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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?

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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 : technologytimesng.com

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Poor Service Quality – Why NCC Got it Wrong

Recently, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in a public statement warned MTN, Globacom and Airtel that it would stop them from selling Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards by the end of this month if they fail to improve the quality of service (QoS) on their mobile networks.

The telecommunications regulator who issued the operators a 30-day ultimatum with effect from November 1, 2011, went further by saying that any new SIM card sold, or additional subscriber added to the network in contravention of the direction, would attract a penalty of N1,000,000 ( one million naira) per subscriber added.

The Commission indicated that after the expiration of the 30-day deadline, it would strictly enforce the impending directive which contravention will attract a penalty of N5,000,000 ( Five Million Naira), and additional N500,000( Five Hundred Thousand Naira) per day that such contravention persists. In addition to the above, failure of any of the operators to meet the quality of service targets from November 30, 2011 would attract a fine of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) for every month of failure.

According to Mr. Reuben Mouka, Head, Media and Public Relations, NCC, this deadline follows a dismal performance by the three operators on quality of service from the result of an independent monitoring exercise carried out by the Commission across the country which showed that all the three operators failed to meet with four key performance indicators (KPIs) that are crucial for quality of service improvements as set by the Commission.

“It is not in doubt that the customer experience on your network has been far from satisfactory, especially as the Commission has been inundated with complaints from various subscribers on this matter”, it said in the correspondence to the three respective operators in which it expressed concerns that the operators were not doing enough to reverse the trend of unacceptable quality of service which had persisted for too long.

KPIs

The Key Performance indicators measured by the Commission included Call Set Up Success Rate, Call Completion Rate, Stand Alone Dedicated Control Channel and Handover Success Rate.

Since the advent of the telecom boom especially, global service for mobile communications (GSM) in the country, Nigerians have come to associate poor quality of system as part of the price they have to pay for inadequate telecommunications infrastructure.
Industry analysts acknowledge that it’s no longer news that at times a subscriber may have to dial more than five times before connecting a call. That call may at times be affected by what is called noise in communications parlance, that is, the caller may experience some conflicting sounds from another line or his/her call is inaudible.

Also, the caller may as well not be able to complete that call and may have to repeat the call several times just to pass his/her message across to the receiver. Nigerian subscribers have at times put a call across and someone else unknown to them picks the call only for them to redial the same number and it will go to the right person they are trying to reach.

Ban On Sales Promotions

It is common knowledge that since the Nigerian telecom regulator lifted the ban on sales promotions by mobile service providers; the quality of service has worsened. Early this year the mobile operators lobbied the regulator to allow them conduct promos aimed at celebrating 10 years of telecom revolution in Nigeria.

The NCC said no, urging the operators to improve their telecom networks before such request could be granted. Now, sales promos in various guises such as SIM Registration promos, free credit promos, 10-year anniversary promos, etc are in full swing and the congestions on the networks are back.

More Network Investments

Mr Gbenga Adebayo, president, Association of Licenced Telecom Operators of Nigeria, Alton, said the telecom market needs investments to build a network that is resilient. Nigeria currently has less than 20,000 base stations, while a city like London has more than 50, 000 base stations. The operators need to spend more on building cell sites, building data centres and transmission backbone.

The NCC has the responsibility of protecting the Nigerian telecom subscriber, ensuring that top quality services are rendered. After all, it is the subscriber that pays the bill of the operators. It behoves on the NCC to look no further and identify the cause of poor quality of service and put an end to the suffering telecom subscribers go through currently.

Source : allafrica.com

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Gadgets

Tired of Carrying Multiple Phones?

I have this problem of having to carry several phones about. Most likely, I am in good company on this! I carry multiple phones around for two distinct reasons:

1. To take advantage of goodies offered by different providers. For example, Etisalat Nigeria currently offers 15 MegaBytes of internet data free weekly once you load up to N200 every week. That satisfies a portion of my internet requirement. I therefore put an Etisalat SIM inside an internet capable phone. Of course, I attempt to make use of the weekly N200 call credit, despite the fact that it is uneconomical for me to call out @ 50k/sec. The result is that people get to know that number – and start to send you smses and call you on that line. Unfortunately, this particular line is not for receiving calls or sms! But what can i do?

MTN allows me put my vocal chords to active use with N250/month to a special number all month – round the clock. So, I need a phone for this.

AirTel is too good. Their 2Good promotion is just marvelous! Besides, It is my primary line -in use since year 2000. I need another phones to put this into.

You see my problem?

My second reason for lugging multiple phones about is to ensure I can reach out and be reached – at all points in time. Despite years of GSM operation, there are areas where signals are either non-existent, or weak.
Now, carrying three (sometimes – four!) phones about has a lot of problems associated with it :
– How are you going to fit four phones in your pocket successfully? Unless those phones are really tiny, that would be a problem.  For the ladies, the handbag is a saving grace .

Also, tiny phones are usually economical on features. They lack the functionalities of their bulkier siblings. Besides, there are phones you should not be caught dead with! Reminds me of a friend who had to hide behind a computer monitor to receive a call – because he was ashamed to bring it out in that particular gathering! The phone did not befit his social status! Show me your phone and I will tell you who you are!

– You need to remember to keep all the phones charged – at all times.

– You have to keep all your contacts synchronized on all phones. On feature-rich phones, this is drop-dead easy. But on budget phones without USB cables or PC sync softwares, you often have to manually feed contacts in.
Imagine wanting to get a particular contact, and have to search through multiple phones (for the correct phone) to access that contact. Not very tidy.

People talk as if the number portability (billed to take-off come April – if it does take off!) will solve the problem of carrying several devices simultaneously.

Pray, tell me, how will that solve the problem of wanting to enjoy benefits present on disparate networks. A particular network may offer the best call rates while another offer the the best data rates. To enjoy the best of all network worlds, I submit that we will probably still need to have to keep carrying multiple phones about – even when (if?) the portability thing comes on stream.

Those Chinese phones that allow up to 4 different SIMs simultaneously are probably here to stay.

How about you? How many phones are you carrying all over town?

As a last thought, it is about time NCC or telecoms providers also implement the network SIM blockage facility. That way, with your phone EMEI (Electronic Mobile Equipment Identification number) registered, phones can be protected from loss. All you need do is report if your phone is lost or stolen. And that phone can be prohibited from accessing any mobile network in Nigeria – rendering it useless to the new “illegal” owner. That way, you can carry about a N150,000 phone about at 11p.m in a ghetto with complete confidence!
It is noteworthy that the current ubiquitous SIM registration does not include the capturing of EMEIs!

This is something NCC needs to address urgently!