Hong Kong telco HKBN is doing barter deals to help cash-strapped customers, providing connectivity in exchange for fast food and other items.
The company says it's already completed deals for broadband, point-of-sale systems, Wi-Fi and even digital transformation services.
It won't elaborate on what it's received in return, but says customers so far include fast-food chains, retail stores, hotels and conference facilities.
The company says its "Barter & Bundle" plan allows customers to offset part of their payments for HKBN services with their own products or services.
The Hong Kong broadband and enterprise specialist says everything from data connectivity to cloud and IoT are on the table.
"Our goal is to help enterprises slash their operating costs and attract more patronage by leveraging on HKBN's extensive customer base," said CEO NiQ Lai. "We look for win-win co-creation of long-term value with all our customers and business partners rather than make money off them."
The barter scheme may be unique, but HKBN isn't the only Asian telco finding ways to help others get through the current crisis.
In more conventional responses, Hutchison Telecom Hong Kong is subsidizing Zoom accounts for schools and providing free data for needy students. StarHub staff have voted to donate S$300,000 ($208,400) to a fund for victims of the epidemic, while Telstra and Optus are providing free mobile data.
Not all have worked, though.
SoftBank's Masayoshi Son abandoned his plan to give COVID-19 test equipment to hospitals after the idea was trashed on social media. Instead, he is donating a million masks.
When it comes to scale of contribution, Chinese telcos lead the pack.
The state-owned operators rapidly deployed 5G basestations at the virus epicenter in Wuhan, ensuring connectivity at the new makeshift hospital. They also provided free videconference and remote medicine facilities around the country.
Since then China Mobile has among other things offered discounts for medical personnel, set up a national coronavirus hotline and built an intelligent information system for the new Wuhan hospital.
On the other hand, the Chinese operators are not shy about passing on private user data to help authorities track people's movements.
China Mobile gave media outlets information on those who tested positive so they could publish details about them – including even which subway train compartment they boarded, Al Jazeera reports.
While intrusive, this has allowed people to find out if they have come into close contact with confirmed patients. Users also have been able to use the data to prove to authorities they haven't been near infected areas.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading