quality services at a minimum and competitive prices increases.

Decreased ILD revenue

The telco has to face the overall changes in the socio-economy of the country and peoples’ purchasing power. Due to the possible large scale return of ex-pats to the home country, ILD revenue is assumed to decrease significantly.

Opportunities post COVID-19

On the contrary, the lockdown has opened up new ways to connect in the online world. It was a major learning opportunity for telcos too. They were able to collect some revenue from messages, voice calls, online meetings, teleconferencing, and online video streaming.

Though NTC generously provided services to its users, it managed a profit. It means NTC is in a unique place where it hasn’t been hit hard economically and has the opportunity to come out of this epidemic with a much loyal subscriber base.

Data traffic growth

Data usage has increased significantly because of the high use of YouTube, social media, online learning apps, and so on. More than 40% of mobile data traffic growth was observed compared to the period before lockdown.

It is because Nepal Telecom understands and sympathizes with the needs of their subscriber base. Now, NTC has opportunities to develop strategies to increase Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), expand the subscriber base, improve customer experience, and unify customer data from all channels.

Digitalization process

Telecom sectors have a big opportunity to extend the services for supporting digitalization as broadband connectivity is the most essential element for this phenomenon. Transforming to a digital economy will help the service providers to monetize the investment, improve their product offerings, boost capabilities, enhance customer experience, and develop new competitive business models.

Feasibility of new technology 5G

5G will create many new opportunities by connecting 5G-based Internet of things (IoT), edge computing, analytics infrastructure with minimal latency, and 5G-based immersive media and gaming. People have already started to demand a 5G network here in Nepal for blazingly fast broadband speeds. Learn more about the 5G network.

Broadband connectivity demand

It can serve the high demand for broadband connectivity and even stretch implementation of ICT on different cross-cutting areas such as agriculture, Tourism, Education, E-governance, e-commerce, e-banking, digital finances, and so on.

Government policies for Digital Nepal Framework

The government shall also be focused on digitalization and the implementation of the Digital Nepal Framework. It gives huge opportunities for telcos in leveraging their existing and upcoming infrastructure.

We recommend you read: Challenges for ISPs in the COVID-19 lockdown >>

Conclusion

As the lockdown restrictions continue to shut workplaces around Nepal, internet service has become a crucial source of support for the people. The ability of telecoms to meet this unprecedented demand proves their reliability and determination are undeniable. Though Nepal Telecom has to face several challenges during the pandemic period, they continued with their roles despite the challenges. Their contribution will certainly harvest stable economic growth in the future. Their efforts are impressive and appreciable. We are hopeful for their future endeavors.

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