First Business News Portal in English from Nepal
KATHMANDU: Despite the months-long lockdown and restrictions in people’s movement imposed by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Nepal, connectivity among people remained intact even during the pandemic, thanks to the telecommunication connectivity ensured by the telecom firms in the country. Even though everything was literally shutdown with people confined to their homes and physical mobility completely restricted, advances in technology proved that the world can, and is, operating seamlessly through telecom platforms. It would be difficult to fathom a life at this age without telephone or internet connectivity amid the lockdown and travel restrictions in place.If not for the various communication tools at our disposal it would certainly feel like living during the early stages of human civilization. Along with ensuring uninterrupted connectivity among people, the domestic telecom firms also played a pivotal role in raising awareness among the public and helping the government fight the pandemic. Telecommunication experts have opined that the seamless connectivity being ensured by telecom firms amid limited bandwidth and telecommunication infrastructure is phenomenal. “The country’s telecommunication infrastructure is comparatively very poor and the regulator has also not been an active and effective player. Despite these constraints our domestic telecom firms, especially Nepal Telecom and Ncell, actively and effectively fulfilled their obligations during the crisis,” said an expert, seeking anonymity. The government-owned NT and private sector-led Ncell Axiata Ltd are the two major players in the domestic telecommunication sector with more than 95% market share. They not only helped ensure connectivity among people during the lockdown but also provided immense support to the public by raising awareness throughout the crisis and also offering various service packages for free or at a discounted rate. They also assisted the government through different means to combat the spread of the COVID-19. Here is a brief look into how Nepal Telecom and Ncellresponded to the COVID-19 crisis: Ncell • Proactively raised awareness through SMS (over 45 million), OBD calls (over 20 million calls) and call tones, awareness and engagement promotions. Awareness via call tone is still in place. • Rs 100 million (Rs 10 crore) contribution to the government-established COVID-19 Infection Prevention, Control and Treatment Fund.
• Started USSD survey as a pilot project in Janakpur and later implemented both USSD and IVR based COVID-19 self-assessment survey to support the government in identifying COVID-infected people. • Ensured access to government hotline numbers 1115, 1133. • Operation of Ncell hotline number 9801575005 through which people can consult doctors regarding the coronavirus disease for free of charge. • Ncell ‘Call to Doctor’ service is in operation in collaboration with Nepal Medical Association and Hamro Patro via which people can avail live consultations with doctors through video chat. • Ncell, in association with Psychiatrists Association of Nepal, also provided free psychiatrist consultation through a hotline, 9805554501, as it is equally important to stay mentally healthy during this crisis • Temporary change in network name to ‘[email protected] • Different customer relief and friendly offers with discounts in service fees, special SIM card bundled with free voice, data and SMS to all the frontline workers including doctors, health professionals and security personnel.
Nepal Telecom • Proactively raised awareness through CRBT and SMS • Rs 120 million (Rs 12 crore) contribution to the Government-established COVID-19 Infection Prevention, Control and Treatment Fund. • Withdrew late fee charge throughout the lockdown and ensured continuous ADSL, FTTH facility despite service expiry. • Amid disturbed supply chain of recharge cards in the market, provided 100 percent bonus to customers.
• Provided discounts to customers on data services in line with the government’s direction. • Provided different discounted offers on data and voice services throughout the lockdown period. • Ensured internet connection in different quarantine centers established by the government. • Provided call facility despite zero balance in customers’ mobile phone accounts. • Supported the government in tracing/finding coronavirus-infected people.
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