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Telecom Operators Are Well Poised To Aid In Fight Against COVID-19

Telecom Operators Are Well Poised To Aid In Fight Against COVID-19

Harsha Burly

These are difficult times for countries around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic has infected more than 2 million people and claimed 150,000 lives so far. Governments and health authorities are implementing every possible measure, such as imposing travel restrictions, enforcing lockdown, or social distancing to ensure the safety of their citizens. Despite all these reassuring measures, there are undeniable challenges in enforcing these restrictions at scale, especially in densely populated zones. 

Although most of the people are motivated to follow the set guidelines, there are instances of people defying the restriction of lockdown, quarantine, or social distancing. This negates the purpose of these measures and increases the risk of a rise in infection. Some areas for concern for governments and health authorities are:  

  • Tracking the movement of people from across the globe specially from the severally affected regions
  • Non-adherence of lockdown rules
  • Densely populated areas in cities and towns to track as hotspots
  • No view of the activity/movement of quarantine suspects (QS)

Accessing real-time information on the quarantine cases is not easy with the limited resources that governments have. Backtracking the quarantine suspect’s movements and locating possible contacts for the recent past is another hurdle in controlling the pandemic.



Telecom operators with their widely distributed network covering 67% of the world’s population can play a crucial role here. A collaboration between the operators and governments can really help to expedite the action plan to manage the current situation. Operators having access to the location data of subscribers can run analytics to evaluate the subscriber’s risk profile based on their movement history, and leverage CDR data to identify potential suspects.  With this data, governments can be equipped with relevant information about quarantine or positive cases, hotspots, or likely affected cases.

Below are some of the ways that telecom operators can use their data to help the society at large:

  1. Identifying the location of quarantined and positive people based on their mobile activity and associate them to the location. The overall geographical location can be tagged as low, medium, or high-risk zones and can be updated dynamically.
  2. Any movement & quarantine violation of the suspected cases can be tracked and highlighted to government agencies for corrective actions. These violations can be tagged into short and long-distance and appropriate severity can be associated.  Also, locations visited by suspected cases can be marked for proactive actions to minimize the spread.
  3. Location backtracking to identify secondary spread by analyzing frequently called numbers, location, and other behavior.
  4. Gap analysis of recent international travels and actual quarantined cases can be identified by analyzing international out roamers data.
  5. Locations with high-density of the population can be tagged with a sudden surge in activities or unauthorized gatherings to mark them as risky localities and inform authorities
  6. Tracking and monitoring the route and time of travel pass holders of essential services such as healthcare or others for any violation during the lockdown.
  7. Analyzing demographic data to identify locations with a higher percentage of individuals over a certain age

Operators can deliver the subscriber profile analysis through a geospatial map to the authorities to enable them to take proactive or reactive measures.

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Considering any individual operator will have only a portion of the country’s population as customers, it will be more effective if telecom regulatory agencies drive this initiative, so that the data from all operators can be combined to provide a meaningful solution. However, even a single operator’s data can be used to accurately deliver the result for the on-net customer base. Coverage can be expanded to off-net customers as well by estimating the density and overall individual risky cases from offnet call traffic.



Enabling operators to help the authorities to fight the pandemic

These are the times when the telecom fraternity can extend their support to the governments in the fight against COVID-19. The vast amount of customer data can offer accurate and timely insights required to take necessary measures for the safety and security of people. The right analytics approach can help operators analyze the data and break it into significant actionable insights. Telcos have a huge social responsibility right now, and it is important that they act on it – be it through homegrown capabilities or partnerships with domain experts.

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