COVID-19: AT&T Responds to the Crisis by Adapting Services to Fit Unique Requirements of Businesses and First Responders

K. Weldon
K. Weldon

Summary Bullets:

  • Telecom operators are seeing a huge uptick in usage of their voice and collaboration services, as droves of employees are now working remotely.
  • AT&T is not only meeting this capacity demand surge, but also adapting enterprise offerings and support services as well as launching new capabilities for first responders.

Not surprisingly, AT&T has already seen a huge uptick in business usage of its voice and collaboration services in the past three weeks. In addition to meeting this capacity surge, it is also adapting its services portfolio with 13 unique business offers while also enhancing communication capabilities to meet the needs of first responders.

AT&T has also put teams in place to provision extra network capacity for large customers that need to remedy pinch points within their network that may be caused by increased use of hosted desktop and public cloud access, or to support public internet breakout via corporate VPNs.

Under voice and collaboration, AT&T is now providing:

  • A 90-day free offer for Webex Meetings with AT&T for new commercial and government users.
  • A 90-day free trial for call forwarding with AT&T IP Flexible Reach.
  • For AT&T Office@Hand, the operator is offering a free increase in the number of meeting participants as well as a free premium offer to new customers in education, healthcare, and non-profit social services.
  • For its AT&T Contact Center Solutions offering, it is providing a 90-day free trial for up to 500 agents for new customers enabling working from home.

Under the aegis of its Global Operations & Services group, AT&T is launching new ‘command centers,’ prioritizing work for first responders, teachers, and healthcare professionals. These delivery and incident response centers expedite critical customer orders, manage and augment network demand, and provide faster restoration of non-working lines. It is also helping customers to open up hospitals that had closed and turning on connectivity within 24 hours, as well as supporting pop-up hospitals such as the navy ships USNS Mercy and Comfort that have been deployed to California and New York. The Assurance group that handles disaster recovery has also been involved over the last three weeks to provide quick response for restoration of data center communications.

Specific to FirstNet, AT&T is providing:

  • Network performance enhancements by deploying portable assets, e.g., ‘cells on wheels’ (COWs), and by connecting quarantine zones.
  • Side-by-Side with Public Safety, a set of mobile tools from the FirstNet App Catalog.
  • Free smartphones for life for public safety agencies, for new or eligible upgrade customers.
  • A new mission-critical, standards-based push-to-talk solution that has higher reliability and lower latency than the enterprise version because it is integrated in to the network.
  • An updated dashboard that displays COVID-19 impacted areas within the existing FirstNet Local Control management portal.

AT&T is seeing an upsurge in the medical response segment of its FirstNet customer base as well as new customers joining the service. In addition, public safety agencies that had previously used legacy equipment such as old smartphones and land-mobile radio (LMR) systems are now seeing the benefit of upgrading to more modern equipment. AT&T is also supporting subscriber paid users (e.g. volunteer firefighters) with a $200 activation credit.

Terms and conditions have also changed due to the crisis. AT&T has waived termination fees, late fees, and overage charges for 60 days for business, education, and healthcare customers; it has increased mobile hotspot data by 15 GB/month until May 13 with free express doorstep delivery and virtual setup for hotspot devices. It also has a no-cost 60-day offer in place for e-learning for schools, including unlimited wireless broadband for data-only activations.

Clearly, basic voice and data communications services have never been so important. While operators can take advantage of this surge in demand to opportunistically generate revenues, instead we are seeing providers such as AT&T rise to the occasion by making it easier for consumers, businesses, and first responders to remain in touch with each other and, in many cases, to continue to operate. By offering free trials, new services, and free upgrades, AT&T is showing that it is supporting its customers as they struggle to rapidly change how they do business. Some of these services, especially remote workforce solutions, may very well stay in place once the worst of the pandemic is over, as businesses, educators, and first responders realize that changing or augmenting the way they stay in communication with key stakeholders may be permanent and positive adjustments.

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