BSNL Proved Most De­pend­able Dur­ing Chen­nai Del­uge

Voice&Data - - CONTENT - (The writer is based out of Chen­nai and was her­self caught is the midst of this sud­den flood) [email protected]­berme­ Anusha Aswin

The rains that lashed Chen­nai on De­cem­ber 1, 2015 left an un­par­al­leled del­uge se­verely af­fect­ing the city’s liveli­hood and in­fra­struc­ture. Ma­jor tele­com ser­vice providers, hand­set man­u­fac­tur­ers, and net­work man­age­ment com­pa­nies were also af­fected and in­curred losses amount­ing to Rs 3 bil­lion. Of this amount, close to a bil­lion is on ac­count of net­work restora­tion and the bal­ance 2 bil­lion on ac­count of rev­enue losses over seven days of flood­ing and wa­ter log­ging in the city.

The floods, ex­ten­sively, dam­aged tele­com in­fra­struc­ture and im­pacted net­works across all oper­a­tors. Bharti Air­tel, Idea Cel­lu­lar and Voda­fone In­dia strug­gled to keep their ser­vices go­ing amid the in­ces­sant down­pour and floods. Un­avail­abil­ity of grid power, wa­ter-log­ging re­sult­ing in sub­merged sites, and un­avail­abil­ity of diesel in the ab­sence of trans­porta­tion pre­vented tel­cos in re­sum­ing ser­vices af­ter heavy rains that lasted for three days.

The disas­ter made Nokia stop pro­duc­tion of 3G and 4G equip­ments at its fac­tory near Chen­nai. Con­cerned about pro­tect­ing its em­ploy­ees from be­ing af­fected by the floods and loss of in­fra­struc­ture, Huawei stopped pro­duc­tion for two days. Huawei man­u­fac­tures op­ti­cal net­work trans­mis­sion sys­tems in Chen­nai for ex­port to mar­kets such as China, APAC and the Middle East.

Al­though, ma­jor tele­com com­pa­nies such as BSNL, Air­tel, Voda­fone, RCom and Aircel lost in­fra­struc­ture worth crores of ru­pees, the com­pa­nies worked on a war foot­ing, and on hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds they stepped-up their of­fers for Chen­nai cus­tomers at the time of cri­sis. Air­tel of­fered talk­time credit up to Rs 30 for its pre­paid mo­bile cus­tomers and free 50MB mo­bile data with a va­lid­ity of 2 days to its pre­paid cus­tomers. The post­paid and fixed line cus­tomers, whose bills were due to be paid im­me­di­ately, got an ex­tended time to make the pay­ment.

But dur­ing the cri­sis, na­tional tele­com back­bone, Bharat San­char Nigam Lim­ited (BSNL) proved to be the most de­pend­able op­er­a­tor in In­dia. Out of the nine mo­bile net­works that ex­ist in Chen­nai, state-owned BSNL was the only net­work that was func­tional dur­ing the floods. De­spite its strength, BSNL of­fered free lo­cal and STD calls to other BSNL mo­bile phone users as well as 100 MB data for seven days for its pre­paid users. A rental re­bate of seven days and ex­ten­sion of billing cy­cle by 15 days were also of­fered.

Voda­fone of­fered a credit of Rs 10 and 10 min­utes of Voda­fone to Voda­fone call­ing to all pre-paid cus­tomers as well as 100 MB of free mo­bile data. Sim­i­larly, RCom of­fered 10 min­utes of all-In­dia free call­ing and 50 MB of data free.

Skype made all in­ter­na­tional calls to land­lines and mo­biles into Tamil Nadu free of charge. Skype also proac­tively con­fig­ured to sup­port all mo­bile pre­fixes when all calls to mo­bile num­bers were not get­ting through. Dig­i­tal recharge com­pany Paytm fa­cil­i­tated Rs 30 recharge in­stantly free of cost dur­ing the cri­sis.

This was just not it! It was rain­ing apps in the flood af­fected city. Since, mo­bile con­nec­tions were dis­rupted cit­i­zens re­sorted to ac­cess­ing apps through some func­tional in­ter­net providers. Few apps also func­tioned via SMS fa­cil­ity with­out the aid of an in­ter­net con­nec­tion. Face­book, Twit­ter, Zo­mato, Practo, Stayzilla were just a few to name among the so­cial me­dia gi­ants who stood by Chen­nai cit­i­zens at the time of the del­uge. Young telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion grad­u­ates launched apps to raise re­lief funds and ma­te­ri­als and also en­sured ef­fec­tive dis­tri­bu­tion through the app. In­dia lever­aged In­ter­net and mo­bile apps to reach out to Chen­nai.

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