Video conferencing in vogue and remote education begins – Vodafone NZ network report: week 4 lockdown

By Tony Baird, Wholesale & Infrastructure Director, Vodafone NZ

As we head towards the end of week four under COVID-19 alert level 4, demand on our internet and phone networks remains incredibly high.

Just like most other businesses in New Zealand, financial pressures are coming into focus – with reduced revenue and increased network demands in our case – creating stark changes to our operating cadence just over a month ago.

We continue to see phone and internet traffic sit at 20-60% higher than pre-lockdown levels, with video conferencing spike and remote education causing interesting patterns of behaviour.

Key trends we’re seeing on average:

  • Voice calls +60%
  • Mobile & fixed data +20%
  • Rural broadband (RBI) +25% (on-peak) and +40% (off-peak)
  • Vodafone NZ video conferences +688% (number of conferences) and +672% (minutes)
  • International roaming -99%

Video conferencing on the rise, complements voice increases

As most New Zealanders can attest, phone calls and video conferences are the new meetings, classrooms and parties. While voice is most definitely back in vogue (+60%), video provides a modern twist, with businesses taking to online conferencing in droves.

While we can’t provide other business’ stats due to privacy reasons, we can paint a picture based on the increased adoption of video conferencing at Vodafone NZ.

Remote working and video conferencing has long been in our toolkit, however face-to-face meetings still dominated. Now more than 1,000 staff are using video conferencing on a regular basis for internal, supplier, partner and customer meetings.

We’ve seen +688% increase in video conferences take place in the 14 working days since lockdown (Thursday 26 March to Thursday 16 April). We’ve also seen +672% more minutes spent on video conferences – with an average length of 32.5 minutes per conference, and the video call with the most people clocking 336 attendees. One busy exec has even completed 123 video calls in this period – almost nine (8.7) every day!

While the vast majority of calls are with others in New Zealand, showing the easy ability to work cross-borders, the top 10 most popular countries for callers we’re speaking to are:

  1. New Zealand
  2. USA
  3. Australia
  4. India
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Singapore
  7. Japan
  8. Ireland
  9. France
  10. Philippines

Remote education begins and daytime streaming drops off

Last week we reported that Netflix and YouTube daytime viewing has been increasing. Now it seems online schooling is working as when remote education started this week, daytime viewing dropped off.

While our busiest hour is still 9pm, when comparing this Wednesday (15th April) vs last Wednesday (8th April) during the day (9am-5pm) we saw:

  • Daytime Netflix traffic decrease -20%,
  • Daytime YouTube traffic decrease -5.5%

With Home Learning, Papa Kāinga TV, starting this week we rushed through an update to VodafoneTV to include TVNZ+1, which was previously not needed as people could instead watch catch-up TV.

Now Channel 502 on VodafoneTV is the home for educational TV, in addition to the TVNZ on Demand app and Maori Television (Channel 19) which is broadcasting te reo educational programmes from 9am to 3pm on schooldays – with VodafoneTV viewing stable at +20% higher than pre-lockdown.

Best in class enterprise deployments

In the weeks leading up to and during lockdown, our United Comms & Contact Centre (UC&C) practice has been incredibly busy working with business customers to ensure their teams can continue to work remotely at home, with many late nights and incredibly quick turnarounds – with Microsoft Teams particularly in high demand.

One customer, Auckland Council, this week highlighted the “‘extraordinary’ act of selflessness” from our Vodafone NZ team with a working-from-home deployment that would have taken around three months in usual operating cadence completed in just 24 hours – a massive feat.

Further highlighting our best-in-class capability, Vodafone has reached Gold Competency level in enterprise deployments for Cloud Productivity of Office 365, in addition to Silver status for Cloud Platform, Collaboration and Content, Communications, Messaging, and Windows and Devices.

A partner with Gold Competency has a specialised skill set in implementing a particular solution or providing clients with service in a specific area. Gold membership reflects our ability to build and deliver best-in-class solutions for customers, and adds to our ability as one of just three partners globally who are authorised to sell Microsoft Managed Desktop (MMD) through the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP).

We’re pleased to help our business customers stay connected during this massive time of disruption for all.

Arson attacks on cell sites

There has been a lot of news about arson attacks on cell sites this past week, due to blatantly false conspiracy theories about 5G, prompting the TCF to condemn wilful damage on behalf of the industry. While we won’t give specifics as we don’t want to encourage copycat activity, Vodafone NZ has also been subject to threats and activity, which is infuriating.

Every cell mast is essential for maintaining mobile services, particularly during a pandemic for critical health services, and we’re deploying cell sites on wheels (COWs) or other network technology to boost mobile coverage for hospitals that need it.

Damage to our network infrastructure could impede health authorities’ ability to save lives – and impacted cell sites could potentially be out of service for months, meaning a local community might not have mobile or home internet access depending on where the cell site is.

Internationally, Vodafone UK CEO, Nick Jeffries, wrote in a LinkedIn post this week that “deluded conspiracy theorists” are threatening people’s ability to talk to loved ones in hospital, following 20 Vodafone UK cell sites being attacked by arsonists.

We hope New Zealand can avoid this calamity, and ask anyone to report suspicious activity near cell towers to the police.

Increased 5G capacity to support the NZ Police

On the flipside, we continue to work closely with essential services to deliver world-class connectivity via our newest network technology (5G) – including increasing 5G capacity via temporary 3.5GHz spectrum in Wellington CBD, primarily to give more capacity to the pandemic response unit.

New Zealand Police is leading the all-of-government COVID-19 task force in central Wellington, and have been provided with a number of 5G routers to enable connectivity. As the range of activities on site increases, more capacity is required and we’re pleased to be able to help with the response effort in this way.

We remain committed to delivering next generation 5G technology services to support the connectivity needs of New Zealand now, and in many years to come.

And likewise, will continue to focus on keeping New Zealand connected as we determine what the exit strategy out of level 4 might be.

Stay safe – Vodafone.

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