Are Nigerian Mobile Networks Heading For Financial Crisis?

Recently, one of Nigeria’s four GSM Service Providers, Etisalat Nigeria, rolled out a unique bundle offering  called EasyFlex. In this offering, you get to choose a bundle comprising of Short Messaging Service (SMS), voice and data services.

For N1000, one of the plans offer you 100 minutes of talk time to any local network, 100 Megabytes of data and 400 sms – also to any network. This same GSM provider ordinarily offers calls to other local networks at very low rates, forcing their counterparts to tow the line.

It is very comforting that market forces is now driving the Telecomm sector in Nigeria. However, the offer of cheap SMS by mobile networks may not be particularly enticing as the trend worldwide is placing increasingly less focus on SMS as a means of communication. People would rather use other Instant Messaging (IM) medium like Samsung’s ChatOn, Apple’s iMessage, WhatsApp, Nimbuzz, Imsy and numerous others.

Personally, I can not remember the last time I used a paid SMS service. Some services like VConnect and get2Sms offer specific numbers of sms freely. Google also allow you to send free SMS to most Nigerian networks while Facebook allow you free access on select networks.

These free services have always come in handy the few times i need to use SMS.

The bundled SMS is, however, not a deal breaker for Etisalat because even with the SMS taken out of the equation, the N1000 package is probably worth almost N3000 if the included services are used on a Pay as you go basis.

Promotional offers is now the trend in Nigeria and the subscribers are finally getting back what they had been ripped off of in the past. So much so that the regulatory body, NCC, had to step in to put a halt to the ”çat fight”. Competition is now fierce as revenue, especially, from voice calls keep plummeting. This is partly because the number and duration of voice calls have drastically reduced. There was a time in this country when networks were billing per minute. They are now billing per second, coupled with the fact that competition has driven down voice call charges to less than a quarter of what they used to be. SIM cards are being given out (practically) for free. One of the other things eating into the revenue of these networks is the use of satellite telephony to connection to the internet for close to free.

All these pose serious financial challenges to our networks here.

Meanwhile, like with every business in Nigeria, running costs keep rising. Recurrent expenditure is shooting through the roof for these networks.

Revenues are dwindling, running costs are rising. Add these two together, and you have a veritable recipe for business disaster.

It is no surprise that most CDMA Operators have closed shop in Nigeria. There are mergers and acquisitions going on. With or without economies of scale, it appears that revenue in the Telecommunications Sector is dwindling and will continue to dwindle in the foreseeable future.

This has left me wondering whether the pervading cutthroat competition in the telecoms sector would not  leave casualties in its path.

We have a situation where there is a crying need to improve the Quality of service of the Operators by investing more in infrastructure. They need to expand the network capacity. How are they going to be able to do this when revenue is being forced downwards? Any business faced with this kind of scenario would look for ways to reduce expenditure, so as to improve on their bottomline.

And I fear the first ports of call would probably be ‘downsizing’, more pronounced outsourcing, reduction of staff emolument, smart tax avoidance (not evasion) strategy.

This may not be all good news for subscribers at all.

In what way do you think these networks can escape this “Catch – 99” situation?

Do you forsee a improvement s in the Quality of Service, due to the ferocious combination.

Or are you like me – I can already see cracks, and a deterioration in service rendition. I see vicious competition having a “MAD” quality about it already– Mutually Assured Destruction.

What is your take?


One Year After …

About a year ago, I started this blog as a means of penning down my ideas and to share interesting stories that I find around me or on the Internet. My primary focus was on articles bordering on innovations and evolution of technology and how it affects, especially, Nigerians. Quite a noble idea, if I may say so, but how well have we fared after one year?

With a monthly average of about 2,500 visits and a viewership of almost 4,000 (Source : Google Analytics), one can not say the blog has fared badly, not at all. But how well has it fared viz-a-viz other Nigerian Blogs? Not very well, I daresay.

You see, as noble as the intentions of this blog are, the dream of every blogger is to have his blog listed among Technorati’s Top 100 blogs in the world, putting one’s blog in the same league as “The Huffington Post”, “Mashable” and “Techcrunch”. And if the last ranking of Nigerian blogs is anything to go by, being ranked with “Ogbonge Blog”, “Bella” would definitely not be a bad idea.

I read up articles on how to improve the visibility of blogs and carried out the following recommendations;
– Search Engine Optimisation (Check)
– Quality Content (Check)
– Frequency of posts (Ehm, well, check. Hey, I need to earn a living!)
– Blog Networking (check)

After this, there was a slight improvement in the rankings but it was barely noticeable.

So, in the quest to make things better, I decided to take a stroll around the Internet, to see what makes these other blogs tick, and to find out exactly what it is they talk about that viewers find interesting. My findings were eye opening. People find blogs dealing in certain contents more attractive than others. Oh well, I should have known this, my wife never visits my blog, shouldn’t that have told me something? She always complain about me talking about nothing else but Linux, Computer, iPad! Well …

From my findings, blogs that have the following contents seem to excel more than others (not in any order);

– Social news and gossips
– Mobile News
– Free Browsing, mobile hacks, etc
– Online Business : How to make money online without lifting a finger!
– Free this, free that!
– Guys, what else?

This really did set me thinking, do I join the bandwagon? I am damn sure I would excel talking about hacks and the likes, it has always been a major attraction to me. However, one may have to consider the ethical aspect of this, the reason why the blog has only dealt sparingly on this topic. I recently penned a write-up on how to unlock your Etisalat dual SIM phone, you can only guess the number of viewership the topic had!

Thinking seriously, I felt the reason for this blog is to share ideas and not necessarily for commercial gains (Not that I would mind though) and obviously, the articles on the blog seem to fill the needs of a few people, and most importantly, I am happy doing what I do. So why change?

You see, I am a Geek, a Geek by birth and inclination (Borrowing from Wole Soyinka’s words) and anything short of the blog content would amount to not being true to oneself. I only hope and pray that “Insha Allah, By God’s Grace” (Borrowing, again, from the words of my high school teacher), this blog would get to the top of all rankings, someday.

PS: This article was meant to coincide with the birthday of my darling wife, I actually penned it about 2 weeks ago, but couldn’t find the time to type it out! So much for frequency of posts!!

Happy Birthday, Dear. Happy Birthday, “Diary of a Geek”


Unlock Your Etisalat Dual SIM Phones

I recently got a dual SIM phone from Etisalat, the variant without the camera. I needed the phone to house my numerous SIM cards as it is almost impossible in Nigeria to be loyal to any mobile network. And no, i am not a con artist, all my SIMs are duly registered!

Unfortunately, Etisalat signals is almost non-existent in my neighbourhood, so it was like i was carrying a dead weight around.

By the way, the phone is dirt cheap at less than N5000 (about US$30) and has the first SIM slot locked to Etisalat network.

The unlocking process is quite easy and, i hope, without risk. But if you brick yours in the process, well, it’s just N5000!

Here goes;

1. Get your phone’s IMEI number underneath your battery. There are two numbers there but you only need the first one.

2. Use the IMEI number to generate your unlock code from this site ;

3. Do not insert any SIM into your phone. Replace the battery and switch it on.

4. Type the following code on your phone and press the left green (send) button; *983*8284#

5. You would be prompted to input a password. Insert the unlock code into the phone. Note that the phone may not accept all the characters of the unlock code, just insert as many as it would take.

6. Boom! Password Accepted. Your phone is unlocked! Insert any non-Etisalat SIM to confirm!


I Have a Dream …

The impending Mobile number portability in the Nigerian GSM sector has been welcomed with applause and expectations. This is with the assumption that the industry would become very much competitive, barring any form of cartel formation, that is, if it is not in existence already.

Number portability basically means that, say, using a “0809” number will not necessarily mean you are a subscriber to the Etisalat network. Also, you could have a “0803” number and be a subscriber to Airtel. You can switch within the networks whilst still keeping your number.

A number of countries have long deployed such services; South Africa, Egypt, Israel, US, UK,etc.

It is not news that the quality of service being rendered by these companies is appalling at best. Someone even commented that it is a joke. I agreed with him, especially when i read in the papers that one of them is about launching 4G in Nigeria. 4G! Very hilarious.  Not one of them can even boast of rendering quality 3G services, talkless of 4G. Dont even get me started.

It is an open secret that my GSM company of choice, for now, is Etisalat. Aside from their unrivalled customer services, the 2.5G or Edge speed they have been offering is very much better than what the other jokers have been touting as “3G” or “3.5G”. I just hope that with the recent acquisition of their 3G license, they will show us what true 3G is!

As usual, can anyone visualize how this portability concept will play out in Nigeria? For one, the almighty MTN will frustrate anyone wishing to leave its stables. I am actually quoting a staffer. To transfer your number to another network, it takes as little as a few seconds in New Zealand, few minutes in Australia, and at the extreme end, 5 days in the UK. Can someone give an educative guess on how long it would take MTN? I shudder to think. Unfortunately, Glo is not much better, i honestly do not know which company has the worst customer service. It is obvious that these two companies would witness not a few of their customers jumping ship.

And on the bigger scene, an article was published on this website detailing the incursion of some big names into almost every technological facet of our lives; Bulk sms,etc. True to that article, Google is now actively involved in VOIP telephony, making calls over the internet. They also offer basically all what is being offered by these GSM companies. And guess what? They allow for Number portability. Christened GOOGLE VOICE, unfortunately, the service is not yet available in Nigeria, but like most technological advances, it would eventually.

I have a dream, that one day, in our country Nigeria, “Everywhere i go”, people  “Glo with pride” and … Airtel stopped its endless adverts on TV!!!


GSM in Nigeria – The journey so far

Nine years after the launch of GSM technology in Nigeria, I feel so disillusioned about expectations not met. Sure, its pluses has been pointed out to me countless times, that apart from it been the major (somebody said only) achievement of the Olusegun Obasanjo 8 year administration, it is also said that the boost it has given to the socio-economic growth can not be quantified. Well, true, but you and I also know that we have, as individuals, paid a hefty price for this.

I have refused to try to compute what may have ended up in South Africa via MTN from my little pockets. I’ve come to realise that maybe I may have paid more for all the ratzmatazz, the glitz and the childish “i was the first to bring 3G” adverts than for any good service. What 3G are you guys talking about?! Dont even get me started! But thinking of it deeper, I thought, yeah maybe they do have these equipment they claim they do, so why are the services not at par with GSM networks from some countries i’ve been priviledged to experience? Or is it a case of “Overselling”, when the number of subscribers to a particular facility far exceeds the installed capacity of the equipment to handle it?

Oh Nigeria, why do we condone mediocrity? Why is mediocrity so much prevalent in every facet of our society? And to think that we are paying so much for it! Sad.

I apologise if I have sounded so cynical, please forgive me, but it helps to get all these off my chest.

I don’t know what it is about Econet/Vodacom (?)/Vmobile/Celtel/Zain (Did I leave anything out?), we may excuse them that their seeming lack of innovative ideas may be due to their unending management changes. But MTN?!