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?!

I was in the east in 2002 when GSM was introduced to that part of Nigeria. With my N27,500 Samsung R220 and a N15,000 (yes, fifteen thousand naira) MTN sim, i felt out of this world. It didn’t matter that I practically had to climb trees and high rise buildings to get fairly decent reception on my phone. And the N50/min tarriff? Good God! Those guys must have broken even the very first day they launched!

Before you proceed, I must warn that this write up was intended to share my experience with MTN and as such, it is more of an MTN bashing. Check this;

I was on a training programme somewhere in Surulere last year, so I decided to visit one of their service centres there to inquire about the possibility of combining their N10,000 data service with my post paid line. I was responsibly dressed and I conducted myself same way. Unfortunately I do not recall what transpired between me and the customer service lady in attendance, so I decided to approach someone who seemed to be her superior. The guy rudely told me off even before I got to his table. I felt so embarrassed. Well, after a mail to the Customer service centre about the incident, a lady apologised on their behalf.

Well, my last experience coupled with the fact that I wasn’t getting the best deal from them was all i needed to make up my mind, I decided it was time to end my contract with them. So I requested that they migrate my SIM from Post Paid to Prepaid on MTN network, that way, I felt I could still retain the SIM for sentimental reasons. It took me about 5 months of them tossing me about to realise that either they do not have the capacity to do it or some warped policy is preventing them from doing so. I must mentioned that I had successfully done this on the Glo network.

Anyone remember the per second billing issue? Thank God for Adenuga, a lot of us were finally able to Glo with Pride.

Glo too has come a long way from their innovative days, I understand they’ve been too busy laying cables and being the second national carrier (ehm, where is the first?). All I see nowadays are the faces of Jim Iyke, Dominic and others who I understand were actually smiling because of the cheques they received from Glo.

If you ask my son, he’ll probably tell you Etisalat is the best network in the world, I’m not sure if it is the soccer ball and other gifts he received from their Service Centre at The Palms, Lagos that influenced his decision but the fact is, he may just be right.

Again, I was probably among the first batch of people in Ibadan to pick up my reserved SIM for the network. They are the new kids on the block, that may account for the relatively higher rate of innovative and realistic products being introduced like the 15k call rate in the South South part of the country.

What I like about Etisalat?

CUSTOMER SERVICE. Very key. I subscribed to a N5000 monthly postpaid package called Elite World. For this, I get additional N750 worth of any network calls and 50MB data. More about the data later. Payment is due beginning of every month but they give you a 20 day grace period to make your payment. There was a particular month I did not make my payment even after the 20th. What did they do? Someone called me to ask why I hadn’t paid. I felt so touched, really I did. MTN would have yanked you off since.

The other day I was at their office at The Palms for some inquiries, I was attended to by Ibrahim, I guess he is their head. He really took his time to answer my questions and went an extra mile to call me back on my phone to give me aditional information. I intentionally mentioned his name, hoping that someone that matters there would commend him for his efforts.

What I don’t like about Etisalat?

The data service. I dont believe there has been any month I exhausted my data allocation, not because I don’t use it but because it is not always available, making rubbish of my push email. For August, 31MB out of my 50MB allocation was unused.

If you guys can improve on this, I will have no qualms giving the Arabs my money!


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