BSNL Proved Most Dependable During Chennai Deluge
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.