Whereas telecoms consumers say ntelâ€™s impact is not strongly felt especially in the areas of voice calls, the fifth entrant into the mobile telephone space insists its unique selling point remains the provision of superfast broadband internet, writesÂ Emma Okonji
Before the rollout of GSM services in 2001, the then Nigeria national carrier, NITEL was the sole provider of telecoms services, operating a monopolistic market, with subscriber number of less than 400,000 andÂ Â teledensity of 0.4 per cent.
But with the emergence of GSM operators like MTN and Airtel in 2001 and Globacom in 2003, the monopoly of NITEL was broken and the company was compelled to face real competition.Â Â Â Following the stiff competition, which it could not sustain, NITEL was unbundled into NITEL and MTel.
The federal government, through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), tried severally to sell NITEL/MTel to core investors, but failed severally. However, itÂ Â Â was eventually sold to NatCom Development and Investment Limited in 2015.Â Â And in 2016 NatCom, under the trade name, ntel, rolled out its services in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, with a promise to cover the entire states of the federation, riding on the NITEL nationwide telecoms facilities. But one year after its commercial rollout, subscribers are saying they are not feeling the impact of ntel as expected, having bought over a national asset like NITEL that has presence and facilities across all states of the federation.
The emergence of ntelÂ
NatCom, which trades as ntel, in 2015, acquired the core telecom assets, previously owned by NITEL/MTel, Nigeriaâ€™s national fixed and mobile operators, in a guided liquidation process that was supervised and approved by BPE and a High Court appointed liquidator. It was completed in May 2015, from which date the NITEL/MTel core telecoms assets were wholly transferred to NatCom.
The eventual acquisition of NITEL/MTel, had elicited great joy among Nigerian telecoms subscribers, who felt that ntel was going to give the other four existing telecoms operators, a good run for their money through competition that will likely crash cost of telecoms services. But such expectations were dashed as subscribers are beginning to feel that ntel is slow to take over the telecoms market, despite its added advantage of riding on the nationwide telecoms facilities of NITEL/MTel.
Reacting to subscribers’ expectation, ntel management admitted the fact that NITEL/MTel had presence and facilities across all states of the federation. However, itÂ clarified that ntel did not ride on the existing facilities of NITEL/MTel because they were already obsolete and overtaken by newer technologies as at the time of rollout of its services last year. According to ntel, it had to invest in newer technology and abandon the old NITEL facilities and cables because they were obsolete and no longer useful for modern telecoms operations.
Giving details of the actual services offered by ntel, its External Affairs Director, Mr. Osondu Nwokoro told THISDAY thatÂ Â the firm offers services such asÂ Â mobile network, a pure play 4G/LTE -Advanced service that offers high speed data, high-definition voice and video; international voice termination riding on the back of NATCOMâ€™s SAT-3 partnerships, that enables direct exchange of IDD traffic with 35 partners providing international bandwidth/IP connectivity to carriers and major corporates between Nigeria and international destinations.
Others services, according to him,Â Â are: metro bandwidth with over 1,100 km of ducts and over 4,000 km of fibre route in almost all states in Nigeria; fixed services, with plans to offer, in the near future, to homes and businesses where extant infrastructure can be leveraged at minimal incremental cost.
Nwokoro said:Â Â “Our unique selling point remains the provision of superfast broadband internet with speeds faster than any other telecom service provider. Our voice quality is also beyond compare. Our High Definition voice calls carried over LTE have redefined the call and talk experience in the Nigerian telecom eco-system. Three things have contributed in making us the clear leader in the voice segment of the 4G/LTE end of the market: Our superfast internet speed, which has made us known forÂ Â providing live streaming services. We were publicly acknowledged by the gospel artiste Nathaniel Bassey after we powered his daily #AlleluyahChallenge to a befitting finale. We have since powered the live streams at Women In Jouralism dTEDx Maitama and TEDx Yaba.
“Our voice segment has been boosted with the introduction of our bespoke 4G/LTE VoLTE enabled Nova phone which is a smart phone with the characteristics of a feature phone. This is impacting positively on our voice revenue while helping grow a satisfied corps of happy voice callers enjoying a new lease of life. It has also moderated the 4G/LTE availability dilemma.
“Finally, the introduction of the Nova phone has helped in the actualisation of our launch promise that our very first 100,000 subscribers will be Pioneers who will enjoy free on-net calls for life.”
Subscribers’ perception on ntel recharge
Most subscribers are worried that ntel recharge cards are not accessible to the common subscribers, thereby making the ntel services an elitist thing.
ButÂ Nwokoro explained that as a data-centric telecom operator, ntel believes that the internet is the new frontier and therefore encourages subscribers to grow their digital footprints as veritable netizens.
“To this end, most of our transactions are carried out online, just like some of our peers, from buying bundles and devices to topping up and recharging. Subscribers can connect email@example.comÂ or use our self-care or mini care apps. We are also in the process of adding more online channels. Those who require person-to-person interaction can visit any of our stores,” Nwokoro said.
According to him, “We sell recharge cards and use other available channels to have customers connected to the ntel network. The fact is that we are not ready yet to operate the physical recharge card system, but with time we will. Our network is a conceivable integration network, having the next generation billing system, and we are working on that even though we have not yet explored the physical recharge channel option.”
Â Nwokoro saidÂ Â telecoms subscribers on the ntel network have never had it so good in terms of their experience with the ntel telecoms service offerings.
â€œThey are experiencing better telecoms service on our 4G LTE network. So they have the latest generation of mobile services, which has enhanced their contributions to the Nigerian economy. We offer our customers various levels of services from our 4G LTE fiber connection and the speed of connectivity is very high. We need to offer choice services that exceed the level of excellence and we need to offer steady services,” he said.
ntel brand one year afterÂ
Giving further details of the ntel brand and service offering in one year, Nwokoro said ntel as a brand has done very well by setting up a billing system that gives the network better integration between the sales representatives and the customer care system.
â€œIt has given us significant ease to operate in a unique way that is different from other operators. We have 70 per cent coverage in three states currently, with plans to expand to more states. We have made tremendous progress in one year on the number of customers that are now on our network. We got award from an American company as the fastest internet service provider, and I see this as a great feat in one year of rollout,â€ Nwokoro explained.
The elitist perceptionÂ
Allaying fears of most telecoms subscribers that the ntel business is for the elitists, the telecoms company said such perception was completely incorrect because ntel has packages that cut across all cadre of people.
â€œOur packages are designed for both the high and low income earners in the society, with some packages having lowest level of pricing that is as low as N500 for the best return on investment. Customers can buy our unlimited package, which allows them to have unlimited access to the internet.Â We have other packages that allow the customer to use a define volume of data, based on its budget limit. So we are not providing services for only the elites, because we have wide range of packages that address the needs and financial capacities of different customers, the telecoms company said in a statement,â€ Nwokoro said.