WITH an investment of over $25 billion in various segments of the telecoms sector in the country in the last 11 years, which has enabled the growth of just 400,000 lines in 2000 to over 107 million active mobile subscriptions as at September 2012, Nigeria, has in no doubt remained a reference point in Africa’s telecoms sector.
Beside, Nigeria is expected to lead the continent, which currently has over 750 million to a projected one billion mobile subscription marks by 2015.
According to statistics released by the London based Informa Telecoms and Media at the just concluded 15th edition of AfricaCom Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, Nigeria and indeed Africa have the world’s second biggest mobile market region by subscription count, behind Asia-Pacific but ahead of Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, North America and the Middle East.
According to Informa Telecoms and Media, Nigeria, which crossed the 100 million mobile subscriptions threshold in the second quarter of 2012, will continue to be Africa’s biggest mobile market and is projected to have 168.9 million subscriptions at the end of 2017, followed by Egypt with 129.4 million subscriptions.
Be that as it may, telecoms analysts, while appreciating the huge investments profile of various operators in the continent have consistently harped on the need for players to increase their investment profile and expand their network capacities, especially in a large market such as Nigeria, which grows at a geometric progression to be able to meet the increasing surge in mobile connections on the continent.
Indeed, the telecoms sector, especially in Nigeria is still beset with the issue of poor quality of service. The deteriorating telecoms service has made it pretty difficult to make smooth calls across networks or even within the same networks, as subscribers are faced with the challenges of dropped calls, call diversion, weak call signals to activate calls, poor voice clarity, delay in SMS delivery, among others.
Despite these observable challenges, the telecom subscriber base keeps growing everyday as more people joined the already congested networks.
From statistics, about two third of Nigerians now have telephone, which before now used to be an exclusive preserve of the rich in the pre liberalization era of the telecoms sector.
For the increasing poor services, several factors are being attributed for this, which include limited expansion capacity of the operators and chiefly regular promos by the operators, which put more pressure on their limited capacity.
Indeed, players in the Nigerian telecoms sector, including MTN Nigeria; Globacom; Airtel and Etisalat seem not to have envisaged the boom in the subscription rate in the country, with the networks now over congested and service quality plummeting lately and subsequently increasing subscribers’ agony across all the networks.
Painfully, none of the operators has ever mentioned or admitted the impact of recurrent promos as one of the major causes of the problem. It appears the stiff competition in the industry has done more damage than benefits to service quality.
The various freebies in the name of promos and lotteries seem to have negatively impacted the networks. This has subsequently drawn the ire of the regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The NCC had through its Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo issued a statement banning on telecoms promotions and lotteries, stressing that in recent times, it had been inundated with several complaints from consumers and industry stakeholders against the various promotions offered by telecommunications operators in the country, which seems to be congesting the networks.
NCC claimed that it had carefully evaluated the complaints received, especially against the backdrop of sustaining the integrity of the networks, the general interest of the consumers and the socio-economic impact of these promotions on operators and other relevant stakeholders.
Ojobo said the commission observed that on-net call was now being offered by operators at tariffs well below the prevailing inter-connect rates thereby introducing anti-competitive practices and behavior from one network to another and overall consumer experience on the networks has become very poor thereby making it extremely difficult for subscribers to make calls successfully.
Indeed, experts argued that promotions including MTN’s wonder promo, where it gave out an aircraft to the winner; Airtel’s 500 per cent bonus packages; Globacom’s Text for million promos, Etisalat’s promos recorded over 100 per cent participation and drastically congested the networks with services almost crumbling.
A telecoms expert, Tunji Ajao, who spoke to The Guardian on Monday, said indeed the ban was to bring sanity to the networks and save subscribers nightmares in connectivity.
Ajao believed that the networks are not robust enough to accommodate the volume of calls generated by the attractions of promos, stressing that operators should as a matter of urgency expand their networks to accommodate more surge that will be coming, especially during the festive periods.
According to him, the situation would have been better if it had been one or two of the operators engaging in the promo; at least, Nigerians subscribers, most of who use more than one network would have opted for the alternative, if one gets worse. “Unfortunately, in the spirit of competition, all the operators are in it, thus, leaving the entire networks in a mess of poor service”, he stated.
In his reaction to the ban, the National Association of telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) lauded government’s ban of the promotions.
NATCOMS President, Deolu Ogunbanjo believed that the move would free up the network and stop congestion of the networks.
Ogunbanjo said that stopping the promotions would compel telecoms operators to upgrade their services to meet up the present challenges.
“By this decision, telecom operators will want to expedite action to improve on their network, knowing that their promotions always attract more subscribers into their various networks. All these promotions here and there are affecting the quality of service. It is a good decision that the Federal Government has taken”, he stated.
However, the fact remains that poor quality of service issues go beyond promotions and lotteries. Government must also create an enabling environment; friendly tax system; protect telecoms infrastructure among others.
Supporting this argument was the president of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo.
Adebayo in an interview with journalists said the major cause of poor service quality across networks should be blamed on natural and man-made disasters, rather than on promos and lotteries.
According to him, the natural disasters were caused by flooding in some southern parts of the country, while the man-made disasters were caused by spontaneous attacks on telecoms facilities in some northern parts of the country last September.
Adebayo explained that the attacks on telecoms facilities last September and other incidences resulted in severe service disruptions in the areas primarily affected and by extension other parts of the country.
“The impact of the attacks had since limited the ability of millions of Nigerian subscribers to access telecommunications services, because the incidents affected over 250 telecoms sites that lost connection.
He added that the unprecedented flood in some parts of the country destroyed Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) along its path, leading to significant service disruption in the affected areas, with consequential impact on service availability in some other parts that were not affected by the flood.
“Other than disruption to services, our members have lost equipment worth several billions of naira to the flood disaster across the country, as over additional 300 BTS sites were affected by the flood,” Adebayo said.
He called on government to provide the necessary protection to telecoms facilities in the national interest of the country, adding that the infrastructure built and owned by the telecommunications industry is the springboard to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) revolution in Nigeria, which are essential for Nigeria’s socio-economic advancement.
Culled from THE GUARDIAN