By Emma Okonji
MTN has revealed that its customers sent over one billion short message service (SMS) within the last one month, during the lockdown occasioned by the spread of COVID-19 across the country.
Prior to the lockdown, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, had asked that telcos “consider giving Nigerians some token airtime and data to ease their pains” during the Covid-19 lockdown, but only MTN and Airtel responded and heeded the appeal.
Both companies decided it was best to offer free SMS. While MTN was clear on the number of SMS per day it was offering its customers, Airtel’s offer came with the caveat that “a fair usage policy applies to prevent network congestion.”
However, in March MTN Nigeria had announced that its over 70 million subscribers will be able to send 300 free SMS messages per month as part of the company’s Y’ello Hope package created to assist its customers as a result of the economic implications of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
MTN in a statement, said: “Five weeks later, it appears that the free-SMS route may have been the way to go as reports from MTN’s Q1 financial results shows that over one billion free text messages were sent by customers within the first four weeks of introducing the offer. The free SMS package allows MTN Nigeria subscribers across the country to send 10 free SMS daily for 30 days to all networks.”
With the cost of an SMS pegged at N4, MTN is said to have incurred an estimated N4 billion on text messages in the first month alone.
It stated that other incentives available to MTN customers during the period include free 100MB daily to access verified information on health platforms such as Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), World Health Organisation (WHO) and educational materials on MTN’s Teens platform, mPulse. In addition, the company suspended transaction fees for all Cash2Cash transfers via its Mobile Money (MoMo) Agent Network.
MTN Nigeria introduced the Y’ello Hope Package as a broad set of interventions to support its customers and communities in addition to the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus while ensuring customers remain connected to their loved ones and other critical resources, the statement added.