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Local telcos bring reinforcements to customers in the fight against Covid-19 (updated)

By Liu Hongzuo - on 27 Apr 2020, 4:30pm

Local telcos bring reinforcements to customers in the fight against Covid-19 (updated)

Note: This article was originally published on 31 Mar 2020.

Update 1 Apr 2020: Added input and measures for Circles.Life users.

Update 6 Apr 2020: StarHub introduces new HBL-related initiative for low-income families.

Update 7 Apr 2020: StarHub extends consumer initiatives in view of CB measures.

Update 8 Apr 2020: MyRepublic introduces their initiatives in light of CB measures.

Updated 13 Apr 2020: Included complimentary services and other CB measure benefits available through Singtel's mobile payment wallet, Dash.

Updated 14 Apr 2020: Circles.Life enhances initiatives with new support packages.

Updated 23 Apr 2020: M1 joins the fray!

Updated 27 Apr 2020: Singtel and StarHub add more free preview channels amidst extended CB period. Updates are under respective telcos below.

Image source: Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

Even if Covid-19 is not here to stay, the cascading effects of the global pandemic had pronounced repercussions on businesses and consumers. The Singapore Government, for instance, has put out a second supplementary package for the economy recently, and it's worth 7.5 times of last month's package.

Everybody, from entire industry sectors to the individual gig worker, could always use a little more help. As the world contemplates over itself on adjusting towards what could be a new normal, consumers and businesses still need to find ways to pay their bills and cover the basics.

Some businesses are using what power they have to help reinforce the broader populace in combatting Covid-19. For instance, Razer will donate up to 1 million face masks to local authorities, while Grab launched GrabCare for registered healthcare professionals who struggled to find transport between their shifts. These gestures are kind and much needed, but the coronavirus is without mercy as the fight wears on. With all businesses and breadwinners figuring their way around the virus, these gestures - big or small - will feel like a much-needed health potion to a low-health ally.

It heartens us to see how our local telcos are putting together practical ways to support consumers and businesses here, so we've put together a piece that summarises how they are doing their part for their customers.

 

StarHub

As one of the first local telcos to make a move against Covid-19, StarHub put forth several measures in February and March for its customer base, with tailored support for both enterprise and consumer subscribers.

In Feb 2020, small-to-medium business (SMB) customers of StarHub can sign up for a free remote working subscription that helps them receive landline calls on their mobile phones. The service, called SmartUC Mobile, is an app that can be installed on laptops and smartphones. Voicemail messages are sent directly to their preferred email inboxes. This gesture of goodwill is available to their SMB customers until 1 September 2020. You can read more about this good news here.

Additional help for businesses also includes 70% off unlimited Business Wireless Broadband, among other free trials and connectivity provisions.

Consumers on regular StarHub plans are also in. StarHub continued with a second salvo of support, this time to healthcare professionals on their Corporate Individual Scheme (CIS). They will receive six months of unlimited local talk time from 1 April 2020, and they've already started on offering S$200 off selected phone models for their two-year plans to healthcare workers.

For those stuck at home, StarHub is offering a free preview of 10 channels on the StarHub Go OTT streaming app across a mix of content types. Data-free streaming is also up for StarHub Mobile postpaid customers.

As of 7 April 2020, StarHub will extend their free preview channels in both duration and selection. Free previews of their channels will now last until 4 May 12.00 PM, across 27 channels, now including BBC Earth, BBC World News, Citra Entertainment, Hub E City, tvN, ONE, Warner TV, Zee Thirai, and many more.  

As of 27 April 2020, StarHub will increase the number of free preview channels and extend the free duration until 2 June 2020, 12.00 PM. The full line-up includes a total of 39 world-class channels, including BBC World News, BBC Lifestyle, CuriosityStream, CNN, Hub E City, Hub Sensasi, Oh!K, Sun TV, Warner TV and more. That is seven more channels than the previous free preview. All StarHub customers can use the StarHub Go app or their set-top boxes. More information on the free preview here.

On 6 April 2020, a day before Covid-19 circuit breaker measures kicked off, StarHub shared that it is donating its 20th-anniversary marketing budget towards providing instantaneous broadband connectivity for students from lower-income families. The move was to tangibly support these households faced with the Ministry-mandated, full Home-Based Learning (HBL) that will take place for school-going students from 8 April to 4 May. 158 primary school and secondary school students from lower-income families will get access this week, with the aim to use the S$200,000 for up to 550 students in total.

This is in addition to other fundraisers and contribution pools, such as the recently-created StarHub Cares COVID-19 Fund , which now stands at S$750,000+. The fund takes all voluntary contributions from StarHub's staff and management teams, while matching the contributions dollar-for-dollar.

 

Singtel

Singtel announced on 31 March 2020 that they are raising S$2 million in a bid to provide financial support for impact communities, such as vulnerable groups, frontline healthcare workers, and volunteers. More specifically, the Singtel Touching Lives philanthropy programme will channel funds to 18 charities and social enterprises, such as The Courage Fund (S$500,000) and various healthcare groups (S$600,000). The money comes from the salaries of Singtel's management committee, and voluntary contributions from Singtel's directors and staff.

For consumers and SME customers come 1 April 2020, Singtel put together a care package of free services.

On the business side, SMEs implementing Work From Home (WFH) plans, remote working, or split team arrangements will get six months of free usage across their productivity, collaboration, and security tools. The Singtel-owned 99sme.sg now provides free access to SMEs that use Singtel services, providing them with a much-needed digital marketplace and platform for business to carry on.

For consumers on Singtel, all residents are to get three months of free access to Singtel Cast streaming app's content, which includes channels like Discovery, Asian Food Network, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Customers with Singtel TV will get free access to 30 channels, such as AXN, CNBC, Discovery Asia, and KBS World on Singtel TV and Singtel TV GO.

As of 27 April 2020, Singtel will add 10 free preview channels effective until 31 May 2020. The channels are available on Singtel TV and Singtel TV GO. They are FOX Life, FOX, [V] International, FOX Family Movies, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo People, Sky News, FOX News, and Baby TV. This is on top of the other free previews on Singtel Cast and Singtel TV (above).

Separately, Singtel mobile customers will get data-free messaging on WhatsApp between 8 April to 7 July 2020. New and existing prepaid customers who top-up funds using Hi!App (iOS, Android) get free 30-days Covid-19 insurance coverage, offered by NTUC Income.

While not strictly within the Internet or mobile data space, Singtel stepped up their support via their mobile payment app, Dash. From 9 April 2020 to 8 May 2020, foreign workers based in Singapore and healthcare workers can enjoy complimentary remittance services to the seven countries on the Singtel Dash network - Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines. Remittance services are also waived for all new users for their first mobile remittance via Dash.

Foreign workers who remit S$100 or above back home are also given a free 30-day Covid-19 insurance protection honoured by NTUC Income. Upon diagnosis of Covid-19 in Singapore, foreign workers can receive a S$1,000 lump sum payout. This free insurance is in addition to the existing Dash Protect free insurance coverage, which is also given free to individuals who remit S$100 and above. This initiative is live until 31 May 2020.

Dash will also launch an e-commerce campaign, partnering online shopping platforms like Lazada, Shopee, Amazon, as well as food delivery services such as Deliveroo to offer savings via the Dash Virual Visa Account. More details to be unveiled at a later date.

A comprehensive list of initiatives by Singtel can be found at their official Covid-19 website here.

 

Circles.Life

As of 1 April 2020, Circles.Life customers who are expecting new devices or SIM cards can enjoy free contactless delivery right up to their doorsteps. This initiative was brought about to help Singapore-based customers of Circles.Life to become more effective at social distancing. Delivery fees are waived off, and same-day delivery is available until 5 PM (also subjected are popular delivery timings, such as 7 PM to 9 PM). As with usual practice, delivery services are available seven days a week, between 9 AM to 10 PM. This service will remain free until further notice.

Separately, Circles.Life has received feedback from its users on the excess data allotment thanks to their Unlimited Data Add-on (that comes with 100GB of 4G-quality data every month). They have since implemented rollover data as they observed more users relying on the service to work from home. Starting from 11 March 2020, data that wasn't used in the previous month will roll over to the next. There's no additional fee involved for the rollover.

Also introduced recently (26 March 2020) was the new WFH Boost, where customers of Circles.Life requested an option to quickly boost a day's worth of call minutes and texts as they adjust to a WFH schedule and routine. For just S$2 a day, customers can get unlimited local calls and an additional 100 SMSes. This is separate from their other call boost, at S$8/month for unlimited outgoing and S$2/month for unlimited incoming calls.

Another interesting request from Circles.Life users was access to International Direct Dialing (IDD) to accommodate international calls, a staple for office workers who now have to work from home when WhatsApp/Skype/Zoom aren't viable digital conferencing alternatives. As of 28 March 2020, Circles.Life availed IDD Add-On, offering 150 minutes of international calls across 15 countries for just S$10 per month.

If you fit the WFH profile described by Circles.Life, you can check out some of their base plans here to see if it helps with the Covid-19 transition.

NEW: On 14 April 2020, Circles.Life announced more initiatives to assist groups that are affected by Covid-19. The digital telco partnered charities like Eton House Community Fund, helping students who lack broadband access for Home-Based Learning (HBL).  Circles.Life supplied SIM cards with three months free Unlimited Data with 4G Rollover to families of these students.

Creative freelancers, such as buskers, have also been affected by the new social distancing measures and the limitations of entertainment-based businesses. To support local buskers, Circles.Life partnered with the Buskers' Association to enable online performances. Users can go to the Circles.Life app and check the Discover section for live-streamed tickets to busking performances. These sessions are running from 17 to 21 April 2020, from 8PM to 9 PM. If you're a busker or event organiser, you may also request to be featured on the Circles.Life app via this Google Form.

 

MyRepublic

Business and consumer customers of MyRepublic can expect a host of customised and semi-flexible packages that support their social distancing, remote working, and WFH needs.

For businesses and corporates relying on MyRepublic, the network provider has repurposed their event-only product offerings into flexible business connectivity packages that are designed to allow companies in having an easier time setting up or upkeeping their business continuity plans. These packages are offered in both short-term formats and long-term digital transformation packages that empowers the business's workforce to work remotely. MyRepublic's approach is primarily custom-designed to the business's needs, so make sure you stop by their website for additional information. Two notable corporate packages are:

Group SIM Packages that offer up to 10 SIM cards, with 100GB to 500GB of LTE Broadband data divided between them. This package was introduced in March 2020, with no end-date. The package starts at S$450. This is especially handy for notebooks and laptops that can take SIM cards, or if the business is primarily conducted over the smartphone (messaging apps, Internet calls, email).

Highly customisable BCP broadband plans are available for businesses who need continuity from temporary locations, or have temporary connection needs. If you're a business with a small number staff holing up at home and you have specific security configurations for their work, consider using this. This is a relatively new package that was launched in November 2019, starting at just S$350.

MyRepublic also recognises that their consumer user base will see higher daytime connectivity demands, since social distancing measures would mean more users turning to online gaming to pass time socially, engaging in more online shopping to replenish their groceries, or even simply video-calling their loved ones outside of their household.

As of 31 March 2020, MyRepublic will do a mobile plan refresh for consumers, with plenty of freebies, new plans, and tweaks designed for mobile plan users to get the most out of their data.

At no additional cost:

Unlimited Plan users will now see high-speed data of 4GB per day, up from the previous 3GB per day. As with previous arrangements, exhausting the day's worth of high-speed data will return it to its original managed speeds (unlimited use). The Unlimited Plan's price remains unchanged at S$48/month and the additional 1GB of high-speed data will be available until further notice. This plan is S$10/month cheaper if you are an existing MyRepublic broadband user.

For Power Plan users, they will see 30GB of high-speed data per month, up from the previous 20GB per month. As with the original plan, exhausting the month's worth of high-speed data will return it to managed speeds (unlimited use). This is done at no extra cost. The plan still goes for S$24/month and the additional 10GB of high-speed data will be available until further notice. The plan comes with 100 minutes of talktime (free incoming) and 100 SMSes (free incoming).

For Value Plan users, they will see 7GB of high-speed data per month, up from the previous 1GB per month. Like the above mobile plans, managed speeds (unlimited use) will kick in once the high-speed data is completely consumed. It still goes for S$18/month and this add-on is available until further notice. It's worth noting that the Value Plan is especially useful for people who have loved ones that are less tech-savvy, since it offers 1,000 minutes of talktime (free incoming) and 1,000 SMSes (free incoming).

Two new plans by MyRepublic are available from 31 March until 30 April 2020:

  • Pro Plan users get 40GB of high-speed data and unlimited managed-speed data, 400 minutes and 400 SMSes (free incoming), at S$29/month.
  • Lite Plan users get 6GB of high-speed data and unlimited managed-speed data, 300 minutes and 300 SMSes (free incoming), at S$10/month.

More details are available at MyRepublic's mobile plan webpage.

MyRepublic's consumer broadbrand users are not forgotten either. The network provider recognises that more people are asked to WFH, and they anticipate higher consumption of on-demand video streaming in this period of social distancing. In fact, daytime bandwidth demand in March 2020 is 60% higher than December 2019 according to MyRepublic stats.

As of February 2020, customers with existing or preferred routers can take advantage of MyRepublic's 1Gbps No-Frills Plan, which is the provider's no-router broadband plan. It's S$38.99/month for 24 months. This is available until further notice.

Between 8 April to 14 April 2020, MyRepublic is waivering service installation fees (worth S$53.50) on selected plans.

If you need more information, the webpage for MyRepublic's consumer broadband plans can be found here.

 

M1

With effect from 1 May 2020 for six months, existing M1 mobile service subscribers who reside in 1-room or 2-room HDB flats will receive an S$5 per month rebate. According to M1, this is partly related to the earlier S$4.2 million support package put out by Keppel Corporation (as M1 is a member of the Keppel Group). 

Separately, in following IMDA's guidance and connectivity initiatives, M1 has managed to come up with three pre-approved remote working solutions for businesses under the IMDA "SMEs Go Digital Programme". For those who're hearing about this IMDA programme for the first time: eligible SMEs already get a Productivity Solutions Grant that supports 80% of qualifying costs for online collaboration software and laptops. Covid-19 enhancements to this programme now also include additional support for up to three laptops and online collaboration tools (like Office 365). More information here. For the M1-specific business continuity packages tailored for Covid-19, you can check out this landing page instead.

Finally, as part of supporting parents and students with Home-Based Learning (HBL) under IMDA’s NEU PC Plus (NPP) Programme, M1 is providing a subsidised PC and free fibre broadband to eligible beneficiaries. Under the Home Access Programme, M1 additionally provides subsidised broadband plans to low-income households with school-going children.

Note: We've reached out to other telcos and MNVOs for their contributions, and we'll update the article accordingly. If you know of any initiatives that benefit either business or consumer customers of telcos and MNVOs, reach out to us as well.