Live / Covid-19 Coronavirus news: How the telecoms world is dealing with the pandemic

30 March 2020 | João Marques Lima


There are now 862,234 cases of people infected with Covid-19 and 42,404 dead, as of 1 April, 11:11 (GMT).

With the world going into lockdown, Capacity will be bringing you the latest on the events that impact the telecoms sector, the market moves and how operators are answering to the crisis.

1 April, 11:15 – Opmantek announces AUD$20 million “software relief fund”

Opmantek Software is to provide a “software relief fund” for Australian healthcare, government and essential service providers, valued at AUD$20 million.

The firm will provide its entire suite of commercial products free to Australian healthcare organisations and “all levels of government that have historically provided grants or assistance to Opmantek since foundation”, including Gold Coast City Council, The Queensland Government, and all departments of the Commonwealth Government.

In addition, Opmantek will provide software at cost to international organisations supporting the global recovery from COVID-19.

“The relief programme responds to network infrastructure changes driven by increased home workers for essential government services and increased stress and expansion of resources within the Healthcare sector,” the firm said.

Full relief will be offered to Australian organisations and partial relief to international organisations.


Vodafone usage continues to soar

Vodafone reported more usage spikes as the UK continued its lockdown this week.

Across the UK, mobile voice traffic has increased by 56% in the last two weeks. Regionally, Vodafone reported a 24% increase in mobile calls made and received in Glasgow, 14% increase in Bristol, 12% in Birmingham, 8% in Manchester and more than 2% in London. VoIP calls were up 28% at the start of the week.

Meanwhile, broadband traffic is up 15% during the day due to home working and remote schooling, with average daytime use now mirroring a “typical Sunday” – traditionally the busiest day of the day.

However, music streaming traffic reduced by around 16% at the start of the week as users accessed music through their home broadband networks rather than mobile.

In a statement the company said: “We keep constant watch on traffic over our networks and are adding extra capacity every day to ensure our customers keep connected.  This follows an investment of around £4.5 billion in our network over the past five years – the largest in our 35-year history.”

March 31, 11:00 – Altice Europe skips dividend payments – again

Telecoms and cable group Altice Europe ATCA.PA, will not pay a dividend to its shareholders duet to the “exceptional times”.

In its March 2020 earnings release, the company said: “Given the industry in which Altice Europe operates, the Group expects its cashflows to remain resilient throughout the crisis. Examples of the impacts observed within the Group so far include store closures, resulting in reduced sales and reduced churn, and reduced marketing expense. The Group continues to maintain fibre-roll out where possible.”

With the exception of a special distribution made by Altice USA in 2018, the firm has not paid any dividends to shareholders since its incorporation.

Reuters reported that Altice continued to lock horns with unions, with some criticising the firm for potentially tapping state support for its workforce in France.

Comreg to release more spectrum

Ireland’s Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has released extra radio spectrum to provide additional capacity for mobile phone and broadband provision due to the steep increase in the use of mobile networks.

The extra radio spectrum is in the 700 MHz and the 2.6 GHz bands to allow mobile network operators to cater for the increase in voice and data traffic over their networks, as well as “liberalising the use of the currently licensed 2.1 GHz band so that it can be used for 4G and other technologies, rather than just for 3G”.

ComReg highlighted that all measures are temporary and a consultation paper has been issued which sets out the conditions for use of the new spectrum.

March 30, 12:09 – COVID-19 pushes satellite firm OneWeb into bankruptcy

London-based satellite company OneWeb has filed for bankruptcy in the US citing the Coronavirus as the cause.

In a statement on Friday 27, the company confirmed that it had filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

The company confirmed that it intends to find a buyer through the proceedings claiming that the COVID-19 outbreak has caused turbulence in the financial market and prevents it from securing funding for its commercial launch, this includes from its largest investor SoftBank.

Natalie Bannerman has more here.

March 27, 10:31 – Slovakia green-lights Coronavirus tracking using telco data

Slovakia has approved a law which allows the government to monitor the movements of those infected by the Coronavirus.

According to the FT, passed on Wednesday 25 March, the amendment will give Slovakia’s Public Health Office access to location data from the mobile phones of those quarantined, in order to try and contain the spread of the virus.

The new rules follow that of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, where it has similarly implemented invasive tracking measures but has also successfully slowed the spread of the virus.

Natalie Bannerman has more here.

March 26, 15:47 – VEON introduces measures to help customers

VEON – the operator of Beeline, Kyivstar, Jazz, Banglalink and Djeezy – has just released what the company is doing to keep customers connected during the pandemic.

The company is offering free hotlines, flexible payment schemes, government alerts to keep clients up to date with the latest official information, home screen information, connecting clients to healthcare professionals, offering free data and minutes for doctors and nurses, free money transfers, free-roaming, free entertainment and free access to educational platforms in Ukraine and Uzbekistan. 

Sergi Herrero and Kaan Terzigolu, the Co-CEOs of VEON said: “Across our ten markets, we are seeing firsthand how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting individuals, families, businesses and industries. We know that it’s in moments like these that we must ensure that communities stay connected, supporting those in need and working together to overcome this global challenge.

"As a provider of vital infrastructure we understand that connectivity is crucial. Across our 10 operating countries, all emergency health care and foreign affairs hot lines and websites have been zero-rated and as the situation develops our colleagues in different countries are doing whatever they can to help customers and spread helpful information about government guidance."

March 26, 12:24 – Ofcom launches broadband campaign as COVID-19 stresses networks

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched Stay Connected, a nationwide campaign advising the public on ways reduce pressure on networks during the coronavirus lockdown.

Supported by the country biggest telcos including BT, Sky, O2, Vodafone and Virgin Media, the campaign offers seven top tips to avoid network outages and will run across digital and social media as well as through direct communications to those signed up with the aforementioned service providers.

“Families across the country are going online together this week, often juggling work and keeping children busy at the same time,” said Melanie Dawes, chief executive at Ofcom.

Natalie Bannerman has more here.

March 26, 11:07 – WhatsApp sees 40% spike in usage

WhatsApp is experiencing a 40% surge in global usage as a result of social distancing and increased digital communications due to the Coronavirus.

According to global research firm Kantar WhatsApp saw 27% increase in the usage in the early stages of the pandemic and 41% in mid-phase.

But WhatsApp is not the only one, Facebook and Instagram have all experienced over 40% increase in usage from under 35-year olds.

Specifically, Spain saw a 76% increase in WhatsApp usage, while Facebook usage increased by 37%. China experienced a 58% increase in usage of local social media apps including Wechat and Weibo.

March 25, 13:19 – FCC’s Pai launches Keep Americans Connected initiative

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai has launched the Keep Americans Connected Initiative in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The initiative asks broadband and telephone service providers, and trade associations, to take the following Pledge:

  1. not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
  2. waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
  3. open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

So far, more than 550 companies and associations have signed the chairman's pledge and he has gone even further asking companies with low-income broadband programs to expand them and those without them to adopt such programs.

Additionally, he’s asking broadband providers to relax their data usage limits in certain circumstances and take steps to promote remote learning and telehealth. 

March 23, 15:44 – O2 to close all retail shops until further notice

Amid growing concerns the UK is failing to stay at home, many businesses have come forward and taking action on their own.

The latest to do so is Telefonica's O2, which has announced the closure of all its shops across the nation from 5pm tonight.

An O2 Spokesperson said: “We have taken the decision to close our high street stores, effective at the end of business this evening, in order to protect our colleagues and customers.

“Our people are the core of our business and their hard work to keep customers connected to their loved ones has been invaluable in this uncertain time – we want to keep them safe and thank them for their incredible dedication. 

“Our website remains open and if customers have any queries they can visit MyO2 or contact us directly. We will continue to monitor the situation in the UK before taking any decision to reopen our stores.”

March 20, 13:20 – The UK reportedly testing Coronavirus surveillance tool

According the New York Times, the UK government is building an app that would alert the people who have come in contact with someone known to have the coronavirus.

The project will build upon a surveillance tool rolled out in China to try and curb the outbreak. Unlike Chinese version of the app, the UK version will rely on voluntary participation and sharing of information.

Researchers at the University of Oxford, which is working in the app, has reassured the public about deleting the data and adding that would not make people’s movements public.

In the US, the White House has begun discussions with its technology companies about using anonymous, aggregated location data to conduct general public health surveillance.

March 20, 13:20 – Netflix and YouTube downgrade due to COVID-19

Netflix and YouTube have agreed to downgrade their video streaming quality in order to ease pressures on European network capacity.

Netflix issued a statement saying: "Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days.”

While YouTube said: "We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default."

Natalie Bannerman has more here.

March 19, 13:20 – EU pressures Netflix to lower bandwidth during outbreak

Thierry Breton, the European Union’s Internal Market and Services Commissioner has called on streaming services to take steps to prevent an internet gridlock in the wake of the Coronavirus.

Speaking directly to content providers such as Netflix and YouTube, Breton expressed his concern that such streaming service would have on communications networks given the increase in people working from home due to the virus.

Natalie Bannerman has more here.

March 19, 11:30 – TIM Foundation donates €1m to Italian hospitals in support of the Coronavirus

TIM Foundation has decided to donate €500,000 and to launch a volunteering programme among TIM employees, committing to raise another €500,000.

TIM Foundation has identified four Italian hospitals throughout the country awarding €250,00 each:

  • San Raffaele Hospital of Milan
  • CORIS Consortium for Health Research of Veneto region
  • Spallanzani Hospital of Rome
  • The IRCCS G. Pascale Foundation National Cancer Institute of Naples

“There are those who fight this war in the front line: doctors, intensive-care specialists, nurses, all hospital staff who welcome the sick affected by this virus, especially in Lombardy and Veneto, but not only,” said Salvatore Rossi, chairman of the TIM Foundation.

“In such a dramatic moment, we cannot leave these people alone. It is on them that our safety, our well-being, the fate of the most unfortunate of us, who have contracted this virus, depend.”

March 18, 12:20 – Chairman Pai commends broadcasters’ Coronavirus response and calls for further action

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai held a conference call yesterday with television and radio broadcasters and broadcaster trade associations to thank broadcasters for their efforts to educate the American people about the coronavirus pandemic and discuss additional ways that broadcasters can help Americans stay safe and informed during the coronavirus outbreak. 

“I’m grateful for the steps that broadcasters are taking to inform the American people about this pandemic and to educate them about the steps they can take to protect themselves and slow the spread of the virus,” said Chairman Pai. 

“Going forward, I urged them to air public service announcements featuring prominent entertainment and sports personalities, and local news anchors asking Americans to practice the social distancing that is needed to combat this pandemic.  We need this vital message to be delivered by Americans who are familiar to different segments of our society, and broadcasters are ideally situated to the task.”     

March 18, 14:20 – Liquid Telecom responses to COVID-19

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic saying that it is committed to ensuring its customers have access to a reliable network and digital solutions.

The company says it has been implementing plans to ensure network and system continuity as the situation continues to evolve.

Additionally, it’s says that it has remote working capability in place for all key processes and systems for our key personnel, as well as the fact that all its staff are able to work remotely at short notice should they need to.

 “Our thoughts go out to the many people who have been affected by this unprecedented event. We are planning for all eventualities to ensure we do everything possible to support our employees, customers, partners and public,” said Nic Rudnick, Group CEO, Liquid Telecom.

“To ensure business continuity, most of our personnel can work and collaborate from remote sites utilising Microsoft Teams and other tools. Where possible, we are also helping our customers to maintain operations as close as is possible to normal using similar applications.” 

March 18, 11:14 – UK's Virgin Mobile network feels Covid-19 pressure

Customers in the UK are currently reporting they are unable to make or receive calls. Internet services seem to be also getting affected, according to users. According to DownDetector map, London and Manchester are the two main affected areas.

Virgin Media has commented on the issue: "“There are no widespread broadband issues on our network. We’re aware of an intermittent issue affecting voice services for some of our mobile customers but this has no relation to our other services. We’re working to get this fixed as quickly as possible and apologise for any inconvenience.”

Virgin Mobile, powered by EE which is not reporting any network hurdles, had this morning announced that customers of Virgin Mobile UK, especially pay monthly clients, will be given unlimited minutes to landlines and other numbers. The operator also announced it would give a 10GB data boost for a month to its customers.

March 17, 22:21 – Telecoms businesses on the day markets fought back after governments around the world pour more than $1.5tr into economies

Here’s how the markets reacted to today’s news through the eyes of public traded data centre companies:

  • Telefonica (TEF): 4.34 EUR +0.66 (+17.80%)
  • BT Group (BT.A): 121.20 GBX +8.26 (+7.31%)
  • Vodafone (VOD): 105.90 GBX +7.88 (+8.04%)
  • Verizon Communications (VZ): 54.31 USD +3.35 (+6.57%)
  • AT&T (T): 33.74 USD +1.93 (+6.07%)
  • Sprint Corp (S): 7.91 USD +0.19 (+2.46%)
  • Centurylink (CTL): 10.86 USD +1.09 (+11.16%)
  • Bharti Airtel (BHARTIARTL): 458.00 INR −6.80 (-1.46%)
  • China Mobile (0941): 51.70 HKD −0.30 (-0.58%)
  • Comcast Corporation (CMCSA): 38.22 USD +2.18 (+6.05%)
  • China Telecom (0728): 2.31 HKD −0.050 (-2.12%)
  • America Movil (AMXL): 15.19 MXN +0.49 (+3.33%)
  • Reliance Communications (RCOM): 0.75 INR −0.050 (-6.25%)
  • Orange SA (ORA): 10.46 EUR +1.06 (+11.25%)
  • China Unicom (Hong Kong) (0762): 4.62 HKD −0.18 (-3.75%)
  • Deutsche Telekom (DTE): 11.44 EUR +0.50 (+4.57%)
  • Cincinnati Bell (CBB): 13.86 USD −0.12 (-0.86%)
  • SK Telecom Co (017670): 187,500 KRW −5,500 (-2.85%)
  • Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri (TCELL): 12.56 TRY +0.61 (+5.15%)
  • Tata Communications (TATACOMM): 257.75 INR +4.00 (+1.58%)
  • Altice USA (ATUS): 17.50 USD +0.30 (+1.74%)
  • VEON (VEON): 1.47 USD −0.0100 (-0.68%)

March 17, 16:04– Apple to shut US stores

The iPhone maker has announced it will shut down all its retail stores across the US. The company has not provided a date of went it will reopen the stores and simply said the closures will last until further notice.

The company said in a statement: "We are committed to providing exceptional service to our customers. For purchases with fast and free delivery, shop here on or the Apple Store app. For service and support, go to or call 800-275-2273 [in the US]. We look forward to seeing your soon.”

The company had previously announced all its stores globally would close, with the earliest estimates of reopening pointing at March 28. Full re-openings of all its stores are possibly going to occur well beyond that date.

Apple is not alone in its decision, as other major brands in and out of the tech world have announced global retail shutdowns including Calvin Klein, Nike, Under Armour, and dozens of others.

March 17, 14:37– UK mobile networks go into meltdown as Coronavirus forces home working

The UK’s major mobile networks have been experiencing outages this morning as millions of people have been forced to work from home due to the Coronavirus.

According to real-time outage monitor, Down Detector, issues were being reported as early as 9:14am GMT, with networks including Vodafone, O2, 3, Virgin, Vodafone, Tesco, GiffGaff and EE, all being affected.

Natalie Bannerman has more here.

March 13, 12:12 – Telstra orders 20,000 staff to work from home

Telstra has instructed all of its Australian staff to work from home until the end of March.

Along with these measures the telco is also cancelling all events and meetings of more than 25 people, and the cancellation of all domestic travel.

"We want to highlight that this is not due to a case of COVID-19 within our team," Alex Badenoch, Telstra's group executive for transformation, communications and people.

"This unprecedented situation requires decisive action, and it’s important we are flexible and ready to adapt to this evolving situation. It is a practical response to decisions and guidelines from experts being made around us."

March 16, 13:47 – Here’s 7 things telecoms businesses should do during the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic

With the world rapidly coming to halt and no end in sight, Capacity shares some ideas on how operators can weather the storm.

From João Marques Lima here.

March 13, 12:40 – BT’s CEO self-isolates amid coronavirus diagnosis

Philip Jansen, CEO of BT Group has tested positive for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and following health protocols is having to self-isolate.

In a statement on the BT Group website, the company confirmed that it is working closely with Public Health England to carry out “a full deep clean” of parts of its Group headquarters and will support any employees who have had contact with Philip ensuring they are “appropriately advised”.

Natalie Bannerman reports more here.

March 12, 15:00 – Datacloud Global Congress in Monaco announces rescheduled dates for 7-8-9 December 2020

After discussions with industry partners, BroadGroup the producers of Datacloud Global Congress and Awards, has taken the decision to reschedule the annual June dates for the event in Monaco to 7-9 December 2020.

Because of the unfolding impact of Covid-19 and its impact on global travel and business, the company believes it is of importance to give clarity to its customers at a time of great uncertainty.

Read the official announcement by the organisers here 

March 12, 13:57 – DE-CIX sees record-level network traffic caused by COVID-19 virus pandemic

DE-CIX (the Deutsche Commercial Internet Exchange) in Frankfurt set a new world record for data throughput on Tuesday evening this week, driven by increased internet usage related to the Coronavirus outbreak.

It was in December 2019 that DE-CIX in Frankfurt hit the 8 Terabits-per-second mark, and it has now increased its data throughput by more than 12% in just a couple of months.

Abigail Opiah reports more here for Data Economy.

March 10, 15:02 – Coronavirus outbreak to wipe off $70m to $90m from Vertiv’s Q1

Vertiv Holdings Co (NYSE: VRT) reported its full-year 2019 financial results with net sales of $4.4 billion, 3.4% higher than 2018, and 5.6% higher on an organic basis when adjusted for changes in foreign currency exchange rates.

The company reported a full-year 2019 net loss of $141 million declined 55% and adjusted EBITDA of $542 million increased 7.8% from 2018 driven by the higher sales and a 50 basis point improvement in adjusted EBITDA margin to 12.2%.

Abigail Opiah writes more here for Data Economy.

March 6, 19:24 – Iron Mountain sends customer service advisory letters to clients and partners

Answering to the global crisis, Mark Kidd, EVP & General Manager at Iron Mountain Data Centers, has sent a letter to clients and partners on how the company is dealing with the crisis and what the next steps will be for the business.

Read the full letter here.

March 5, 09:55 – Coronavirus cancellations near $1 billion

The event economy is likely to suffer losses of US$1 billion as a direct result of tech industry event cancellations due to coronavirus.

The figure – calculated by PredictHQ and currently standing at $900 million  –  is based on the median fundamental costs incurred by delegates while attending specific major events, which were scheduled for the coming months. Naturally, as more events are cancelled the figure will increase, however, the actual losses to event organisers and hosts are unlikely to be calculated due to the sensitivity of the data.

Melanie Mingas writes here.

March 4, 12:38 – Tech losses mount as Google and Microsoft cancel events over COVID-19

Google is the latest to cancel its flagship 2020 event, as new data estimates total losses could reach $900 million.

The Google I/O conference, scheduled to take place at Shoreline Amphitheatre, in Mountain View, CA, from 12th May, has been cancelled following health guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

However, Google Cloud Next 20 will still take place as a series of virtual sessions and live-streamed keynotes.

Melanie Mingas reports here for Data Economy.

February 24, 11:46 – Alibaba to give out free cloud to help businesses affected by Coronavirus

Alibaba Cloud is offering $1,000 of credits to purchase cloud services to organisations that have been impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak, to ensure business stability.

In the company’s December quarter 2019 results, Daniel Zhang, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group said that the company mobilised Alibaba ecosystem’s forces of commerce and technology to fully support the fight against the outbreak.

Abigail Opiah reports here for Data Economy.

February 20, 14:41 – Schneider Electric expects to recover from €300m revenue blow caused by Coronavirus

Schneider Electric has announced its fourth-quarter revenues and full-year results for the period ending December 31, 2019.

The France-based company reported €27.2bn revenues for the full year of 2019, a growth of +6%, and an organic growth of +4.2% with growth across businesses and all regions.

The company said that it is assessing the impact of the Coronavirus to the business, and stated that there will be an impact in Q1 2020 due to factory closures in January and February.

Abigail Opiah has the story here for Data Economy.

February 13, 14:08 – Alibaba Cloud sees big growth, aims for public cloud expansion

Alibaba Cloud maintained high growth for the fourth quarter ended 31 December 2019, with revenue growing 62% year-over-year to RMB10.721bn (US$1.540bn). The growth was reported as part of parent Alibaba Group’s (NYSE: BABA and HKEX: 9988) posted quarterly results.

The leading Chinese cloud service provider said sales were driven from both its public cloud and hybrid cloud businesses. Ahead of its 11.11 Global Shopping Festival during the quarter, Alibaba Cloud said it enabled the migration of the Alibaba Group’s core ecommerce businesses onto its public cloud.

Antony Savvas reports for Data Economy.

February 13, 14:08 – Tencent pledges another $143m in response to the outbreak

As China’s death toll passes 1,300 following the ongoing outbreak of the Coronavirus, Chinese tech company Tencent has rallied funds to aid in the fight against the mass spread.

Tencent announced the establishment of the “Comprehensive Security Fund for the Battle against Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia”, following the launch of the $42.9m (RMB300m) Outbreak Response Fund and the $28.6m (RMB200m) Developer Support Alliance Fund.

The Chinese internet-based platform company set up the Anti-Epidemic Fund by committing another $143m (RMB1bn) to support the battle against the Coronavirus.

Abigail Opiah has more on the story here for Data Economy.