Telecoms struggle as Kiwis work from home

Some mobile phone users have seen calls blocked today, with messages warning of congestion as hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders begin working from home, Marc Daalder reports

As hundreds of thousands of Kiwis work from home this morning, mobile phone networks seem to be struggling to keep up. Newsroom has received several reports of calls being dropped or blocked on Vodafone and Spark networks due to congestion.

The New Zealand Telecommunications Forum, an industry body, released a statement acknowledging, "calling issues that have stemmed from a significant increase in the volume of voice calls on both mobiles and landlines".

“In light of the evolving Covid-19 situation the technical teams of all operators have been working together on a daily basis to ensure the entire industry is aligned and focussed on fixing congestion issues as they occur," TCF CEO Geoff Thorn said.

"We are looking at this issue with urgency to rectify it for all New Zealanders."

Thorn encouraged people to turn to internet-based services like Skype or FaceTime until the issues were rectified.

BusinessNZ estimates 10 percent of the workforce - or 200,000 people - will be working from home today, its chief executive Kirk Hope told Radio New Zealand. On Saturday, Jacinda Ardern asked the nation to implement stringent social distancing measures to help stop the spread of Covid-19, including working from home where possible.

Newsroom has contacted Vodafone and Spark for comment.

"Voice call volumes are up approximately 20 percent as more Kiwis are working remotely and people turn to technology tools to stay connected," a Vodafone spokesperson said.

"Today’s issue is impacting the full industry and we’re fixing it as a matter of priority, which includes working with other telcos on call interconnects. There has also been a spike in suspected spam calls from overseas numbers, which we’re working to block."

The spokesperson said updates would be forthcoming.

As this reporter attempted to call Spark's media line from his Vodafone cell phone, the call was blocked with a message warning of congestion.

"Your call cannot proceed at this time due to congestion," the message said. "Please try again later."

Read more of Newsroom's Covid-19 coverage here. 

Covid-19 is transmitted like the flu. The Ministry of Health recommends that all New Zealanders wash their hands frequently and refrain from touching their face in order to protect themselves and others. Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms and have been to any countries or territories of concern or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19.

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