Mobile Technology

“Like The Prodigal Son, I’ve Returned …”

HoPI borrowed the title of this post from the song “Jump Around”, a 1992 smash hit from the musical group – House of Pain. The phrase aptly describes my porting sojourn from Glo to MTN and back to Glo.

You may read up my post on my initial experience porting from Glo to MTN here. It is a must read.

My experiences has taught me one important fact, that the grass is definitely not greener on the other side. For sure, no single Nigerian mobile network can be said to be overwhelmingly better than the other. It is probably no secret that the services rendered by all these companies can be described as subpar at best and largely inconsistent. Quality of service vary widely across geographic locations.

Really no point jumping around these networks. What works for your friend in Gbagada may be a terrible experience for you in Ajah. Fact.

Perhaps, your choice of a service provider should be dependent only on the Service quality in your neighbourhood. No point having tons of free data for a network that you can only browse on 2G speeds or free voice bonus from a network that you struggle to get a bar of signal.

For now, i am back to Glo, only because it has the best service quality in my neighbourhood and, well, provide cheaper data service than the competition.


MTN Mobile Number Portability – My Experience

sakaAnd so i decided to pay yet another visit to the MTN friendship center located within Ikota Shopping Complex, next door to the high brow Victoria Garden City (VGC) in Ajah. It was with a bit of apprehension.

My first visit did not go too well. I had walked into a fairly sized crowd and the doorman handed me a tally number putting me at the end of the queue of 30 people. I paused for a few seconds and scurried out through the door. No way i was going to spend my lunch break hanging out with the folks in MTN.

It was with this mindset that i approached the friendship center again, with the hope of having my number ported from Globacom to Nigeria’s biggest network, MTN. This time around, I was in for a big shocker. Surprisingly, the place was almost empty with only one person in line! This was too good to be true, there has to be a catch somewhere. And indeed there was.

I was given a form to fill and i fished out my international passport which i presented to the pretty lady behind the counter, who i later got to know as Chinwe. She carefully explained to me that their network systems were down.

What?! How predictable! In my head, i was already composing a very nasty post i would publish about my experience. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Chinwe saved the day.

After explaining to me about the system downtime, she nevertheless took my details down, gave me a “Welcome Back” replacement SIM and I even got to register the SIM. I left the place with a special thank you to her. I had barely arrived back at my destination when i got a call from her. Apparently, their system was up. She asked for a few more details and finally asked me to send the magic word “PORT” to the shortcode 3232. Believe it or not, about 2 hours later when i checked my old SIM it was inactive. I inserted my new MTN SIM and Y’hello, i was locked on to the MTN network.

What a nice lady, Chinwe. That particular friendship center would be seeing my face very soon – as soon as i can think of a reason!


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?


Cobranet – Nigeria’s Fastest Internet Speed?

Name it, chances are that I have used it before. From the early days of internet access in Nigeria in the late 1990s when ISPs like hyperia and linkserve held sway with their dial up internet, to more recent times with ISPs like IPNX, Zoom, Onet and the GSM networks like MTN, Glo, Etisalat calling the shots. I have used them all!

Like many Nigerians, I keep hopping from one ISP to the other, searching for the elusive, or is it proverbial, “3G” or even “4G” speeds being hyped by these companies.

Recently, I was taking a walk through SPAR ‘Park and Shop’ Mall in Lekki, Lagos Island when I came across a stand showcasing yet another Nigerian ISP’s products, a company called COBRANET. Out of interest, more in the Sales Lady than anything else, I approached the stand. Though I had known Cobranet for years, I have never subscribed to their services. Probably because I did not expect their services to be any better than the norm. I got talking with the lady and was pleasantly surprised when the sales lady mentioned that apart from the fact that the company has signal coverage over most parts of Lagos Mainland, their signals also cover most parts of Lagos Island, stretching along the length of the Lekki-Epe expressway, reaching as far as a suburb called Awoyaya. A feat for a non-GSM based ISP.

After testing out the demo they had on offer in the store and admittedly, still with a little skepticism, I subscribed to their Home Bronze Plan which set my wallet back by N13,000.00 (about $US 80), an amount that would have gone a long way in actualizing my plan of buying a BMX bike for my son for Christmas. Of this amount, half of it was the modem cost while the other half got me a 3.5GB data limit and 800kbps download speed Home Bronze Plan. The data limit seemed very small and, well, very limiting, but the sales lady quickly chipped in that downloads from 12am-6am eeryday do not count towards this data limit.

To better understand the tag line 800Kbps (Kilo Bits per Second), it simply means that you are expected to download files from the internet at a rate of 800kbps divided by 8 which equals 100 KBps (Kilo Bytes Per Seconds). Take note of the difference between Bits & Bytes. Meaning that on a good day, barring unseen interferences, you are expected to download, say, a 1Gigabyte file in less than 3 hours. i have gotten speeds higher that 100KBps on Cobranet Home Bronze Plan but on the average, you are guaranteed speeds of at least 70KBps. By Nigerian standards, this is fast. In fact, the last time i experienced speeds like this was in the United Kingdom.

To still appreciate my mumbo jumbo yarns better, i decided to compare this speed to the GSM internet speeds posted on MTN Nigeria website which gave the average browsing speed of their 3.5G (HSDPA) “high speed Internet” as 800Kbps (100KBps), same as Cobranet’s least browsing speed plan, the Home Bronze Plan. However, i could not help but wonder where MTN picked that figure from. Probably that speed is attainable ONLY in their CEO’s lodgings! God help you if you can get a fraction of that speed, even at their best signal locations.

Cobranet is very fast, and in reality, i can download a 1GB file in under 4 hours. Try that on any other network, a non starter on most. I do wholly recommend Cobranet’s Internet service to anyone, as of today. Yes today only, as i do not give any guarantee that their services would not tow the snail speed line by tomorrow!

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Regulator begins service quality probe of ‘Big Three’ GSM operators

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has commenced fresh service quality verification tests offered by the three biggest GSM operators in the country amid the expiration of the November 30 deadline for them to improve service quality or risk a sales ban.

Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Tony Ojobo confirmed the commencement of the quality of service (QoS) tests in an interview with Technology Times at the weekend saying that fresh tests promised by the telecoms regulator have been set in motion and are currently underway across sample locations across the country.

Ojobo did not give further details of the QoS tests being conducted officials of the telecoms regulatory agency to crosscheck that key performance indicators (KPIs) mandated by NCC have been met at the expiration of the November 30 deadline to the affected operators.

Hitherto, NCC directed the Big 3 players, MTN, Glo Mobile and Airtel that control over 90 per cent market share, to meet some defined KPIs or risk being banned from selling new SIM cards, a development that will prevent them from adding new subscribers.

The regulator says its intention to impose the sales ban arose from overwhelming complaints by subscribers over flagging network quality by the affected operators.

Following the expiration of the deadline, officials of NCC have now swung into action to conduct detailed tests hoped to gather information about the prevailing state of network operation and allied service quality determinants, says the NCC’s spokesman.

NCC did not offer hints about the coverage areas for the test nor the time frame but promised that the result should be ready before the end of this month. The outcome will also inform further steps that will be taken on the intention to bar any of the erring three GSM operators from adding new lines, Ojobo adds

Industry insiders have ruled out the possibility of any of the affected networks being able to meet the strict condition on service quality by the deadline stipulated by NCC, a development that may have seen them brace up for the regulatory hammer.

“NCC is committed to the enforcement of the intention earlier communicated to the affected operators but this will be done in a scientific and empirical manner”, Ojobo had told Technology Times in a previous interview.

NCC’s stance comes in the wake of a 30-day ultimatum that the three operators improve poor quality of service offered their subscribers across the country or face the full wrath of the telecoms regulatory agency.

The threat followed result of the dismal performance by the three operators on quality of service following the outcome of an independent nationwide monitoring exercise carried out by NCC, says the regulator.

The result of the exercise revealed that trio failed to level up with four key performance indicators (KPI) laid down by NCC to improve the quality of service rendered, the regulator says underscoring that unless they attain the defined levels of service quality by November 1, 2011, they will be barred from further sale of SIM cards to add new subscribers.

A number of monetary penalties will also be imposed on operators that contravene the provisions of the directive that include a fine of N1million per new SIM card sold or additional subscriber added to the network when the sanction goes into effect.

Further defaults will also attract a penalty of N5 million per subscriber added plus N500, 000 per day that the operator contravenes the directive. This is in addition to a N500, 000 fines for every month of contravention, according to NCC.

NCC hopes to invoke provisions of the Nigerian Communications Commission Quality of Service Regulations 2011 stipulating the powers of the telecoms regulator to intervene in ensuring that operators provide efficient and effective services to their subscribers.

The regulation identifies minimum quality of service (QoS) and related measurement, reporting and recording keeping task while also saddling telecoms operators with various responsibilities to their subscriber.

According to its provisions, the Regulation seeks to protect and promote the interest of consumers against unfair practices including tariffs and charges, availability and quality of communications services, equipment and facilities, among others.

Importantly, the NCC Regulation also seeks to improve service quality by spotting service deficiencies and encouraging, enforcing and requiring appropriate changes.

Along this line, it equally seeks to maintain service quality while recognizing environmental and operating conditions and promote making information available to help with informed customer choice of services and licensees.

While also seeking to improve the operation and performance of interconnected networks, among its other objectives, the Regulation stipulates that reporting periods during which measurements are taken and recorded shall typically begin from the first day of each month to the last day of the month or “as the Commission may from time to time determine.”

The Regulation empowers the telecoms watchdog to carry out network measurement test and obtain data through drive test, Mobile Base Station Probe tests, Consumer Survey, data collection from operators or NCC Network Operating Centres (NOCs)/Network Management Centres (NMCs), among others.

“The Commission’s NOC/NMC may rely on real-time data acquired from feeds. KPI Measurements may be carried out at all network segments including at BTS, Cell, BSC or MSc levels”, says the Regulation.


Source :


Still On Globacom Nigeria

Globacom data services came up today after about a week of outage. However, a quick trip to Ikeja (Lagos Mainland) yesterday gave me a little insight to the extent and spread of these outages. It seems to be more frequent on Lagos Island as subscribers on the mainland seemed unaffected.

The sad part of it all is that users are in no way being compensated. It is even on record that only Glo network refused to compensate its subscribers after the last general RIM Blackberry outage.

What exactly is happening to Globacom, Nigeria’s pride? Much as I hate it, I have since switched to MTN while hoping Glo will not suffer yet another data outage. The question now is “Can a leopard change its skin?”

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Gadgets Mobile

The Number You Dialed Is Switched Off…

Lately, calls going through to my Globacom mobile line has been something of a “hit and miss” affair. Naturally, i blamed it on the inefficiencies of the mobile network and prayed for the best. But i became a little worried when, curiously, my wife’s line works perfectly well even though we both use the same network.

I use an iPad phone, which shares most of its phone features with the iPhone. As the phone feature of the ipad is not exactly common place, I decided to search on the internet for the iPhone and “unreacheable calls” issue. My findings were very revealing and disturbing. The UK mobile network, 3, aptly captures the problem in one of its forum threads.

Below is an excerpt;

A problem that many people report with the iPhone is incoming calls going straight to voicemail without ringing, and delayed incoming texts, both despite strong signals. Although a LOT of people complain about this issue, and blame the iPhone,  little information exists about what really causes it or what can be done about it.

If you’re on 3G you can receive incoming calls and SMS messages while you are in the middle of using 3G data – simultaneous voice and data is part of the 3G UMTS specification. So it should never happen on 3G, unless some other problem is involved. However if you are on GPRS or EDGE (E) the specification does not allow for simultaneous calls and data – if you make an outgoing call an existing data session will be terminated until the end of the call – the call takes priority.

But what happens if you’re already using data on GPRS/EDGE first (browsing a web page, checking google maps etc) and an incoming call comes in, will you receive the call or not ? Probably not. I have SIMs for all the networks in the UK and so far I’ve tested Orange, 3, (who use Orange for 2G anyway) O2, and T-Mobile, and they ALL go straight to voicemail as if the phone is turned off if I call the phone while it is using GPRS/EDGE data. SMS messages don’t come through until later either.

The post went further;

A GPRS/EDGE phone network can be configured to operate in, commonly, 2 Network Operating Modes (NOM). For Mode 01, if an incoming call occurs during data use the data session will be terminated and the call will come through. In Mode 02, the call will go straight to voicemail, giving the data session preference. Majority of 2G networks in the world use Mode 02!

It is possible to use the iPhone’s field test mode to check what Network Operating Mode a network is using. To do this, first disable 3G, then dial *3001#12345#* from the phone app keypad then pressing call. Go to GSM Cell Environment -> GPRS Information, and scroll down to “Network Operating Mode”.

The ramifications of all this are that any time you use data on GPRS/EDGE you will miss incoming calls and unless you have a missed call service with your provider, you won’t even know you missed them, as they will not show up on the phone.

Not only can this be caused by actively using an app such as safari, (or leaving a data using app active with the screen locked) but background mail checks and push notifications will cause it as well.

I was able to confirm this. The funny thing is, with data switched off, the phone works flawlessly, confirming that the data traffic is the problem. I also carried out the Field Test to confirm the Network Operating Mode of Globacom. Expectedly, it was NOM 2. MTN and Etisalat were also NOM 2.

As far as i can tell, the issue seems to be iPhone (iPad phone) specific as NOM2 seems to work perfectly with Nokia, Samsung and other brands of phones. Worst still, there seem not to be any solution in sight.



Network Your Homes Wirelessly

Notwithstanding the fact that wired networks are usually more reliable and faster, there is a preference for wireless networks in most homes and small offices. Understandably so, because wired networks can be very unsightly and manually intensive to set up.

Most wired networks nowadays can guarantee a “through-put” of as much as 100Mbps (Mega Bits Per Second). Think of throughput as the amount of fluid (data) that can pass through a pipe (cable). More modern networks can even provide throughputs as high as 1Gbps or even more. However, this can only be achieved with compatible cabling and equipment. Please note that “bps” (bits per second) is different from “Bps” (Bytes per second), 1 Byte = 8 bits.

The speed of transfer of data in a wireless network is guided by some standards. You probably may have seen stuffs like “a/b/g/n” or “802.11a/b/g/n” on devices you own.

– 802.11a devices have the ability to channel as much as 54Mb data across a network wirelessly in a second. They, however, can only travel a short distance.
– 802.11b devices can transmit at a maximum rate of 11Mbps over a longer distance
– 802.11g devices can transmit at a maximum rate of 54Mbps over a longer distance
– 802.11n devices can transmit at a maximum rate of about 600Mbps over an even longer distance

I guess it is no brainer what standard you will expect your devices to have. However, apart from the minor inconsequential fact that the 802.11n standard has not been ractified, a lot of devices in the market today can only boast of having 802.11g capabilities. The implication of this is that your network is only as fast as the speed of the slowest device on your network. For example, if you have a router capable of 802.11n speeds and a number of PCs with the same capability, under very ideal circumstances, you would expect your network to attain speeds as fast as 600Mbps. Let us assume you now introduce a device capable of 802.11g to the network, the speed of your network will come crashing down to a maximum of 54Mbps!

That said, why is there still a preference for wireless networks, especially in homes?

– The throughput requirement for a home is usually adequately covered by even the slowest speeds (802.11b – 11Mbps)
– Reduction or elimination of the higher costs of a wired connection.
– Elimination of wire clutters associated with wired networks.
– Share a single internet access via wifi either with a network capable internet modem (IPNX) or a USB modem (Starcomms & GSM networks)
– Share a single printer and other peripherals across multiple PCs
– Connect your mobile devices like mobile phones, ipad, tablets, etc wirelessly to the network and share internet access and printer with them. Yes, print from your phone! And the printer does not necessarily need to have wifi capabilities.

For this project, the set of devices below are ideal;
– A wireless router.
– Network capable modem (IPNX, Cobranet’s UGO, etc)
– Wifi enabled printer
– UPS/Inverter to connect these devices to (Optional)

With these devices, the process of networking your home would be much simplified.

However, you would rarely find households/ offices having all the devices that would be connected to the network having network ports or Wifi capabilities. The devices / equipment listed below are more common in a lot of households and offices and we would be using them for our project;

– A wireless router
– USB internet modem (starcomms, MTN, glo, airtel, etisalat, etc) or any tethered phone
– ANY Printer
– A Computer (Desktop/Laptop) to connect the internet modem and printer to.It can be any old PC.
– UPS/Inverter to connect these devices to (Optional)

In subsequent write-ups, we will should you how you can go about creating a network in your homes and offices.


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!!!


An Offer of True Value

An Offer of True Value

Dear Esteemed Customer,

You are one of our identified high value customers, and it therefore pleases me to personally inform you of the most recent value offering from MTN Nigeria. It is an offer of true value! It means instant connections to your loved ones and call rates that are first-of-a-kind, never-done-before in the history of telecommunications in Nigeria.

From absolutely free calls to and from your loved one to lowest first minute call rates, you will once again receive from MTN, the value you deserve – transparent rates without hidden charges or access fees.

That’s because, at MTN, we believe that you deserve true value, the kind that enriches your life in tangible ways, the kind that continues to inspire us to set the pace in Nigerian telecommunications as we have done for 10 years now.

By the same token, we believe that true value also goes beyond offering you the lowest rates in the telecoms market. It includes the most extensive nationwide coverage that serves over 35 million Nigerians in 2, 394 cities, towns and villages. It includes the widest 3G network coverage translating to affordable, high-speed internet services wherever business and pleasure take you. It includes 292 CSR projects sites in all 36 states of Nigeria including the FCT and myriads of sponsorship initiatives in sports, music and several fields of endeavor. Today, it also includes two revolutionary tariff plans – revolutionary because they will significantly enrich your treasured relationships and change the face of Nigerian telecommunications once again.

Indeed, this change is one that everyone can experience in a tangible way. Everyone can enjoy the unbeatable value of the MTN Magic Number, because it is available on both plans. Everyone can make free calls to and from one number for 30 whole days and nights!

For those who make long calls, MTN Talk-On ensures that both your conversations and purse strings remain unbroken! This is because it offers the lowest first minute call rate in the market and an incredible 25k per second for the rest of the day.

For most of us who want to keep our valuable relationships on the front burner this year, then MTN Family & Friends is just perfect! This is because with MTN Family & Friends, you can make calls at 20k per second only to six (6) registered numbers including one international number and one number from another network. In addition, you can still enjoy   free midnight calls to all MTN numbers. No hidden charges or access fees of any sort. Now that’s true value.

As we mark our 10th anniversary, we commit to always offering this kind of value, the kind that enriches lives and ensures the service that you deserve.

Take my word for it.

Warm Regards,

Ahmad Farroukh