There’s no doubt about it, in addition to fear and panic, coronavirus is bringing financial uncertainty, chaos and serious frustration to all parts of the world. The telecoms industry has suffered pretty badly thus far—the cancellation of MWC20 being the biggest blow of all and a tough way to start the year. But sadly, there’s not much anybody can do—if anything, we’ve all got to be very British about it all and “keep calm, and carry on”. Many telecoms organisations have tried to do just that and as the world heads for quarantine, there’s one question that should be on operators’ minds: how do they continue to engage with and support their customers when they’re stuck between four walls?
Well, one operator that has thought about this is Telefonica—the Spanish MNO has put special measures in place to minimise the risk of COVID-19 to its employees and subscribers. These include increasing data allowances for its Fusion and Movistar customers—its MVNO brands— enhancing its online learning platforms and making its services available to public organisations who have been caught up in the crisis. This is great PR for Telefonica, no doubt—the operator is showing kindness and empathy at a time when it is most needed.
From a consumer perspective, the prospect of additional, free mobile data is particularly interesting and enticing. Those who are self-isolating or simply opting to work remotely will be heavily reliant on connectivity to ensure they can keep in touch with the outside world. This will mean using more data than normal to conduct conference calls, use remote working tools etc. What Telefonica is doing here is ensuring that everyone’s wheels keep on turning, no matter how bad the situation gets. It is putting its customers first and thinking about what they need.
While it’s difficult—if not impossible—to find a silver lining in this crisis, for operators this is a chance for them to show their subscribers that they care, to reinforce their brand values and demonstrate that they are for the people, and with the people.
But putting measures in place like Telefonica takes work and preparation; operators have to ask themselves certain questions: do my subscribers need more free data? Am I notifying my subscribers when they are near or at their data limit? Do I have the right policy, control and charging tools to be able to manage data utilisation at subscriber level? Could I quickly launch zero-rated offers to allow my subscribers to stream digital content without eating into their data allowance?
Operators also need to ensure their networks are up to scratch—outages could significantly impact subscribers’ ability to work remotely in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. They must therefore have the tools to maintain and uphold quality of experience and quality of service levels—do they know that the network is working as it should? Do they have the right level of visibility to be able to anticipate outages or issues happening across the network? If an outage does occur, how quickly can it be resolved, and how long will it impact subscribers?
These are all questions operators must ask themselves in light of this growing crisis. The world is in a state of flux, but being able to react quickly to changing subscriber and societal trends will be key for operators wanting to come out of this crisis with the fewest scars possible. It’s about planning for the unexpected to ensure subscribers get what they’ve paid for, and more.
No good will come from this COVID-19 outbreak, but operators could play an important role in making life just that little bit easier for us all over the coming weeks and months.