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'Digital landscape has shifted considerably' - Vodafone NZ COVID-19 update

As New Zealand enters its first full week of alert level 2 after getting a taste of normality over the weekend, the nationwide usage of mobile and internet services has also started a trajectory toward pre-COVID-19 levels.

Vodafone NZ has today released its latest information on how New Zealanders are using the internet and cell services as social lives roar back to life – with the internet service provider (ISP) and mobile carrier remarking ‘the digital landscape has shifted considerably’.

One of the most significant changes between alert levels is the increase in movement around the country, identified by the carrier through ‘mobile handovers’ – or when a mobile device switches from one cell site to another.

Under level 4 restrictions, mobile handovers decreased by a record-breaking 42% as Kiwis shut up shop and hunkered down for the lockdown.
 
The move from level 4 to 3 saw a huge increase in mobile handovers occurring – rising 25% from level 4 levels. This was, however, still 22% lower than ‘normal’ (pre-COVID-19 levels).
 
Since the entry into level 2 last week, this increased again, but not as much as the exchange between levels 4 and 3. Now, mobile handovers are 20% lower than normal.

This statistic could indicate that, although travel around the country is now permitted, many New Zealanders are still exercising caution when it comes to moving around.

In terms of voice calling, alert level 2 has seen a levels of around 50% higher than pre-COVID-19, but down 60% from levels 3 and 4.

According to Vodafone NZ’s stats, messaging apps were favoured over SMS throughout lockdown, but now level 2 is here text messaging has seen a bump in usage – now 15% lower than pre-COVID-19 levels, after being down 25% during level 4.

Mobile data usage has, predictably, risen after the move to level 2, as more people are out and about and away from the home WiFi connection.

Mobile data total usage increased 3 percentage points from 20% at level 4 to 23% at level 2, according to Vodafone NZ.

Fixed usage was up 15%, down from 18% higher at level 3, due to more people going outside/leaving their homes.

Rural (RBI) mobile data was 25% higher than pre-COVID-19 (on-peak) & 40% higher usage overnight with free unlimited data (off-peak).

Vodafone NZ has also provided an update on the numerous instances of arson at mobile tower sites, a result of conspiracy theories linking 5G technology and COVID-19 – which it describes as ‘senseless and infuriating’. 

“These attacks are infuriating and can have real connectivity impacts for New Zealanders – meaning people could have reduced mobile phone and internet coverage in an area with a damaged cell site, which is a real issue particularly in South Auckland,” says Vodafone NZ wholesale & infrastructure director Tony Baird. 

“While we’ve been able to keep customers connected so far, each attack has a cumulative negative impact.”