COVID lockdown increases pressure on network operators
Mobile network operators are under increasing strain as subscribers demand better connectivity during COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
According to information released by mobile technology company Upstream, requests for uninterrupted, free mobile internet access are on the rise.
Upstream’s Zero-D online platform allows mobile network operators to offer free, ad-funded access to essential internet services when their users have run out of data. The information by Zero-D highlights the ‘digital divide’ and how acutely it is being felt in developing countries. While mature markets move their focus to speed and accessibility in the form of 5G, emerging markets are still trying to establish a basic and sustainable form of connectivity amid lacking infrastructure and high mobile data prices.
In addition to search data, the Zero-D report also looks at the number of news articles visited in various categories, from health and entertainment to sports and politics. In both South Africa and Brazil, health is the number one topic, accounting for around 28% of all articles read. This represents a huge spike compared to pre-pandemic figures, when health accounted only for a little more than 5% — suggesting a significant demand for online information relating to the pandemic and other health matters.
Individuals are still being urged to stay at home, perhaps looking for distractions from the pandemic in the form of video streaming, gaming and other forms of online entertainment, all of which are on the rise. While health, coronavirus and free data topped news articles and queries, entertainment was still the number one overall search category on mobile devices.
“Connectivity has been a real issue for millions of people around the world during the pandemic. In emerging markets such as Brazil and South Africa, where users still physically purchase data top-ups, it’s not always easy or affordable to stay online,” said Kostas Kastanis, Deputy CEO at Upstream.
“Demand for free basic internet access was always there, but the pandemic has brought the issue into stark focus. Individuals are missing out on essential health information, access to breaking news and the means to stay in touch with their friends and family. Zero-D is an ad-funded free internet portal that gives users access to essential web services when they run out of credit, giving MNOs the opportunity to keep people connected, keep them online and, ultimately, retain their customers.”
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