FOCUS: Lockdown forces operators to cope with loading, Russians to master e-services
By Yekaterina Yezhova
MOSCOW, May 18 (PRIME) -- Voice and data traffic on Russian mobile networks soared during the coronavirus lockdown, which pushed the large domestic operators to enlarge their capacities and expand entertainment resources, they said, adding that clients would continue to use the new skills after the regime is lifted.
“Our subscribers now talk and browse more. On a nationwide average, voice traffic on the MegaFon network rose by 15% and data traffic by 10–12%, and daytime traffic of the home Internet jumped by 30–50% depending on the region. Night time traffic also rocketed by 26% on working days and by 29% on days off,” a MegaFon spokesperson told PRIME.
Russia toughened restrictions amid the galloping coronavirus in late March with some relief steps taken on May 12, although each regional government makes an individual decision to the scope of easing.
Daria Kolesnikova, a spokesperson for Tele2, the brand used by T2 RTK Holding, said that social distancing and the lack of live communication pushed users to turn to such conservative services as voice calling, whose traffic in April topped data consumption.
“In April, voice traffic on the Tele2 network was 19% higher than in early March, while data consumption increased by 17%. In April, average duration of calls rose by 21% in comparison to early March,” Kolesnikova said. However, the trend reversed in May: data traffic outpaced voice in growth rates. Voice traffic increased 23% in the first weeks of May compared to the beginning of March, whereas data use grew 30%, she explained.
Beeline, the brand used by VimpelCom, said earlier in a statement that its clients doubled calls to the favorite numbers, those of kin, and average duration of calls between the Beeline clients rose by 50% in early April. Consumption of data traffic per user in messengers spiked by 63.5% over popularity of voice and video calls, the operator said.
MegaFon said that Skype’s average daily audience increased by 37% over the last 30 days, the audience of WhatsApp by 30% and of Zoom by more than 150 times. The audience of Facebook, Instagram, and VKontakte contracted by 10% in April, but the number of TikTok users rose by 13%.
MTS said in a research note that fixed-line traffic from midnight till 7 a.m. rose by 14% in April compared to March and mobile traffic increased by 11%. Nighttime traffic doubled in the social networks and messengers.
MegaFon registered higher interest in entertainment and education services. “User activity of MegaFon Books increased by 28% over the last two months. The number of readings in MegaFon Press rose by 23% and the number of listenings by 13%. Traffic of MegaFon TV users has grown by 30% since mid-March, and consumption of children’s content advanced by more than 40%,” the operator’s spokesperson told PRIME.
Kolesnikova at Tele2 said the operator’s clients actively use entertainment services, and the audience of its cybersports platform, e-books and video watching services increased significantly.
“The number of active players on Tele2’s cybersports portal CyberHero more than doubled, and the number of users of Tele2 Books almost doubled. We quadrupled the number of cybersports tournaments and distribute free tickets to them. Tele2 also launched a portal for all with various content, including digital excursions to the St. Petersburg museum Hermitage or cooking classes from the top chefs of Moscow and St. Petersburg,” she said.
During the lockdown, the operators focused on development of digital channels and creation of new ways of SIM card delivery.
“Between April 1 and 20, the number of Tele2’s SIM cards purchased with home delivery quintupled against the same period in March. Our retail chain keeps on working, and for our staff, Tele2 together with partners provided motivation programs, free meals from Burger King, presents from other companies,” the operator’s official said.
Tele2 also designed options to help people stay at home, like granting bonuses for self-isolation, free messengers and calls to a list of official numbers for the clients stranded abroad, zeroed traffic and calls to the hotlines and the coronavirus website.
Kolesnikova said that due to redistribution of traffic, the network was under a colossal strain in some areas, and the company raised capacities of infrastructure and installed additional equipment.
“The pandemic forced many users to overcome their digital inertia and be more active in exploring online services. After the lockdown is lifted, the users will maintain their understanding of the convenience of digital services and new skills and habits,” she said.