The emergence of COVID-19 has strained a lot as the telecom companies in South America are facing huge losses from reduction in the number of subscribers to dip in revenue and overall sales. Rise in customer complaints with respect to network deterioration has become a serious concern for telcos and are figuring out various ways to serve their customers and retain them for a long-term.
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Influence of coronavirus on South American network operators
- Telefonica Brasil – The largest carrier provided mobile phone data to government authorities to check on people’s movement and the people they are in getting close to in Sao Paolo state. Moreover, the company has always ensured Internet connectivity to its customers. They are providing higher data allowance, giving free access to coronavirus app and 100 TV channels. This was aimed at slowing down the coronavirus disease with a check on the people and anticipate transmission trends. On the revenue side, Telefonica Brasil’s Capex witnessed a drop by 12.3% to €665 Million due to COVID-19 restrictions in the first half of 2020.
- America Movil – The company faced huge disruption due to the measures taken in the wake of the COVID-19 disease that resulted in the closure of shops and customer care service centres during Q2. Loss in prepaid and post-paid subscribers, drop in equipment sales revenue by 27% y-o-y as the shops were closed suspended operator’s growth during the COVID-19 period.
- Oi – Brazilian telecom operator is facing financial difficulties since many years and has been in a discussion with operators namely Telecom Italia, America Movil and Telefonica. The trio has made a joint bid to acquire the entire mobile business unit from Oi, shrinking the competition in the mobile market in the nation.
- TIM Brasil – Despite mixed impact of deadly coronavirus on its operations, TIM Brasil has developed its own strategies and are marching ahead with it, including acquisitions and expansion of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) in Brasil.
What are the initiatives taken by telcos in South America?
- Opened TV channels for customers – Caribbean and Latin American telecommunication companies are providing free access to news channels so that people can get relevant information on COVID-19 and its measures. Further, access to educational websites is assisting students to continue their study from home due to nationwide lockdown.
- Partnering with government to provide location-based customer data – Mobile operators have joined hands with government agencies to provide them crowdsourced data based on geographical location. Crowdsourcing mobile testing is a new technique embraced by operators to gather data from customers’ mobile phones irrespective of the location. On executing mobile network performance testing with this data, operators can easily measure network QoE and optimize it to deliver awesome Internet experience to users.
- Emphasizing on wide-scale adoption of 5G networks – 5G deployment and testing is a critical task and requires use of high-end spectrums to deliver excellent quality of experience (QoE) to users. The coronavirus pandemic delayed long-awaited 5G spectrum auction to be held at Brasil and may be carried out in late 2020. Since consumer demands are increasing, its equally important for South American telcos to constantly perform 5G network testing to fasten 5G rollout in the continent. Claro Brasil recently launched its 5G network with the utilization of 700MHz, 1,800MHz, and 2.5GHz spectrum from Ericsson.
- Avoid overloading of network with responsible use of networks and services – Adhering to government ‘Solidarity Plan’ announced in late March, telcos including Claro Chile SA, Entel Chile, Telefonica Chile has come up with an offer to keep 40% of the poorest households connected.
- Discounts on telecom service fees and free upgrades in data caps, multichannel packages, broadband speeds – Ease in payments for low-income customers have been a key measure taken by most of the companies such as Telefonica Brasil. Customers are complaining about slow network speed as they tend to spend hours on mobile watching videos, doing online meeting with colleagues and clients etc. amid lockdown. To resolve such issues, one of the largest ISP cable providers in Brasil, Claro Brasil made sure its customers are provided with proper bandwidth as it gradually expedited its broadband speed and unlocked its public Wi-Fi hotspots for free to all the customers.
Telecom companies like Telefonica Brasil, America Movil etc. are still trying to untangle the tangled COVID-19 outburst that directly impacted their businesses and consumers. Not just envisioning to end the calamity as soon as possible, telcos that are moving ahead with new strategies and policies will be in a win-win situation in post-COVID era.