Spark in Lockdown | how kiwis connected over 33 days

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Over 33 days in lockdown Spark and Skinny’s wireless broadband network traffic increased by 40%, with more than 17,000 terabytes of data used in total, calling volumes on mobile increased by 60% at peak, and kiwis benefited from over 3,300 terabytes of free data to work, learn and connect from home.

With just one terabyte you could download around 200,000 songs, 500 hours of high definition video or watch 1,000 hours of standard definition Netflix – demonstrating New Zealand has been busy.

•Internet traffic: Spark and Skinny wireless broadband volumes increased by roughly 40% – over 17,000 terabytes used over 33 days
•Voice traffic: increased by 60% at peak across mobile as kiwis worked from home
•Data caps removed: 3,300 terebytes of free data was provided to customers across data capped wireless and fixed broadband plans
•Customer care: 39 retail stores were repurposed to provide emergency hardware, and over 1,000 care agents supported customers and small businesses from their homes
•Network infrastruture boosted: extra capacity was added to 14 cell sites and 6 Cellsites On Wheels (CoWs) were deployed – resulting in speed increases between 70-160%
•Distance learning for kiwi kids: up to 15,000 homes will be connected to Skinny Jump wireless broadband and a fixed-line option in partnership with the Ministry of Education

During New Zealand’s 33-day lockdown Spark’s broadband network has resembled a 7-day weekend – where data usage each day is double the norm. This trend is expected to continue during Alert Level 3, with the majority of New Zealanders still working and learning from home.

At the outset of Alert Level 4 Spark announced it would remove data caps and waive late payment fees and disconnections, to support customers during unprecedented times1. As part of this commitment Spark has provided 100 terabytes of free data to New Zealanders each day on average – totalling 3,300 terabytes across the 33 days.

Spark also added extra capacity to 14 cell sites around the country and deployed 6 ‘Cell sites on Wheels’ (Cows) to further expand capacity in locations that were experiencing high loading. These efforts resulted in speed increases of between 70% and 160% for those locations.

Spark CEO, Jolie Hodson said: “The critical importance of connectivity has never been more evident than during the Covid-19 lockdown. Making sure our customers stay connected has been our absolute focus and we were really pleased to see that even with volumes increasing to levels we haven’t seen before in New Zealand, our network has performed very well.

“Our retail teams adapted quickly to set up Emergency Distribution Centres to provide essential hardware to our customers, and over 1,000 retail, call centre and Business Hub team members were set up to help our consumer and small business customers from home. While we had a few days adjusting to this new normal, on average our customers were waiting under 5 minutes for help, with over half getting the information they needed from our chat bot and not having to wait to be transferred to an agent.”

During Alert Level 4 Spark has also worked with its larger business and enterprise customers to rapidly expand or establish several large call centres and enable secure remote working capability through IT solutions and collaboration tools.

Through an agreement with the Ministry of Education Spark is currently accelerating the rollout of Skinny Jump, its subsidised and not-for-profit wireless broadband product. As part of this initiative, 5,000 Skinny Jump wireless broadband modems are being sent to households with school-aged children around the country who don’t have an internet connection at home – to ensure as many kids can participate in distance learning as possible. An additional 10,000 households can be connected through a fixed broadband solution.

“One of the silver linings to come out of the pandemic has been the additional resources that are being mobilised across industry and Government to connect families without broadband at home. Improving digital equity is something close to our heart at Spark and we have been doing our bit to help bridge the divide since 2016, when we first launched our Jump product. We won’t solve this challenge in just 33 days, but we will make as big a dent in it as we can,” continued Jolie.

During Alert Level 3 Spark’s retail stores will continue to operate as Emergency Distribution Centres – closed to foot traffic, but fulfilling purchases made online or via phone through a contactless pick-up system or delivery.

Spark will continue to implement capacity upgrades and further infrastructure activity that will support New Zealand’s economic recovery during all Alert Levels.


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