A normal day starts with home users watching fitness, yoga and workout videos in the morning and trying to stay fit, then proceed towards video collaboration tools to connect with their colleagues to kick-off the workday.
If there are kids in the house, parents are also occupied in helping them finish their on-line classes and submit their assignments through various e-learning portals. In the evening, one spends time browsing through easy and healthy recipes for dinner. Gaming or eSports enthusiasts as they are called now, have their time-out to hone their eSports skills in their favourite sports and genres to take their game to the next level.
Above all, there is social media that remains our constant and only window to the outside world. Video calls have become the first preference of communication for many, in these times of social distancing as all their family and friend circles are in a similar situation. This makes video calls a necessity to stay connected to share experiences of the day with one another.
The outcome of this crisis has made fixed line players’ robust-always-on-high-speed-internet (HSI) as the ‘Lifeline of the Lockdown’ in these unprecedented times. Almost all the ISPs, including ONEOTT iNTERTAINMENT LTD. (OIL), are willing to serve customers with this essential service and are soon realizing the power of wired-robust-HSI at consumers’ homes.
Catalysing OTT growth story
Video rules data consumption and the margin has further increased as traffic has surged due to heavy office applications along with large dispersed teams now working from home due to COVID-19. Video streaming subscriptions have also crossed the number of traditional cable subscriptions in India. Some of the largest OTT players like Netflix, Amazon, MX Player, Hotstar and others have been seeding the market for the last 2 to 3 years and the same has now paid-off.
The lockdown has led to OTT services penetrating right into the middle class from the early adopters, i.e. the country’s digital sophisticates, the ones with high disposable income and high digital savviness. However, there was no commercial model existing with Amazon wherein they were bundling their services free with such target audiences through various telecom service providers catering to Sec A to Sec B+ post paid customers.
Therefore, the lockdown has given proof-of-the-pudding for a robust-stable-wired-HSI-connectivity for homes bundled with OTT subscriptions of Rs. 999 a year from Amazon as something which now looks affordable for every home due to lockdown. The future of entertainment powered on internet connectivity as coined three years back by OIL as iNTERTAINMENT is now fast forwarded due to the lockdown as OTT can reach Sec B+ to Sec C+ homes in a short period of time and let us not forget that this is a global phenomenon.
This short period has already resulted in a spurt in OTT subscriptions and some of them have already reported a 20% increase in viewership, majorly coming in from Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, the drivers of the Indian economy. These cities also have a robust-wired-internet availability due to presence of large players like OIL and a few others aiding growth in OTT subscriptions. People who were averse to consuming content via OTT networks are now open to trying these because three generations forced into 24/7 time share with each other during these 3 to 4 weeks of lockdown which people are predicting to be extended for the whole of April. There will be a surge in demand for more regional language content as newer audiences are now on-boarding to these platforms.
We had envisioned people’s homes solely being powered by internet and entertainment being consumed on multiple devices and applications through ONE WIRE powered by ONE CPE for ONE FAMILY – iNTERTAINMENT. This pandemic has taken us by surprise and the consumption of the internet and adoption of newer technologies and forms of entertainment is unprecedented.
Challenge of service assurance
It was expected that such an unprecedented experience of the first ever country-wide and global lockdown of this magnitude, would bring in a series of challenges but we had prepared ourselves for this. It took some days before internet services were exempted from lockdown and then every central state enforcing authority had their own versions of essential services. Above all, various permissions as per first laid down norms were not accepted by the police authorities until there was a clear guideline by MHA to every police station to grant passes to certain essential services for certain number of people in a company running that essential service.
OIL’s technical & engineering teams initially found it difficult to commute on public transport or use their own vehicles. Above all, by the time the police authorities themselves had cleared passes, public and private transport had almost been stopped or curbed. We had to then hire dedicated private vehicles with laid down guidelines of using only “On Duty for Essential Service under category name “Internet Services”.
We were then hit by yet another challenge, wherein, most of the societies and RWAs where OIL’s network access nodes are located, denied entry to our field technical teams and, this impacted our overall network availability and service assurance.
We had a major blow coming in the premises where our contact center for voice and web support services was based out of had to be locked down.
OIL’s customer care and services delivery and services assurance team innovatively pondered over the question that if OIL’s care executives cannot come to a common office Infra then can we get the Infra to every executive’s homes? Today, we are proud to state that within 4 days, after announcing the closing of OIL’s contact center, wherein we operated for through web and SMS support only, on the 5th day, OIL had enabled its care executives to operate from their home. The desktop terminals, headphones and other support infrastructure was provided at their very homes and these were powered by the call center’s centrally managed contact center software, centrally.
OIL has co-operated with the enforcing authorities wherein our workplace where our NOC is situated is sanitized, and all proactive preventive precautionary procedures and measures are duly implemented with minimal staff to practice social distancing.
Adapting to a new way of life and work
ISPs have transformed their way of working to keep you connected and online. While the actions of healthcare and other essential services are appreciated, the Internet services warriors too have been serving the citizens of the country with equal risk if not more than others. Our customer support services are also operational, albeit with limited resources and the resolution time and rate are coming back to our benchmark. We have adopted the Mantra of helping people StayHome, StayOnline and thereby StaySafe.
I had said way back in 2004 that, it’s Roti, Kapda, Makaan and Broadband due to the applications that will be dependent on this connectivity highway – tele-education, tele-health, tele-justice, e-Gov, board-meetings, corporate trainings, product launches and much more. We understand that staying connected is the need of the hour for our customers as we enable them with their daily needs on personal and official fronts.
At the same time, employees are first to us and their safety and well-being is our prime concern. While our heroes, our key staff in our Network Operations Center (NOC), field customer operations and care departments remain available to support customer complaints, thereby, serving the society as our brand ambassadors. They operate by taking all the necessary health precautions and keep our customers stay connected as internet connectivity falls under the essential services. The rest of the employees have been asked to work from home and be true #COVIDwarriors.
Daily meetings have been replaced with audio and video conference calls. Even in crisis, our productivity remains the same and we have kept up with the surge in demand and are meeting them with various collaborative tools.
Stay online & stay safe
It was foreseen by us the moment this crisis was knocking at our doors since January and we had an efficient bandwidth optimization planning initiated. The lockdown had to bring in huge spikes in internet traffic across all our cities due to the transition in regular home internet usage which is lighter to internet being used for work as well, in homes. We had appropriately planned to immediately upgrade our upstream internet bandwidth to meet this sudden increase in demand. On the backhaul side, we have our own in-house city-wide-coverage-capacity which we planned by upgrading our fiber networks in advance. In the access side, we have added capacities. We have upgraded our 10 Gbps redundant alternate route capacities to 40 Gbps for ensuring that there is no bottleneck or choking points due to disproportionate usage at the access network layer.
We are confident of ensuring connectivity to our customers, even with scaled down operations and are dealing with this crisis with our ability to innovate and redefine customer facing processes. To support our subscribers who are working from home, our fiber to the home customers, can choose to double their speed at a nominal amount via online channels to meet their increased bandwidth requirements.
Author: Yugal Kishore Sharma, CEO, ONEOTT iNTERTAINMENT Ltd