Completing one year since March 2020, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has been continuously supplementing Government’s efforts to contain COVID-19 through various means from sending cautionary SMSs to setting up awareness ringtones.
2 billion Corona Virus awareness messages have so far been sent since 19th March 2020 in Urdu, English and regional languages to mobile users across Pakistan. Awareness SMSs have also been sent to suspected persons who may have come into contact with coronavirus patients during travelling. More than 1.036 million cautionary messages have been sent to travelers and suspected persons. Furthermore, Corona Awareness Ring Back Tones (RBTs) have been activated on 131.7 million subscribers’ mobile devices.
PTAalso successfully mobilized the telecom sector to carry out activities required to maintain performance and services. To ensure that Pakistan stays connected, PTA immediately analyzed international & national bandwidth peak trends & capacity, and engaged all operators for capacity upgrades, load balancing and traffic optimization.The telecom operators, especially Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) played a commendable role for their outright support in handling this global emergency of unprecedented scale.Operators increased data allowances and offered discounted bundles & packages (additional data and on-net voice minutes) to facilitate users. Efforts were undertaken to quickly expand the network to areas devoid of broadband coverage (fixed line and mobile).
Furthermore, to facilitate operations of educational institutions, and businesses etc., 745 IPs have been whitelisted since July 2020 whereas 2968 Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been registered. PTA also allocated 16 different short codes and 6 UAN (Toll Free) numbers to Government entities working on controlling the pandemic.
PTA also made all SMSs to short code 8171 for EhsasProgramme registration free of cost. This decision to make SMS service free of charge was taken in view of problems faced by mobile subscribers with no balance. PTA extended its full support to the programme in an effort to reach people waiting for help through mobile technology.
To raise awareness regarding TeleSchool – Pakistan’s first education channel for students (a joint project of Pakistan Television Ltd and the Ministry of Education), 239 million SMSs have been sent. Moreover, 240 million SMSs were sent regarding precautionary measures to be taken especially for students, teachers and parents.
PTA also facilitated in arranging donations by mobile users in ‘Prime Minister’s COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund-2020′. To increase public awareness about this initiative, 164.08 million SMS messages were sent to subscribers urging them to donate to this noble cause. Short code 6677 was allocated for collection of funds.
PTA has effectively leveraged digital technologies to reach COVID-19 patients, identification of COVID clusters and by running an extensive awareness campaign to reach users through Telecom network.