Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nigerian telecoms woes

I ran out of credit on my phone early this morning and something that happens all too regularly then took place: MTN's network buggered up, stopping me from being able to load more credit onto the phone. So I can't make calls. After 3 years of being in country, MTN (which should be rechristened Made to Trash Nigeria) still cannot get its backbone infrastructure sorted out - even though they have made more money in Nigeria in this short space of time than they have made in South Africa the whole time they have been running.

While the rest of the world (including other African countries) are now enjoying 3G network power, and are able to send video messages etc. Nigeria is many years behind the curve. Most people use a prepaid voucher system (like me) which means your finger nails get dirty with having to scratch the card. Those people I know on post-paid complain of continually getting cut off and having problems (hardly an incentive for switching). Technically, I think some of the networks here have some GPRS capability, but none of them (save Globacom) are making use of it for data services. Or perhaps they are, in which case, the marketing departments of the telcos are doing a terrible job.

All of which is madness - because Nigeria is a place where lots of money could be made out of data: very few people have internet access at home, people would love to send each other picture messages etc. Blackberry would make a killing here.

So quite why the telcos are dragging their feet is a mystery. One of the reasons must be that because there is no coordinated backbone infrastructure strategy from the Government, each company is having to build their own. So exactly analogous to power in Nigeria, where no one shares their generator, meaning that all the generator power in the country easily exceeds national requirements, so too, Nigeria will end up having surplus infrastructure leading paradoxically to connectivity deficits. The country's telecom network suffers from a lack of coordination, strategy and planning - so the buck must stop with the regulator - NCC.

Right now, I can't even make a phone call, let alone send data!


Anonymous,  11:43 am  

I posted several weeks ago in relation to your comment on Internet-TV, a similar concern to the one you're describing re: data services.

I don't hold out much hope with the NCC from what I have managed to read on them.

I am watching with interest how they will deal with the licensing issues and development of infrastructure.

I don't know that I would agree that a central infrastructure is required as the companies will see their individual networks as their source of competitive advantage given your termination charge issues. However, I think the NCC has alot of work to do in developing a cohesive strategy to encourage infrastructure investment as without this they'll soon have more angry Jeremy's to contend with as Nigerian consumers and businesses start to twig how much they are missing in relation to even their African neighbours.

Anonymous,  12:37 pm  

Meanwhile, the NCC is blowing God knows how many billions of naira on a fancy new building in Abuja, and regularly hosts swanky telco-owambes at Nicon for its friends in the biz...quite what they've done to deserve all this I dont know

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