Australian operator Telstra put planned job cuts on hold and outlined plans for a significant hike in 5G investment in 2020, as part of its contribution to the nation’s economic stimulus response to Covid-19 (coronavirus).

In a statement, CEO Andrew Penn said: “We are looking at every aspect of our business to see what we can do for our employees, customers, suppliers and the economy more broadly, while we maintain a focus on long-term value creation.”

Penn said the most important thing is that “as many businesses as possible are still here when we get through this crisis”.

The operator will pause job reductions for the next six months and recruit 1,000 temporary contractors in the country to help manage call centre volumes. The operator’s call centres in the Philippines have been disrupted by a lock-down in Manila.

Telstra also will bring forward AUD500 million ($296.5 million) of capex from the second half of its fiscal 2021 (ending 30 June 2021) to this calendar year, with the capital to be deployed to increase network capacity, including accelerating 5G deployment.

In addition, it plans to provide relief to small business and consumers unable to pay their bills by suspending late payment fees and disconnections until at least the end of April.

Telstra said more than 25,000 staff are working from home.

Penn said the full impact from the outbreak on Telstra was difficult to assess at this time, noting: “Like many businesses it is expected to be material and will depend on how the situation and its impact on the economy and our customers evolves.”

He said its current outlook remains within the range of its fiscal 2020 guidance, but added: “We know there will likely be more impacts for us from a financial perspective through this unprecedented period.”