Wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) achieved back-to-back wins in two prestigious awards programs in Barcelona, getting recognition both for its quick network restoration and emergency response efforts in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda and for its revolutionary mobile Internet platform SmartNet. SafePH – Smart’s disaster preparedness and emergency response program which was put to the test when Yolanda devastated Central Philippines last November – was named “Best Use of Mobile for Emergency or Humanitarian Efforts” at the GSMA Global Mobile Awards 2014, which is dubbed the Oscars of the mobile industry. Meanwhile, SmartNet won the “Operator OTT Service Launch Award” award at the inaugural Telecoms.com Awards.
‘Commendable on many levels’
In comments posted at the GSMA Global Mobile Awards website, judges said SafePH was commendable “on many levels: preparedness, partnerships, and the rolling out of a whole portfolio of services aimed at improving communications access for the affected community in a rapid response fashion.”Even before Yolanda made landfall, some local government units using Smart’s Infoboard web-based solution were sending text blasts to prepare residents for the incoming typhoon. Smart also pre-positioned its personnel, equipment, and relief goods in major areas in Central Philippines for faster response. The day after Yolanda hit the country, Smart was first on the ground to set up free call stations using satellite phones, which allowed survivors to communicate their needs to the outside world. In partnership with Telecoms Sans Frontieres, Smart provided emergency satellite communications services in Tacloban City. In partnership with Thuraya Telecoms, Smart was able to offer mobile satellite services on a larger scale. Satellite communications enabled various agencies to coordinate disaster response efforts and efficiently deploy resources to affected communities. Within a week after the disaster, Smart engineers helped integrate the Vodafone Foundation Instant Network to provide interim communications support to government and humanitarian agencies to affected communities in Palo, Leyte and Guiuan and Borongan, Samar. These were the first mobile communications restored in these areas. Despite the havoc wreaked by Yolanda, Smart fully restored network services in the affected areas just a month after the supertyphoon made landfall, the first telco to do so. “We thank the GSMA for recognizing our disaster preparedness and response program, and for training the spotlight on Filipino resilience and the undying bayanihan spirit which came in full display in the aftermath of Yolanda. This award belongs largely to our dedicated network engineers who quickly restored communication links in affected areas. We salute and thank them for their commitment and hard work,” said Smart president and chief executive officer Napoleon L. Nazareno. Smart’s additional services post-Yolanda included free SMS bundles (25 local and 3 international SMS per day) for 10 days, postpaid services assistance, use of APIs, and a tie-up with Twitter for receiving tweets from responding agencies via SMS, without the need for data connectivity. Through its mobile money services, Smart was also able to help the global fundraising campaign “Help.ph” of the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF). This effort was also cited by the GSMA as finalist under the category “Best Use of Mobile for Emergency or Humanitarian Efforts.” Smart and its subsidiary Smart e-Money, Inc. provided the mobile money solution BayadLoad to the PDRF to allow mobile phone users from all over the world to donate via SMS.
Innovative response to OTT
At the Telecoms.com Awards ceremony, SmartNet was recognized as an innovative response to the challenges presented by the rise of OTT (over-the-top) services.SmartNet is an innovation developed by Smart subsidiary Voyager Innovations which offers the use of popular mobile applications such as Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Chat, and Yahoo! Messenger for free. The “Freemium” model gives people a taste of what mobile Internet has to offer – without fear of unexpected data charges because of SmartNet’s anti-bill shock mechanism – and promotes the growth of mobile Internet usage among Smart subscribers in a cost-effective manner. SmartNet has been hailed by other international awards programs for serving as a model for emerging markets where mobile phone users are still wary of using mobile Internet services. SmartNet has been downloaded for free by more than 1.5 million Android, iOS, and Windows users. Smart was the only Philippine telco to be shortlisted at the Telecoms.com Awards. Other Smart nominees were Smart Satellite Services for the Connecting the Unconnected Award, the Katok-At-Tex offers of Smart’s value brand Talk ‘N Text for the Mobile Pricing Innovation Award, and Smart’s Self-Care program for the CEM Award for customer relationship management. Telecoms.com is a leading provider of news, analysis, and opinion about the telco industry. Meanwhile, the GSMA is a prestigious global association of mobile operators, device makers, software companies, equipment providers, and Internet companies. GSMA CEO John Hoffman said the organization saw a record level of interest in this year’s Global Mobile Awards, with more than 680 submissions.