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COVID-19 – UK Mobile and Broadband ISPs Rally to Support NHS

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020 (8:09 am) - Score 3,992
covid-19 virus broadband isp uk

Most of the United Kingdom’s biggest broadband ISPs and mobile operators have agreed with the Government to support a set of new commitments (e.g. bigger allowances, prioritised broadband upgrades etc.) to help the National Health Service (NHS) during its fight against the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis.

At present a number of operators have already announced various extras, upgrades and new service prioritisation to help NHS workers who are also customers of their service. But in a statement released on Good Friday, which unusually wasn’t sent to our inbox (otherwise we’d have reported it sooner), the major operators sought to centralise this message around a series of generally agreed commitments.

The following commitments are in addition to the support the telecoms companies are providing to the NHS and its patients, including ensuring that the new emergency hospitals being built across the country have the connectivity they need, as well as providing zero-rated access to nhs.uk on mobile connections (sadly this doesn’t cover all such usage).

The commitments to NHS England, NHS Improvement and NHSX are being supported by BT (EE), Openreach, Sky Broadband (Sky Mobile), TalkTalk, Virgin Media (Virgin Mobile), O2, Three UK, Vodafone, Cityfibre, Gigaclear, Tesco Mobile, giffgaff, Hyperoptic and KCOM.

Commitments to NHS by UK Telcos

* Offer identified NHS frontline staff, who are existing customers, the mobile data access, voice calls and text they need, at no extra cost, on their personal mobiles used for work purposes, to enable the staff to work remotely without fear of extra charges and limitations;

* Ensure NHS clinicians working from home have, wherever possible, prioritised broadband upgrades to superfast or other improvements they might need, in order to perform tasks, such as consultations carried out via video conferencing and to download/upload large medical files. Clinicians with slow or standard broadband speeds, for example, would be eligible to be upgraded to superfast speeds where their current connections are insufficient. Some providers will upgrade customers who are NHS workers on to faster speeds without any extra charge;

* Improve connectivity in care homes that have slow, or no, broadband connections, wherever possible; and

* While patients having remote consultations will get the best experience on a fixed broadband connection, there are a small proportion of mobile-only households. Operators have already agreed generous data allowances for their vulnerable mobile customers, so that patients that can only use a mobile connection for their video consultations will have sufficient data available.

Apparently NHS staff can expect to be “provided with further information by the NHS on how to identify to telecommunications providers that they are eligible for this support,” although some extra details are provided at the bottom of this article as the process can differ between operators and service type.

Oliver Dowden MP, UK Digital Secretary, said:

Our NHS heroes need to be able to carry out their vital work without worrying about technology failing them – and people using NHS services online need to be able to rely on their connections.

These welcome commitments will mean frontline NHS staff can use personal phones for work purposes without limits or extra charges, allow GPs to carry out consultations and transfer large files from home, and help vulnerable people who depend most on the NHS for care.

I applaud the NHS for its continued fight to save lives, and mobile and broadband companies who have stepped up yet again to help in the national effort.”

Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX, said:

“Covid-19 has made stark the importance of technology in helping people and those who care for them stay connected.

Technology has the potential to be a tremendous force for good in helping the country and its citizens through the crisis, and we are grateful to industry colleagues for offering their support to the NHS.”

One potentially missed opportunity here is to extend some of the broadband and mobile connectivity related commitments to those working to support the NHS, such as companies and groups (especially smaller organisations) that may be rushing to produce new protective gear (PPE) or ventilators etc. (example).

Otherwise the official announcement also includes a footnote with some useful details for NHS staff, which we think deserves a direct copy and paste since it contains a lot of useful specifics for those who may be able to benefit. But there’s also a warning that it “may take several weeks for the processing of broadband upgrades for clinicians to be completed,” which is probably unavoidable in the current climate of staffing shortages.

Relevant Points

* NHS frontline staff who require greater broadband bandwidth for the purposes of clinical activity or require upgraded data/voice packages from their mobile providers, will be identified without needing to proactively call their communications providers. EE, Vodafone and O2 will set out a process or include further detail on their websites for how customers can self-identify as being NHS staff. All other NHS staff, seeking mobile and/or broadband support, will be identified through a triaging process managed by their own NHS organisations. More detailed information will be given to NHS staff in due course.

* It should be noted that it may take several weeks for the processing of broadband upgrades for clinicians to be completed, but the NHS and industry will work as fast as possible in these unprecedented circumstances.

* NHS frontline staff who are Virgin Media customers do not need to take any action because they have already provided an extra 10GB of data to all their post-pay mobile customers, as well as unlimited voice minutes. Virgin are confident that these changes will meet the requirements of NHS workers at this time, but in the event that some have extra requirements, they will address these using the NHS managed triage process.

* Sky Mobile customers already receive unlimited calls and texts as part of their standard package. In addition, Sky has given all customers 10GB of additional free data in their Piggybank, which can be shared across all the SIMs on the account.

* Vodafone has proactively upgraded customers who are registered for the Vodafone Advantage NHS discount to free unlimited mobile data. Any NHS staff with a personal Pay Monthly who is currently not flagged on Vodafone’s system can still take advantage of this offer via VeryMe on the My Vodafone app, accessible on Apple and Android.

* EE’s offer for all NHS staff launched on Thursday 9th April and runs until 9th October. Any NHS staff that are EE pay monthly customers should sign up direct at www.ee.co.uk/NHS. Other EE, BT and Plusnet customers that are front line staff and seeking similar mobile offers, or seeking improvements or upgrades to fixed connections, should register themselves via the process run by the NHS. BT are committed to supporting the NHS and have donated technology to hospitals, doctors and nurses, as well as connecting the NHS Nightingale Hospital.

* Hyperoptic will upgrade existing 50Mb and 150Mb customers in the qualifying NHS worker roles who register for the scheme to a 1 Gigabit service at the same cost of their existing service for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency.

* Tesco Mobile will support eligible frontline NHS pay monthly customers with 500GB data and 5000 minutes. Live date and T&Cs will be confirmed soon at tescomobile.com/coronavirus and once applied to the customer’s account, extra connectivity will be available until 30 June 2020.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
1 Response
  1. Avatar herry says:

    I presume that the patients in NHS medical clinics are taken care of with secretly created nourishment. As far as anyone is concerned, the NHS doesn’t claim or run cultivates that supply nourishment to patients.

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