As the world continues to cope with the effects of COVID-19, telecommunications companies have undoubtedly come to the forefront of the Home and Entertainment Digicel Play.

Remote working, increased video streaming and global internet communications have quickly become the lifeblood of modern society.

In an interview with Express Business, Digicel’s T&T chief executive officer (CEO) Jabbor Kayumov said since the COVID-19 restrictions came into effect mid-March over 12,000 Home and Entertainment Digicel Play customers got free speed upgrades/ boosts to their home internet as more persons are working from home, so demand for video streaming and internet has increased.

“The consumption has increased by over 30 per cent and Digicel has increase the bandwidth for such traffic, which has not comprised the quality as price packages remain the same.”

According to Kayumov, the demand for Digicel Play, during this period has increased, with other customers from other providers wanting to come across. However, he said due to the movement restrictions, it is impossible to connect everyone at this time.

Head of public relations at the telecommunications company, Colin Greaves, who also sat in on interview, said that there has been a 57 per cent increase in Netflix traffic, a 55 per cent increase in Facebook traffic and 16 per cent increase in Google traffic.

Greaves also elaborated on the assistance that Digicel is giving to the Education Ministry, as he said last week, 98,000 Home and Entertainment customers, now have free access to video and demand tutorials from the ministry for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA), Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) students.

On April, 17 the University of the West Indies, Campus in St. Augustine, announced that Digicel along with Bmobile have agreed to a 3-month waiver of data access charges (zero-rating) for those accessing UWI-affiliated websites on the respective networks.

In relation to children who cannot afford internet and live in rural communities, the Digicel CEO said the company is working with the Ministry of Education along with other E platforms to come up with a solution on the way forward.

“The role of government in this situation should not be neglected, as without support and partnership from the administration, private companies such as Digicel will be limited in what can be done to help the vulnerable children”

Kayumov also said students with data can benefit from free 1 gigabyte (GB) free LTE Data, and free minutes from 11pm to 5am.

He said that the telecommunications company has done its part to ensure that their customers can function during this pandemic.

With regards to late payments and disconnections during COVID-19, Kayumov said over 22,000 customers have had their late fees on Home and Entertainment accounts waived and have received rebates valued at $440,000.

In terms of mobile disconnections he said “The post-paid customers who did not pay their bills in 57 days were disconnected as the company has financial commitments to meet as well. But it was agreed that seven days extra would have been given to them to pay, without a late-fee charge.”

Asked whether staff will be downsized or salaries will be cut as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CEO said his main focus is getting through this rough patch with staff and customers.

“Because the virus is evolving every day, the company does not know what kind of decisions that have to be taken to mitigate the fall, but my main focus at this point, as CEO is to steer Digicel in the right direction to weather the storm.”

He explained that since the restrictions were put in place, 80 per cent of his staff have been operating from home and executing their duties via virtual meetings.

Out of 35 stores nationwide, 26 remain open during this period, including the head office which is at 11c Maraval Road, Port of Spain.

Turning to Digicel Group a company founded by Irish billionaire and investor Denis O’Brien, on how they are looking to renegotiate bonds on the international market and whether it would have an impact on their Trinidad operations.

Antonia Graham- Digicel’s group head of communications said the objectives of the Exchange offer are to reduce their overall Group debt to more sustainable levels, extend the debt maturity profile and address upcoming near term maturities and improve liquidity.

“Last Wednesday was the first closing date for the transaction with acceptance levels among bondholder groups very high ranging between 86 per cent and 97 per cent which is far in excess of the levels of 50 per cent and 75 per cent required,” Grahams said.

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