Flow Jamaica challenges COVID-19 with innovative solutions, upgraded technologyFriday, April 30, 2021
BY DAVID ROSE
While many firms simply made cutbacks as Jamaica went into lockdown over a year ago due to the emerging COVID-19 threat, Flow Jamaica had to accelerate many of its plans and deploy several measures to manage the spike in demand for its services.
The telecommunications company, which has had its roots planted in the Caribbean since the 19th century, had to step up its capabilities as demand for broadband services (data traffic) increased by 50 per cent over two weeks.
This was due to many businesses instituting work-from-home policies to keep staff safe, compounded by the nation's education system suddenly going virtual.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our entire way of life in how we do business overall. When COVID-19 started what we really focused on what were the whys for this Jamaica business. Our two whys we rallied around were taking care of our employees and taking care of our customers by keeping them connected. Even though we had challenges early in the COVID-19 journey we realised that we had to be the backbone of the people of Jamaica,” said Country Manager Stephen Price at a recent Jamaica Observer Business Forum on Flow's strategy in 2020 and beyond.
The demand for Flow's services was so high that they ended up contributing more than 92,000 revenue generating unit (RGU) additions during 2020 to the overall Liberty Latin America (LLA) performance, with broadband being the lead driver of these new customers.
Price confirmed that Flow additionally connected more than 70,000 homes to the Internet for the first time in 2020.
President and chief executive officer of LLA Balan Nair stated in a recent conference call, “During 2020 over 80 per cent of our new bill and upgrade volume in Cable & Wireless, Caribbean & Networks was in Jamaica, which is the segment's largest market. Mobile steadily recovered in the second half, once again led by Jamaica.”
Flow expanded its capability to serve this explosive growth by adding more than 100 sites for its mobile business with its off-island capacity being supported by four landing points across the globe, which was further enhanced by a fibre optic ring across the island.
In order to support the displaced population — which had been rocked by job losses — Flow introduced several new packages mainly for its prepaid customer base to access data plans. This included payment plans for parents to purchase tablets for their children and a student data plan that benefited from Flow zero rating of more than 100 educational websites.
This was in the context that Flow's mobile business took a sharp hit in the early part of the pandemic due to the drop in international roaming and daily commute by the travelling population.
Price noted, however, that broadband fees in Jamaica are among the lowest in the entire western hemisphere.
As part of its commitment to meet the unprecedented demand, Flow added more than 350 agents to its call centre.
Although many firms laid off staff during the pandemic, Price stated that no member of staff was laid off while certain team members were rotated to different roles.
A week before the pandemic hit 75 per cent of Flow's staff worked from home, with the company allowing for members of staff to take certain items such as desks and other tools home to make their at-home experience as conducive as possible.
Flow even opened an employee assistance fund to allow members of staff to access a US-dollar grant for employees whose other household income earners had been put out of work and were no longer able to contribute to the household's income.
Although Flow wasn't able to speak much about its most recent quarter due to it being in a quiet period from its parent LLA, Price did note that Flow would be continuing its revised plans with the next three years being focused on connecting thousands more Jamaicans to the Internet with its fibre optic network.
“The focus will be on improving our capabilities to connect Jamaica as its journey to transforms itself over the next decade,” Price said.
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