With a friendly rate and advertising support to deepen the market penetration of the Smile brand in the telecoms market, Raheem Akingbolu, argues that the company’s offer may change the game
Smile Communications Nigeria Limited, a broadband service provider has begun to run a new campaign tagged: ‘unlimited possibilities’ to build publicity around its new bumper package for subscribers. In a newspaper advert published in some national dailies this week, handlers of the brand reels out the benefits of its SmileVoice App. The advert is a follow-up to last week’s launch of a new tariff package for its patrons. As stated at the launch, the advert also pointed out that the company has concluded to crash tariff to, as low as, 8 kobo/seconds to all networks. However, there is a strong emphasis on the need for customers willing to enjoy the new offer to get smile voice app.
The 2003 story of Globacom and the introduction of per second billing has almost become overkill but every day, it becomes a reference point when issues related to competition in the telecom industry arise. As the news of Smile new offer hits the market recently, the story of how Glo used it to change the game in the GSM market reechoed.
When the early players in the telecom market Econet and MTN, rolled out the first batch of lines in 2001, the initial battle they fought, albeit acrimoniously, was that for the soul of the subscriber. At that stage, the struggle depended on who was spending what.
Then, in terms of market share, there was no operator that could say it was having any advantage over the other player. Both came in at the same time and had virtually a virgin land to till in terms of marketing drive. What then mattered was what each was offering in terms of services to sway a rather gullible subscriber and by extension, how deep the pocket of campaign funds was. And this played a very major role in the advantage a particular operator had over the other.
In terms of positioning and battle for brand equity, there is nothing that presented challenges for the brand manager than pushing through a market, a service such market was never aware of. The first challenge was convincing prospective consumers that they needed your services or products and the second one will be creating identity that would distinct your brand from the rest. It was then a battle and a two-horse race between two brand managers, who have suddenly found themselves in a virgin land.
But the game changed in 2003, when Globacom threw caution into the winds and challenged the existing operators. By then, MTN was having a smooth sail because of the boardroom politics that was affecting the fortune of the then Econet negatively. The brand thus changed the game with the introduction of per second billing, which many had thought was impossible.
With this background, it is easy to predict that if Smile Communications fulfilled the new brand promise of giving subscribers unlimited possibilities through SmileVoice App, it may become the winning tool for the brand. According to the company, the app allows its customers to make calls at 8kobo per second to any network from within and outside the country at the same rate, using SmileVoice App.
“The SmileVoice allows thousands of Nigerians to enjoy seamless, SuperClear voice and video calls to their loved ones to and from anywhere in the world,” the company stated at the launch.
The Managing Director of Smile Nigeria, Godfrey Efeurhobo told a gathering of stakeholders in the industry who converged in Lagos that the world-first free mobile app would give customers the opportunity to have access to SuperClear voice calls over 4G LTE network, without the need for a VoLTE handset.
“I am proud to announce the lowest call rate in Nigeria, using the very latest 4G LTE technology. Yes Nigeria! It is true. You can make calls at 8kobo per second to any network in Nigeria. You can also make and receive calls at the same rate from any country in the world,” Efeurhobo said. He added that it was the brand’s innovation and a promise.
The app is structured to function exactly like SIM card in a mobile phone. He said: “Having the SmileVoice app on your mobile is like having a second SIM card in your phone,” the MD of the innovative telecoms company said.
Our customers can use their data plan to make SuperClear voice, video calls and send SMSs to any number locally and internationally. There is no need for the recipient to also have SmileVoice.”
He pointed out that the new app has come to wipe the era of “roaming bill shock” that hitherto makes it impossible for Nigerians to make calls with their local numbers abroad. What that means is that registered subscribers on the network can now make undisrupted calls anywhere in the world at the unprecedented rate of about N5 per minute.
“If home is where the heart is, you never have to be far from home again! On the Smile network, you take home with you everywhere you go,” said Efeurhobo while stating that registered customers can now do video calls and send SMS using the SmileVoice App. It doesn’t get any better,” he stated.
To enjoy the SuperClear calls at 8k/sec that connect the first time, Smile’sGroup Head Corporate Communications and Marketing (South Africa),Nicolene Vanzyl, said customers are simply required to use a VoLTE handset with their Smile SIM card or download the free SmileVoice App to their mobile phones.
“SmileVoice ONLY plan is available at N1000 with 200 minutes at 8k/sec – again another industry first,” she said.
The new innovation is a milestone for the telecom company because it has a SuperFast Internet access on the go with a 4G LTE network that delivers fastest Internet, available anywhere. It “significantly faster call setup times than on a 2G/3G network,” she said.
Among other distinct features, the app was said to have the flexibility to use one data bundles for calling and messaging. With this, subscribers, according to the Group Head, Corporate Communications and Marketing, will have opportunity to have two numbers on one mobile phone, select which one he or she want to call from, while the subscriber can also use data bundle for what he or she needs. This can either be internet, voice or SMS.
It was further stated that the app can make HD high definition calls when calling from Smile’s network to another Smile person on Smile’s network.
But how reliable is the app? This was the question many analysts asked at the launch. Reacting, Vanzyl said it has network capacity to ensure quality and reliable service. He also said he was confident that it would not lead to failure network connection or dropped calls.
The company’s boss said plans are on the way to roll out services in more cities of Nigeria to offer the best SuperFast 4G LTE mobile broadband and voice services in its expansion drive beyond the current eight cities under its operation.
Meanwhile, the UnlimitedPremium Plan, which has brought a lot of excitement to customers, gives the customers internet freedom where they can download unlimited movies, watch unlimited videos, play unlimited games online, enjoy unlimited social media at the same price of N19, 800.
The company disclosed in a statement that existing customers using the current Unlimited Plan would be automatically upgraded to UnlimitedPremium to immediately benefit from the new innovation. “All existing Smile customers can recharge online with XpressRecharge and pay with their credit cards. They can also recharge via MySmile and pay via approved third party payment channels or at any of the numerous Smile touch points. New customers can order UnlimitedPremium plus SMiFi or UnlimitedPremium plus Router online and pay with their credit card for delivery to their doorsteps. Alternatively, they can visit any Smile outlet where they are assured of best in class customer service, the statement added,” the statement stated.
Giving the importance of brand promise to consumers’ loyalty, if the company fulfills its promise, the new offer may soon begin to give handlers of other competing brand sleepless nights but if they fail, promoters of smile might as well dig their grave.