Telecommunication Firms Gain In COVID-19 Pain

The outbreak of coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic and embrace of social distancing to reduce its spread has led to the concept of people working from home (WfH).  LUCAS AJANAKU of THE NATION reports on the gains, pains and shape of things to come after the cessation of coronavirus hostilities.

Before the first index case of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was recorded in Nigeria, Mrs Esther Felix usually subscribes to the monthly N1000 data plan on her mobile phone.

Without video streaming but reading and sending WhatsApp messages and checking her Gmail account, she even gets monthly data roll over.

But since the pandemic assumed a frightneing dimension and a forced lockdown became inevitable to tame the shrew, her story has changed. She now spends N8,000 monthly on data.The reasons for this are not far-fetched. A mother of three, the lockdown has led to all her kids learning online.

Mrs Felix’s experience is fairly representative of the experiences of workers, parents, churches, mosques and other business organisations across the country that have been compelled to learn, work, preach and work remotely from home.

Today, there are various clusters of social  platforms, such as Mixlr.com, Zoom.com, Twitter.com, Facebook.com, Instagram Live; Facebook Live and LinkedIn Live. Others that have enabled virtual meetings, conferences and other engagements are Microsoft Team,  and Google MEET

Internet traffic has gone up sharply, no thanks to the pandemic. And this has translated to huge cash to the wallet of mobile network operators (MNOs).

According to the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), the country’s internet gateway,  internet traffic has increased by about 15 per cent.

Its Chief Executive Officer, Muhammed Rudman, said the figures fluctuate, with a larger percentage of the spike seen in urban areas. He added that the MNOs which serve end users have largely profited from the increase.

Rudman, however, said Internet Service Providers (ISPs), especially the Tier 2 operators, which service corporate bodies and enterprises had not seen any rise in traffic “because companies are not currently operating.Their customers are not at work because of the lockdown.

“Some ISPs, like MTN, have direct end user customers. Of course, they have enterprises they service as well, but they concentrate more on the end users.Others like Spectranet, Internet Solutions, which deal with corporate bodies, are experiencing lull in traffic.

For some of them, traffic has dropped. But for those dealing with end users, the traffic has been rising. The 15 per cent is the aggregate increase in traffic monitored by IXPN in the last few weeks,” he was quoted to have explained.

He said the increase in traffic would translate to revenue increase for operators because people want to stay connected with their loved ones in and out of the country.

The President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCO), Olusola Teniola,  said the increased data usage demonstrates that the traffic management and Quality of Service (QoS) are focus points in the industry.

He said the data demand originated from high usage of over the top (OTT) applications and other collaborative tools and adoption of virtual e-learning systems from homes.

This, he said, generates the requests and some uploads of content and mostly downloads from heavy data content providers offering video and/or live streaming services.

Teniola said the data traffic contributed to an increase of usage on YouTube platform where most live church or mosque programmes were hosted for viewing.

“However, the spikes would occur in a particular period on a particular day. The spike during those periods causes congestion in the networks towards the edge of the network (wherever this is physically located),” he was quoted to have said.

He however said the change in consumer behaviour and the ability of consumers to continue purchasing data would limit the height of any spike and the duration.

However, the gains of the telcos have become the pains of the subscribers who have been at the receiving end of the improvement. The cost of the traffic spike is on the QoS which has nose-dived.

There have not only been  persistent drop calls, the speed of the internet has not been anythong to write home about.

According to Speedtest Global Index, the country’s internet speed has actually been slow in recent weeks. Against the global download speed of 30.47megabytes per second (mbps), Nigeria recorded 15.53mbps. Also, while the world’s upload speed is 10.73mbps, Nigeria had 7.25mbps.

“The novel coronavirus has killed tens of thousands of people around the world since it first emerged in China last December.

It has compelled many governments to lock down their populations to a degree unimaginable until recently. It will probably cause the most brutal recession in living memory,” London Economist writes.

The Managing Director, Rack Centre, Dr. Ayotunde Coker and Dr. ‘Biodun Adedipe of B. Adedipe Associates Limited said, the world will never remain the same after the COVID-19.

Coker said aside the embrace of the concept of work-from-hom (WfH), theere will also be an increase in outsourcing of non-core jobs in business organisations.

“Outsource is one major way that will ensure business sustenance. Over the years, we have been explaining to companies the need to focus on their core-business areas and outsource the none-core areas. Lessons learnt now will reinforce and deliver that value,” he said.

There will also be a rise in EduTech.  “Children are working and studying hard at home now because they have been sent home due to COVID-19. What they require now is the data to follow their lectures online.

‘’Healthcare technologies, he said,  have received massive attention now.

“We now have high quality video augmented reality interaction with experts anywhere in the world; remote key control non-intrusive technologies are now being done by interaction through technology with our doctors here (in Nigeria).

‘’A key thing is that global supply chain will change.

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