With the UK, and indeed much of the world, currently in a state of lockdown due to the Coronavirus crisis, staying connected to other people however possible is currently more important than ever.
As a result of Coronavirus, many people are sadly facing financial uncertainty on top of self isolation and social distancing. And the more vulnerable members of our communities may need a bit of extra help.
With such an emphasis placed on communication, it’s become imperative the telecoms providers do their bit to help out, and thankfully they are doing just that. All of UK’s major mobile and internet service providers - including BT/EE, Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, and KCOM - have joined forces with the UK government and OFCOM to thrash out a series of measures to make sure people have the support from their networks so they can stay connected in this difficult time.
The agreed measures as published on the official UK Gov website are as follows:
“All providers have committed to working with customers who find it difficult to pay their bill as a result of Covid-19 to ensure that they are treated fairly and appropriately supported.
"All providers will remove all data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services.
"All providers have agreed to offer some new, generous mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable continue to be supported. For example, some of these packages include data boosts at low prices and free calls from their landline or mobile.
"All providers will ensure that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out.”
What’s more, mobile networks are going beyond to make life as easy as possible by adding more bonuses and extras during the coronavirus situation.
So what is your network doing to help people through the Coronavirus crisis? Let’s take a look.
VOXI has launched a fantastic new tariff aimed at helping people who have become unemployed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. The plan will give people unlimited mobile data, minutes and texts for just £10 a month for up to six months.
This plan normally costs £35 a month, meaning job seekers will be saving a whopping 70% on this unlimited data deal.
What's even better is that, when you sign up to a VOXI deal, there's no need for a credit check and there's no contract to sign.
To sign up for this deal, visit VOXI's website.
The first thing Vodafone has done is give all its mobile customers, including those on VOXI and TalkMobile, free access to NHS UK online, including NHS England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales websites, so they have full access to all the latest health information free of charge.
Customers will have free access to NHS websites for as long as coronavirus affects UK society. So regardless of price plan, now all can access these important NHS services without having to worry about data allowances.
Vodafone has also added extra capacity to its broadband and mobile networks so its customers are safe in the knowledge that any extra usage that may be happening as a result of working from home and social distancing will not have an impact on the service.
On top of this, the red network is giving six months of unlimited data to NHS staff and care workers on a Vodafone personal pay monthly plan.
Vodafone has also extended this offer to include NHS staff who are on flexible Pay As You Go plans.
NHS staff and careworkers on PAYG plans who buy a £10 Big Value Bundle or more will be bumped up from 3GB of data to free unlimited data, and they'll also see their minutes go up from from 250 minutes to 6000 minutes. This offer is available till 26th June.
Care workers and NHS staff can register for the offer here.
It’s also offering 500,000 customers unlimited data for 30 days. This upgrade is automatic for customers deemed as ‘vulnerable’, and they will receive a text message letting them know they’ve received the upgrade. However, all its other customers can also claim the upgrade by finding the offer in the VeryMe section of the My Vodafone App.
In accordance with official government guidelines, Vodafone has now also begun to reopen some of its stores, Initially 65 of its stores around the country will open to that customers who need face-to-face help can get it. There will of course be changes to the in-store experience to ensure both staff and customers stay safe. Expect social distancing, PPE for staff, hand sanitiser for customers and regularly store cleaning.
As a thank you to the people who have helped the country during Coronavirus, Vodafone is also continuing to prioritise the needs of key workers by offering them an exclusive 'Concierge' service. This will ensure they are seen first when shopping in store.
Over the coming weeks, Vodafone will open a further 300 stores throughout the country.
Vodafone has now also announced that it will offer a home tech support service for anyone - you don’t even have to be a Vodafone customer.
If you have a tech problem and need help or advice, but don’t feel comfortable going into a store or having someone in your home, you can book a 30 minute phone or video call with Vodafone to see if they can help with the issue.
The Vodafone remote help team can assist with tech issues including:
- Internet connections
- Phone reboots
- General tech issues
- Device demos and tutorials
This new service will be especially of use to vulnerable members of society. The service is completely free and easy to arrange. To book a phone or video call, just visit the Vodafone website and head to the ‘store locator’ section where you will find an option to book a Tech Team call.
Vodafone has also updated the offerings on its VeryMe rewards app to help people with remote learning during lockdown. It’s currently offering discounted access to four leading online education platforms: Azoomee, MarcoPolo World School, SchoolOnline.co.uk and New Skills Academy.
Vodafone is also donating 10,000 internet dongles to Business2Schools. The dongles are set to be distributed to schools all over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. School teachers can then give them out to help children who have internet connection issues get online.
EE customers can also access all NHS websites completely free for as long as coronavirus continues to have an impact on our lives. So that’s all the info you might need on NHS online through all its UK sites.
EE has also taken the step of offering all its vulnerable and disabled customers free calls, texts and data so that they can stay connected to family and friends whilst social distancing or self isolating.
EE's generous offer of giving all NHS staff unlimited mobile data during the pandemic has now been extended into a long term arrangement. NHS workers who have already signed up for the bonus will continue to receive free data at a a speed that is fast enough for messaging, browsing and streaming.
NHS workers who are newly joining EE, or those upgrading, will get a 20% discount on their monthly price plan - and they can even share this bonus with four other people. NHS workers will also benefit from fast-tracked mobile phone repairs.
As well as giving its customers access to all the NHS websites for free, 02 has gone a step further by also giving free access to the following advice and support websites:
Age group support:
Mental health and emotional support:
O2 has also partnered with the charity Hubbub, with an aim to donate 10,000 devices - such as smartphones and tablets - to vulnerable people in the UK who don't have access to digital devices.
Dubbed the Community Calling scheme, people are encouraged to donate their old smartphones in so that those in need can benefit. If you have an old smartphone lying around that you never use anymore, get involved and see how you can donate to a great cause by visiting the Community Calling website.
Three is also offering all its pay monthly and pay-as-you-go free access to all NHS websites, whether they’re here in the UK or overseas.
And to help its customers stay connected to friends and loved ones wherever they may be in the world, Three is also cutting the cost of its International Saver Add-on from £15.32 to £10. This add-on gives all pay monthly customers an additional 3000 minutes to 31 destinations around the world, both inside and outside the EU.
With many nations affected by COVID-19, now is a great time to chat with friends and family overseas. This offer is valid from now up to the 30th April.
As with the other networks, as a Sky Mobile customer you can access all of the NHS websites free of charge, but that’s not all.
All Sky Mobile customers will receive 10GB data completely free, straight into their data Piggybanks. This extra data can even be shared across multiple Sky Mobile SIM cards customers linked up to your account.
Virgin Mobile is also giving all its pay monthly customers an extra 10GB data. And to ensure they can speak to loved ones whenever they need to - unlimited calls to landlines and mobiles for a month.
While this offer is currently due to last till the end of April, Virgin Mobile has also stated it will monitor the developing situation with a view to extending the offer should things continue as they currently are.
Help for school children
The UK government, along with most UK mobile phone networks has also launched an initiative to make sure children's educations are kept on track despite the disruption to schools.
Free data will be offered to all school children who can't currently continue their education in the classroom due to lockdown laws and the Coronavirus situation.
So far EE, Three, O2 and other networks have pledged to join the scheme, but claims must be made by your child's school or local authority. Find out more on the government's information page.
In a further effort to give kids everything they need while school are closed, the BBC has announced that it will ‘zero rate’ access to its BBC Bitesize website and apps - so if they’re accessed from a mobile device no data will be used.
BBC Bitesize offers children a range of resources, content and tools to help with schoolwork - from online quizzes to actual lessons in a range of subjects such as English and Maths.
You can find BBC Bitsize content directly from the BBC website, its mobile app or on iPlayer, and now all three can be accessed without using any data. Currently this applies to customers on BT Mobile, EE and Plusnet Mobile, and there is no registration or sign up necessary.