Omobola Johnson, Minister for Communications
The poor quality of service being experienced by telecoms subscribers across the country has become a source of worry to service providers, writes Emma Okonji
Eleven years after the establishment of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) in Nigeria, subscribers across networks are still battling with network challenges. The poor quality of service has hampered free flow of communications and businesses of all sorts. Several telecoms analysts have advanced divergent reasons for the continued erratic telecoms service delivery, ranging from telecoms promos to telecoms facilities vandalism, and to inability of network operators to expand their networks in the same proportion at which their subscriber numbers are increasing.
In a bid to address the ugly trend, MTN, last week, revealed that it has commenced network upgrade through its network modernisation and swap –out exercise, that will address the situation and put an end to subscriber challenges on its network, The telecoms company blamed the recent challenges on its network modernisation and swap-out exercise, assuring customers of a more robust network capacity and better customer experience at the end of the exercise in the first quarter of 2013.
The worsening telecoms service has made it pretty difficult to make smooth calls across networks, as subscribers are faced with the challenges of drop calls, call diversion, weak call signals to activate calls, poor voice clarity, delay in SMS delivery, among others.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator had on different occasions came up with stringent measures against erring operators in their service delivery, through the introduction of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which is a parameter for measuring network quality across the country, but the different approaches introduced by the NCC, seem not to address the issue, as poor telecoms service delivery continued to pose difficulties to subscribers, whose numbers are increasing by the day. Telecoms analysts have blamed part of the challenges on the inability of telecoms operators to match subscriber growth rate with network expansion, a situation, they said, led to network congestion and service disruptions.
Although the issue of network challenges has been ongoing since the inception of GSM in 2001, there had always been remarkable improvement on the network quality, each time the NCC intervenes to address subscribers’ complaints. After each intervention by the NCC, there would be noticeable improvement on network quality, but after some time the situation reverses.
It is undisputable that telecoms operators are making frantic efforts in ensuring that subscribers get value for their money, but the recent network challenges have crippled businesses and distorted the lifestyle of several Nigerians who relied so much on mobile communications in virtually everything they do in their personal and official relationships with people.
MTN’s Network Modernisation
Attributing the current network challenges to its ongoing network modernisation and swap-out exercise, MTN, last week apologised for the difficulties that its subscribers are facing as a result of the exercise, but assured its customers of enhanced network capacity and improved service, by the time the exercise is over at the end of the first quarter in 2013.
Corporate Services Executive for MTN, Mr. Wale Goodluck who gave details of the ongoing modernisation exercise, said it was initially meant to be completed within nine months period, but said the company was forced to extend the completion time to March 2013, as a result of the unexpected flooding that took over 17 states in the country, causing delay in the nationwide project. He said the flooding caused further disruption of services, through the affected underground fibre cables.
“We regret, however, that the pace of work has been considerably challenged by the spate of insecurity coupled with the unprecedented flooding being experienced in many parts of the country. The network optimisation exercise will affect over 4,000 base stations out of our 10, 000 base station across the country, and the task that we are undertaking is tantamount to building a new network .We are seeking to replicate what we achieved over a six year period in just nine months,” Goodluck said.
Giving details of the exercise, which commenced since July this year, Goodluck told THISDAY that a considerable progress had been recorded and that several swap-outs have reached advanced stages of completion. He said the exercise would bring about a new and robust network, since the entire MTN telecoms equipment were being replaced with modern equipment with much higher capacity to sustain its subscribers in many years to come.
Explaining why the company had to carry out the project across all its’ base stations in the country, Goodluck said the new equipment had to be fixed across the country at the same time in order to provide better and equal service to its valued customers.
He assured that MTN was doing everything possible, including doubling its work teams, to finalise the project as quickly as possible.
General Manager, Corporate Communications for MTN, Mrs. Funmi Omogbenigun, who also pleaded with subscribers to exercise some more patience, said “network modernisation comes with some temporal difficulties for the subscribers, but the bottom line is that it will lead to a better customer experience on the network.”
According to her, the exercise would not only boost the quality of telephone services, but would also enhance the back-end information and communications technology support which MTN provides for banking and financial services, the oil industry and several other industries across the country.
Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms of Operators Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo who spoke on behalf of telecoms operating companies in the country, said “Nigerians should know that our networks are developing networks and networks have not been fully built to cover all cities, so the issue of poor quality of service will continue until a time when there are robust networks. Technology increases by the day, and the demand is on operators to upgrade always. The challenges in the telecoms sector, such as issues of power, security, wilful damages, infrastructure rollout among others, are things that occur on a daily basis that are affecting quality of service.”
He advised government to assist telecoms providers by way of removing all barriers to telecoms services provisioning, such as undue government interference, refusal to right of way, protection of telecoms infrastructure, multiple taxation, among others.