UK mobile and broadband operators have provided £940 million worth of support to consumers and businesses affected by Covid-19 since the pandemic began last year, according to a new study by Assembly Research.
Social distancing and lockdown restrictions mean that many people are using their home and mobile connections for work, education, entertainment and communication with friends and family that they are physically prevented from seeing.
The economic impact of coronavirus has created or exacerbated financial challenges for many people, and any household that struggles to afford connectivity could suffer.
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Assembly’s report says telcos have recognised these difficulties and have recognised the need to stay connected with a series of measures. These include increased allowances, the zero-rating of certain services, and affordable packages for those on universal credit. There has also been a lack of willingness to disconnect any customer.
The report tracked 50 initiatives offered to consumers, noting that 20 have directly addressed the needs of the most vulnerable, 19 have been made available to all customers, six have targeted key healthcare workers, and four have aimed to help SMBs recover from potential hardship.
Analysts say that similar measures have been taken in several other countries and have largely mirrored the steps taken by operators in the UK: “In nearly every country, operators have become more understanding and supportive towards consumers and businesses who cannot afford to pay their bills on time.”
The most recent round of measures have been designed to support home learning. A third national lockdown means most primary and secondary school pupils will be required to stay at home for the next six weeks and will be reliant on digital learning tools for that period.
However, there are concerns that some students lack the devices and connectivity requires to access these resources. Some disadvantaged households do not have a dedicated broadband connection or laptop and access the Internet via pay-as-you-go mobile phones.
Operators have reacted by increasing allowances, zero rating certain online resources, and providing devices or dongles to disadvantaged households.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.