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With Gibraltar in lockdown, Rock’s telecom companies provide vital lifeline

With Gibraltar in lockdown mode to fight the spread of coronavirus, many are now relying on the internet to socialise, work and even study.

But with the increase of users logging onto the internet at all hours of the day to carry on with their daily routine, this has meant Gibraltar’s telecoms operators are working tirelessly to provide a service without any hiccups.

The Gibtelecom, GibFibre and U-mee are reassuring customers that their internet services at home will continue as they best can.

Gibtelecom said it has upgraded all its fixed broadband customers to 100Mbps until May 31 free of charge, adding that it fully understands the importance of being connected with loved ones now more than ever.

A spokesman for Gibtelecom said it is working hard to ensure the company offers its services to the community, adding: “Although the Covid-19 outbreak brings about many challenges, the motivation of our teams is helping to overcome many of these obstacles.”

“As a result of an increase in remote working throughout Gibraltar, we are receiving greater demand for our services and our field engineers are working extremely hard to deliver the best possible service, readjusting resources where necessary, to cater for the local community,” the spokesman added.

But the company reassured users that its networks are “designed and built to cater for [Gibraltar’s] entire population”, and it has the capacity “to handle mass-scale home-working.”

Gibtelecom adds that it can increase its capacity “at the push of a button” by tapping into infrastructure it owns throughout Europe and halfway round the world.

It can also service an increase in mobile phone usage with a second mobile network.

Gibtelecom has already seen an increase in customers contacting them over the phone and on email, so have increased the numbers of those individuals, while many others are working from home.

As for the shop, this will remain shut until further notice.

Over the past few weeks, Sapphire Networks has also seen an increase of residential internet traffic during the weekdays, and even more so during “normal working hours”, the company said.

The company saw a “significant increase” in people logging onto the internet when people first started social distancing.

In order to help the business community, Sapphire Networks has doubled its upload speed at no extra cost to its Business Fibre customers.

This will be in place until the end of April to help support businesses throughout the coronavirus emergency while people are working from home.

“This should help minimise the impact on other applications as more bandwidth is utilised by remote staff, for example, by using VPNs,” the company said.

In some cases, Sapphire Networks said, “exceptional arrangements” have been implemented to facilitate business operations in the online gaming sector.

And as from next month, business customers who do not need their U-mee product because their premises are shut due to the lockdown can temporarily pause their contract between April and June without any penalties for reconnection.

And for its residential U-mee customers, the company will be providing “optimum performance and connection reliability” through “high-bandwidth fibre-to-the-home broadband”, receiving internet speeds of 500Mbps as standard.

From April to June 2020, Covid-19 affected U-mee households in receipt of the Government’s BEAT Covid-19 support may also apply for a discount of 50%, by submitting a copy of BEAT Covid-19 documentation and proof of residence or ID for each billing period. The discount will be credited to the customer's account, the company said.

As for home visits, the company has stopped its home visit service, but will handle customer queries remotely.

But it will continue to provide essential service call-outs related to router or cable problems, and engineers may ask to wash their hands on arrival and departure.

The shop situated in Eurotowers will remain shut until further notice, and all outstanding bills can be set up for payments online or by contacting the customer support team.

To ensure continuous service for their clients, GibFibre have a “robust” Business Continuity Plan in place.

A spokesman for GibFibre told the Chronicle: “With regards to capacity, GibFibre has a fully resilient network with ample capacity and is confident that it can deal with existing and future demand.”

“GibFibre continues to monitor and evaluate the situation closely and will ensure this fast-paced and continuously evolving scenario is tackled with appropriate action.”

The shop in Waterport Road is now closed, but the team will be on hand to assist with any concerns over the email and over the phone.

All non-essential house visits to help with equipment have been withdrawn for the time being, but the company said it will be able to assist the customers remotely.

In addition, any new home installations will take place as normal for the time being, unless the customer wishes to cancel the appointment.

However, the engineers have been told to wash their hands on arrival and on departure, and a two-metre distance must be kept during the installation process.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that the Gibtelecom shop will remain open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm. In fact, the Gibtelecom shop is shut to the public until further notice and the article has been amended.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our reporters are working round-the-clock to bring you the latest news on Gibraltar and the Covid-19 crisis. All our coverage on this critical issue is available free outside the paywall. If you find it useful, please help us reach more people by sharing our journalism. And if you want to support our work further, please consider subscribing to the digital version of our daily newspaper and all our premium online content. You can subscribe via our website or for iOS devices via the iTunes store. Thank you.

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