Internet spikes again as we head towards the end of level 4 – Vodafone NZ network report: week 5 lockdown

By Tony Baird, Wholesale & Infrastructure Director, Vodafone NZ

It’s been another busy week at Vodafone NZ, starting with a massive spike in internet traffic at 4pm on Monday when New Zealanders tuned in to hear when we’d end COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown via the PM’s announcement.

While the past four weeks have been challenging in many ways, we’re pleased to be able to keep New Zealanders connected. I have been proud at how well the Vodafone phone and internet networks have held up, and as an essential service that’s needed now more than ever before it’s all been worth it despite the increased costs and strains it has placed on our operations.

To ensure our networks run smoothly during the day when most people are online for working, learning or playing, we instead have been undertaking maintenance and upgrade works overnight. This has meant many late nights for our engineering teams.

While level 3 will herald a slight easing of restrictions, we are aware that all NZ businesses are adjusting to a digitally-focused world longer term. While we don’t yet know all the specific impacts, we appreciate the financial impacts across industries will be significant - and we know we will never regret taking big early steps to protect the health of our people, customers and our business, as well as our country more broadly.

Key trends we’re continuing to see on average:

  • Voice calls +60%
  • Mobile & fixed data usage +20%
  • Rural broadband (RBI) +25% (on-peak) and +40% (off-peak)
  • International roaming -99%

Kiwis were glued to screens for Monday’s announcement

While the Prime Minister’s daily 1pm press conference regularly draws crowds, the 4pm announcement on Monday 20 April hit another high.

On top of the usual +20% increased mobile data and VodafoneTV baseline (vs pre-lockdown levels), we saw:

  • +82% increase in VodafoneTV traffic, compared to previous Mondays at 4pm for the month of April
  • +17% increase in mobile data traffic, compared to other Mondays at 4pm during lockdown
  • +10% increase in Facebook traffic at 4pm, compared to 4pm traffic for the previous week

Helping find a cure to COVID-19 while you sleep, with the DreamLab app

We were pleased our DreamLab app could be redeployed in support of the medical response to COVID-19. DreamLab uses the processing power of smartphones to help analyse complex data while their owners sleep. All you need to do is download the app, plug in your phone overnight (and open the app if you’re using an iPhone) – meaning that New Zealanders can help find a cure, while sleeping!

This data processing is helping scientists from Imperial College London to identify existing drugs and food-based molecules with anti-viral properties, with a goal to ultimately enable tailored treatments for patients with coronavirus, COVID-19.

Since the relaunch of DreamLab pre-Easter, there have been a massive 140,000 downloads of the app globally. We hope more customers in New Zealand will get involved and join the global effort from their homes.

Facebook Live gigs draw in digital crowds looking for online entertainment

The live entertainment industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, so we’re pleased to do our part to bring some awesome gigs into New Zealand’s homes via digital technologies.

We teamed up with our music partner, Live Nation, to create Vodafone Lounge Jams – gigs livestreamed via Facebook on Thursday nights at 7pm during lockdown.

These weekly concerts are demonstrating the strength of our network, and living up to our role of keeping Kiwis connected to the entertainment they love.

We have since jammed with Tiki Taane, Hollie Smith and P Digsss, as well as Dave Dobbyn who had a whopping 276,000 views of the livestream or recording from his gig on April 16!

Increasing capacity at Middlemore Hospital

In our ongoing effort to ensure essential connectivity services, this week we installed a 4G and 5G-capable moveable cell site (a ‘cell site on wheels’, or COW) at Middlemore Hospital. This helped boost coverage in the area – which is essential for both the hospital staff as well as patients and their whanau.

Thankfully it was a nice day and the installation by crane went smoothly!

Congrats to the team involved with #hackthecrisis

While we’re busy keeping people connected, it’s been heartening to see our team involved with other innovation efforts to help the broader community.

Congratulations to Jin Tac Kwon, a capacity planning engineer in our Operational Support & Automation team, who won the “best student team” award in a 48 hour innovation challenge that took place last weekend, #HackTheCrisis.

Along with a Canterbury University team mate, their pitch was for Maple: an app to incentivise walking and help neighbouring cafes and restaurants. Well done!

Stay safe, stay home, stay connected

As we head towards the final days of level 4 lockdown, and the Anzac long weekend commemorating the heroes and heroines of our past, it’s a great time to pick up the phone or use a video calling app to connect with friends and family. Now, more than ever, we hope you stay connected digitally.

From all of us at Vodafone NZ – stay safe.

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