With Moscow witnessing an increasing number of COVID-19 cases and President Putin ordering the closure of non-essential businesses from 28 March to 5 April , many people have been staying at home. Russian telecom operators have been taking a number of initiatives to help consumers, businesses and the government better cope with the fallout of the pandemic.
MTS offers free services with computational power to help find a cure to the virus
Through its #CloudMTS arm, the telco is donating computational power to the Folding@Home project, which aims at simulating how COVID-19 proteins work and at identifying relevant therapeutics in the search for a treatment.
Furthermore, MTS is also offering additional benefits to its subscribers including:
- free calls to the helplines of Moscow’s Department of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Tourism, and to airlines
- access to selected entertainment, educational and medical resources under a single package for a symbolic fee of 1 Ruble (US$0.013)
- access to MTS TV and home broadband with 0 balance on the account until the 30th of April; repayment can happen at a later stage
- running special online literacy courses for the elderly so they are able to receive medical consultations online
- offering courses and webinars to college and university students
Furthermore, fixed broadband traffic grew on the operator’s networks in Moscow by 30%. Mobile data traffic on weekdays, in residential areas, matched the levels recorded on weekends and holidays. Consequently, MTS Russia asked its subscribers to use responsibly the network by refraining from sending unessential heavy videos and memes to large groups of people.
Megafon Russia sells self-activation SIMs online and offers free unified communication tools for businesses
To minimise physical store visits, the telco has started selling SIMs online that can be then activated by users on the telco’s mobile app (biometric registration or through the State Services portal). The self-activation SIMs are available for purchase on a number of online websites including Megafon’s eShop and Tmall Russia, Alibaba’s B2C marketplace, with a one-day delivery.
Megafon is also offering free access to webinar and video conferencing solutions to SMEs for a month as well as additional benefits to its subscribers including:
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- free access to key entertainment and educational content – e.g. access to the ‘Megafon Education’ platform and to selected premium ‘Megafon TV’ packages and online libraries.
- free calls to the helplines of selected institutions – e.g. Russian Embassies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, airlines, and railway services
- selected free communication services to people over 65 years old or suffering from chronic diseases
Beeline Russia launches an online coronavirus insurance
The telco has started providing online a coronavirus insurance policy, in partnership with AlfaInsurance. The policy enables insured people to receive monetary compensation on the event they contract the virus, for the duration of the sickness, and in the event of a death related to the virus.
Beeline Russia is also taking additional measures to help its subscribers cope with the situation. These include:
- access to fixed Internet and TV with zero account balance until the end of April
- free access to entertainment content – e.g. Beeline Music and Beeline TV- and to work from home services like ‘Beeline Secretary’, a virtual personal assistant, that provides, for instance, conference calling services, missed calls and voice mail notifications
- 2-month free access to employees’ performance monitoring service ‘Unified Monitoring’. The service allows the setting up and monitoring of the tasks of employees working remotely, as well as the monitoring of their location via a web interface
- zero-rated access to selected government websites via the telco’s app ‘Cube!’
- launched short numbers for the COVID-19 countermeasures helpline
Other Russian telecom operators are also taking actions to support their clients’ transition to a work-from-home and stay at home environment. For example, Rostelecom has increased the speed of its residential fixed Internet lines, and is providing unlimited on-net calls on fixed lines as well as to Rostelecom and Tele2 mobile numbers. The telco has also introduced deferred payment options without a commission for its customers.