DISASTERS/EPIDEMICS

Covid-19 Industry Impact

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MOBILE WORLD LIVE is tracking the ongoing impact of Covid-19 (coronavirus) on the industry and how operators and major players are adapting to, and helping tackle, the spread of the virus.

27 MARCH, 2020

Juniper Research predicted severe travel restrictions prompted by the pandemic would lead to operator roaming revenue plunging by as much as US$25 billion over the next nine months.

Telia braced for the financial implications of a virus-related drop in advertising in its media and TV division by cutting its dividend for 2019 and revising its outlook for 2020.

26 MARCH:

The Intel Foundation, the charitable arm of US chipmaker Intel, pledged US$6 million to domestic relief efforts, with US$4 million to bolster community foundations and US$2 million to match donations made by current and former staff.

Austria postponed its 5G auction, originally scheduled to take place in April, Reuters reported.

Veon introduced a host of measures across its five operator brands in ten markets including free calls and data, and access to healthcare professionals.

Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei told The Wall Street Journal the financial impact would only begin to emerge when it reports Q1 2020 results, but noted almost all staff in China were now back at work.

Apple prepared for a potential delay of its annual iPhone refresh, generally held in September and widely tipped to feature its first 5G handset, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

The World Health Organisation acknowledged technology played an important role in tackling Covid-19, but emphasised privacy and security regulations must not be circumvented when gathering key information as part of the efforts.

Operator groups in Africa including MTN, Vodacom, Airtel and Orange cut selected mobile money fees in a number of markets as part of wider efforts to persuade consumers to avoid face-to-face transactions.

25 MARCH:

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) delayed an auction of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band originally scheduled to begin 25 June. It will now commence 23 July.

Apple told staff it could begin reopening stores outside of Greater China in April: it is already moving to open Chinese outlets, Bloomberg reported.

GSMA Intelligence senior manager for Core Data Matthew Iji explained there would be a short-term impact on global 5G deployments, but highlighted this could ultimately prove to be a bonus in terms of wider connectivity and network quality.

Standards body 3GPP pushed back the release of the next two batches of 5G protocols by three months.

Vodafone New Zealand, Spark and 2degrees aimed to continue providing essential connectivity gear to consumers by moving shops to a no-contact model, after the government implemented a four-week lockdown.

Facebook announced its ad revenue fell victim to implications arising from the pandemic, despite spikes in usage of its messaging services across affected countries.

24 MARCH, 2020:

An Ericsson representative told Mobile World Live a newly-opened mmWave equipment factory in Texas was still producing gear, after it received an exemption from a local lockdown edict.

Twitter warned it faced booking an operating loss for Q1 due to the negative impact on its global advertising revenue, with other guidance for the period also dropped.

ABI Research tipped the outbreak to cause a huge reduction in the production of smartphones, potentially falling by as much as 30 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2020.

Mobile network operators in the UK are sending out a government text message to their subscribers, outlining new rules in force due to the crisis. The government collaborated with the operators to disseminate the information, as an emergency system trialled seven years ago was never deployed, BBC News reported.

Samsung closed its production factory in the Brazilian city of Manaus for the period between 24 March and 29 March, as a preventive measure, local newspaper O Globo reported.

23 MARCH, 2020:

AT&T, Verizon and Sprint reported spikes in voice calls, as restrictions imposed resulted in people turning to more traditional methods of communication.

Strategy Analytics revealed the virus had a heavy impact on global smartphone shipments, with almost 40 million fewer units shipped in February than the same month in 2019.

Disney detailed plans to limit the quality on its Disney+ streaming service in the UK when it launches later this week, with the company revaling the move a day after Facebook became the latest big name to introduce restrictions in Europe, The Telegraph reported.

The World Health Organisation launched a messaging service on WhatsApp to provide updates and alerts about the global pandemic, using ML technology.

Facebook announced the launch of a global programme, aimed to provide government health organisations and UN health agencies with free Messenger developer resources, and unveiled a hackaton for building messaging features to address social distancing and misinformation.

Industry association TM Forum postponed its annual Digital Transformation World event, scheduled to take place in Copenhagen in June, until October.

Vodafone Australia asked customers to use self-service channels wherever possible as it is experiencing higher than normal call volumes, as well as reduced availability of agents at its Mumbai centre following measures implemented in India. It also closed eight retail stores in Sydney to redeploy employees to customer care lines (staff are working remotely).

Samsung has stopped production until 25 March at its smartphone factory in Noida, India, following a government request.

20 MARCH:

Alphabet completely cancelled its Google I/O event “in any capacity this year”, after earlier deciding to scrap the physical meet due to run in May.

Amazon, Netflix and YouTube restricted video streaming quality in Europe to standard definition to reduce network congestion.

The International Telecommunication Union published guidelines for countries to develop contingency plans to keep networks online in times of national emergencies.

EC and BEREC warned operators must continue to comply with open internet rules, which only permit exceptional traffic management measures to mitigate impending network congestion, stating there was yet to be “general network congestion”.

Thailand-based dtac reported an 828 per cent rise in data traffic from Zoom and a 215 per cent spike on Skype video conferencing apps between 1 January and 19 March. Operator said it is optimising network capacity to keep up with traffic spikes due to an increasingly homebound workforce.

19 MARCH:

The UK government opened talks with O2 UK about using location data to track if the public are following social distancing guidelines, The Telegraph reported. This follows similar moves by operators in Germany, Italy and Austria.

Telecom Italia pledged to donate €1 million(US$1.12million) to four hospitals across the country through the TIM Foundation, as part of its effort to tackle the crisis. The operator said it will give €250,000 each to healthcare institutions in Milan, the Veneto region, Rome and Naples.

The FCC opened the door for Verizon to use additional spectrum to help the operator meet increased demand for mobile broadband across the country during the pandemic.

Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Vodafone Italy, Wind Tre and Telekom Austria shared data with health authorities to analyse whether citizens have complied with social distancing measures to help limit the spread of the disease.

China Mobile chairman Yang Jie noted the outbreak had accelerated a shift towards using digital and cloud-based services, stating the operator would support this through continued network upgrades.

18 MARCH:

The FCC temporarily changed regulations for its Rural Health Care and E-rate programmes in a bid to make it easier for broadband providers to offer participants improved connections or additional equipment for telemedicine and remote learning during the pandemic. The rule changes will remain in effect through 30 September 2020.

AT&T closed 40 per cent of its stores nationwide, making it the third major US operator to temporarily pull down the shutters on a significant portion of its retail locations. Shops remaining open will operate on reduced hours, it said.

Deutsche Telekom announced it is closing its shops in Germany from today, until further notice. The operator said, in view of the crisis, it would discontinue sales and services in around 500 stores across the country. It also temporarily closed all stores of its Netherlands division and 80 per cent of shops in the US.

WhatsApp took steps to tackle challenges stemming from the pandemic, launching a global information centre and donating US$1 million to a fact-checking initiative.

Vodafone Group laid out a five-point plan to help counter the impacts of the outbreak. In a statement, the operator said it was putting measures in place to help maintain the quality of service of networks; provide network capacity and services for critical government functions; improve dissemination of information to the public; enable home working and help the small and micro businesses within its supply chain; and improve governments’ insights into people’s movements in affected areas.

The Spanish government agreed a temporary hold on number portability rules for mobile and fixed providers, to free operator employees for tasks deemed a priority in response to the ongoing public health crisis, Expansion reported.

Telekom Malaysia closed all retail outlets, but Digi said its stores will continue to operate as usual. Maxis and Celcom told all employees to work from home.

17 MARCH:

French telecoms regulator Arcep put plans for a 5G spectrum auction on hold, noting the outbreak made it impossible to press ahead with the sale, scheduled to take place in April.

More than a dozen US politicians urged the FCC to provide emergency funding for the distribution of Wi-Fi hotspots and other connected devices so students can continue their education from home.

The FCC approved a move by US Cellular to access AWS-3 spectrum held by Advantage Spectrum for 60 days to boost capacity in parts of California, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

Sprint closed 71 per cent of its stores nationwide, and adopted reduced operating hours for those remaining open.

Dialog Axiata in Sri Lanka partnered Wavenet International and MyDoctor to launch a free trilingual hotline offering information and advice and providing virtual access to doctors.

16 MARCH:

Apple closed all stores outside of China for almost two weeks, as part of measures to minimise the risk of infection. Meanwhile stores in Greater China reopened after being closed for six weeks.

The FCC cleared T-Mobile US to use spectrum licensed to several broadcast companies to allow the operator to support increased demand for telehealth and homeworking services.

BT Group CEO Philip Jansen offered assurances there would be no disruption to the operator’s business after the company revealed he had self-isolated at home following a positive diagnosis.

13 MARCH:

Apple shifted its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) to an online-only format, the latest of several technology giants to scrap a major in-person gathering due to concerns about the virus.

Verizon increased its capex guidance for 2020, outlining plans to spend an extra US$500 million to speed its transition to 5G and prepare for a potential surge in data traffic related to the spread of the disease.10 MARCH:

Data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) showed smartphone shipments in China plunged in February, with Apple shipping only about half a million iPhones as the outbreak sharply curbed demand.

CES Asia was the latest tech show to be cancelled. The event was due to be held in Shanghai, from 10 June to 12 June.

6 MARCH:

The organisers of South By Southwest festival cancelled the annual arts and technology festival, due to run from 13 March to 22 March in Austin, Texas.

3 MARCH:

Alphabet called off its Google I/O event where it usually unveils new hardware and features for its Android operating system. It was scheduled to run from 12 May to 14 May.

2 MARCH:

The spread of Covid-19 to an industrial complex in South Korea forced Samsung and LG Electronics to temporarily shut factories.

27 FEBRUARY:

Facebook cancelled its annual, 5,000-strong attendee, F8 Developer Conference, outlining plans to hold a series of smaller local and online events instead.

18 FEBRUARY:

Apple became the first major manufacturer to forecast a revenue hit due to manufacturing and retail shutdowns caused by the outbreak.

12 FEBRUARY:

MWC20 Barcelona became the first major industry event to be cancelled in light of concerns around the spread of the disease.

US advances move to limit Huawei chip access

The US government pushed ahead with a proposal to limit Huawei’s access to certain components, as the administration continued to propose restrictions on the Chinese vendor’s international business due to concerns over spying, Reuters reported.

A measure agreed by cabinet members would require an export licence to supply components made using US-designed equipment to the Chinese vendor. It would also enable the US Department of Commerce (DoC) to block shipments to specific companies, Reuters stated.

The news agency cited a source who said the move targets Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which makes chips for Huawei’s HiSilicon unit and is the world’s largest contract maker of semiconductors.

A  trade lawyer, Doug Jacobson said the move would have a more negative impact on US companies than Huawei, as the company is developing its own supply chain and, ultimately, will find alternatives, Reuters wrote.

While the rule could take weeks to finalise, the government’s plan apparently is to push the restrictions into effect without giving the chip industry an opportunity to comment, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In the first two months of the year, the US government twice proposed expanding trade restrictions to give it the authority to block global chip sales to Huawei, with the first move halted due to concerns about the potential impact to domestic businesses.

Huawei was added to an economic blacklist in May 2019. Two weeks ago, the DoC again issued a 45-day extension to temporary trading licences allowing US companies to continue to do business with the vendor, the latest in a series of postponements to implementing a trade ban.

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