Vishant Vora, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone Idea

The ongoing Covid-19 lockdown has led to everyone being confined to their homes, entirely dependent on telecom networks to study, work, access essentials, source information and entertainment. In a country that already has the highest data usage per smartphone globally, increased online activity has meant immense pressure on mobile networks. There are no happy hours on mobile internet anymore. Peak hours have extended to all day, every day, with majority of the traffic emanating from residential areas. Earlier, 70% of traffic was coming from indoor and 30% outdoor. Now it is 100% indoors. The longer people stay ‘in’, the busier the data highway will get.

The onus rests with telecom companies that service the length and breadth of India to rise to the challenge and ensure that a billion Indians continue to have access to secure, seamless, reliable and uninterrupted connectivity in order to stay informed and mitigate the disruptive impact of Covid-19. Answering the call made by industry association COAI and the Government, the OTT service providers have announced steps to reduce the definition of their streams and are working with telecom companies on other technical measures to ease the pressure on data infrastructure.

Vodafone Idea has been receiving internet demand from every part of the country including rural areas. In the first one week of lockdown, Vodafone Idea got the traffic growth which was more than the growth that we had received for the full year. The world’s largest network integration undertaken by Vodafone Idea over the last year, gave us more capacity headroom, as do some of our latest technology deployments making the utilization of spectrum far more efficient. Our 12000+ ma-MIMOs (by far the largest in the country) deployed across key markets are substantially helping in managing the traffic spike.  Additionally, in order to accommodate this spike in demand, our teams have been out there in the field to make sure that we make our network strong…we add capacity, whenever there are problems to address them very quickly. Whether it is Assam & North East or Punjab, Mumbai or Tamil Nadu, Vodafone Idea has been upgrading sites to accommodate the surge in usage amongst our customer base. Wherever possible we are deploying 900 MHz spectrum on sites to facilitate better indoor experience and enhanced network speed.

Our Business Continuity Plans are being diligently reviewed across all operations. Our flagship Super NOC, located in Pune and Hyderabad, is the nerve center of all 22 circles with 24×7 centralized monitoring and control of our Network, ensuring business continuity with geo-redundancy. All our enterprise services also continue to be monitored through our SNOC to ensure business continuity for large corporates as well as small/home enterprises.

Even as we are driven by our policies to ensure the safety of our employees, as the key link to keep users connected with the external world, we are duty bound to ensure 24×7 service delivery to our customers. We know what it takes and stand committed to deliver on that commitment. Our field engineers are no less than paramedics ensuring ‘oxygen supply’ is not disrupted! On duty even in these challenging circumstances, these field engineers have been provided with all necessary support and facilities, in line with the social distancing protocols. Living out of office facilities such as data centre locations, they have been provided beddings, food, groceries and other essentials like masks, gloves, hand sanitizers. Our ground heroes – the technicians – have been given vehicles tagged with ‘Emergency Telecom Services’ stickers to facilitate their movement to sites.