Syniverse and ANTEL Provide Emergency Roaming Data to Stranded Uruguay Residents

Of all the things I’ve seen in my long career in the mobile industry, one of the most amazing continues to be the many ways that mobile can be creatively used to meet different business and societal needs. Syniverse was fortunate to have just been asked to assist with such a project last month, and I’m delighted to share the story about it in this blog post.

In recent years especially, new mobile technologies have accelerated by light years the way that users integrate mobile with their lives. People now depend on their mobile devices for everything from communicating with friends, to getting the latest news, to finding directions, to turning in their latest homework assignment, to shopping from their favorite brands, to planning their next vacation — and they expect to do it all right now.

So when customers of ANTEL, the government-owned and largest telecommunication organization in Uruguay, were traveling outside Uruguay last month and suddenly found themselves barred from returning to the country because of a government-imposed quarantine to minimize any coronavirus-infected people from entering the country, they needed quick help. These customers would potentially be stranded outside their home country for weeks and not have enough of their regular roaming data allowance remaining to last them through this period. Without enough regular roaming data left, they would be forced to either minimize their mobile usage to conserve their remaining data for however long, or to pay for overage data and possibly incur huge extra costs to continue to have mobile service.

With COVID-19 rapidly spreading and deepening a global health crisis, ANTEL decided the most humanitarian and practical action was to provide free emergency roaming data, and it turned to Syniverse to help. The plan was to give each ANTEL customer stranded outside Uruguay a free roaming pack of 1 GB of data for a period of 30 days, which would help ensure they had enough data to continue their mobile usage while they were being delayed from returning home.  

The challenge was that the quick-moving nature of the COVID-19 infestation meant that customers had to have this extra data fast. They needed to be able to stay in touch with family members at home, make arrangements to stay longer wherever they were, communicate remotely with their employer while away from their job, or possibly seek medical attention if they began to experience COVID-19 symptoms themselves.

To get this roaming data to customers quickly, ANTEL turned to us at Syniverse. ANTEL contacted us on a Friday afternoon to explain the urgency for setting up this extra roaming, and after understanding the situation, our team was able to immediately put in place the staff and resources necessary to make this a priority.

We went to work using one of our primary roaming products, Mobile Policy Control Center, or MPCC, a comprehensive roaming platform that offers a cloud-based, managed service that gives mobile service providers the capability to offer customized roaming services based on a number of geographic- and network-based features, and that allows mobile users to customize their own roaming packages based on the way they expect to use data service. MPCC allows both mobile service providers and their customers to access real-time roaming usage information anytime, anywhere, and make use of a powerful tool to manage their usage and prevent bill shock.   

Using MPCC and closely collaborating with ANTEL, we were able to set up the emergency roaming packs and make them available to the ANTEL customers in just four hours. The project involved solving several technical challenges quickly. First, we had to identify and locate the accounts of all the hundreds of customers that were outside Uruguay and eligible to receive the roaming pack. Then we had to set up a system-wide procedure that would apply the roaming pack to all the identified customer accounts quickly, in one update. Finally, we had to make a final test and verification that each identified customer now had the roaming pack available through their account and ready to use.

Working closely with ANTEL, we succeeded in meeting the challenge of setting up the roaming packs quickly. Just a few hours after ANTEL contacted us, it was able to send a text message to each customer to inform them, and it also communicated this to them broadly through social media channels like Instagram. It was tremendously rewarding to be a part of an effort that allowed hundreds of ANTEL customers who suddenly found themselves stranded outside Uruguay during a global health crisis to be able to receive an immediate increase in their roaming data allowance. They could communicate with their loved ones at home, arrange to stay temporarily where they were or move to a new location, collaborate with colleagues remotely while away from their job, and seek medical attention themselves if they began to experience any symptoms of COVID-19.   

This project was also rewarding on many other levels. We built on a long and successful relationship with ANTEL, which has been a customer for over 10 years and uses a number of our other products for services like roaming, networking, and text messaging. We expanded our use of and further refined  Mobile Policy Control Center. Finally, we, again, were able to take advantage of the power of mobile to creatively meet a business and societal need.

We hope the ANTEL customers we served will stay well and are able to return home safely soon, and we hope that everyone around the world stays as safe and healthy as possible as we all work together to battle COVID-19.   

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