Assessing 16 Years of Globacom

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Emma Okonji writes on the 16 years of Globacom’s service offerings in the telecoms sector and its impact on the Nigerian economy

Before the advent of General Service for Mobile Communication (GSM) services in Nigeria in 2001, which led to the liberalisation of the Nigerian telecoms sector, telecoms services were the exclusive rights of only the affluents in the society. At that time, access to telecommunication services was highly expensive beyond the reach of the poor and the average Nigerian.

However, with the advent of GSM services in 2001, more Nigerians gained access to telecommunications services and the total number of telecoms subscribers jumped from 400,000, with a teledensity of 0.4 per cent, which was recorded between 1960 and 2000, to over a million within few months in 2001.

The cost of telecoms services was still on the high side at that time because of few telecoms operators that were offering services then, were billing subscribers in minutes. The operators equally forced telecoms subscribers to believe that per second billing system was impossible in Nigeria.

But the   situation changed when Globacom eventually launched its services on August 29, 2003, coming in with per second billing system. This crashed the cost of telecoms services and increased access to telecoms services to all Nigerians, irrespective of their status in the society. Since the launch of Globacom, cost of telecoms services has continued to drop while the number of telecoms subscribers has continued to increase.

Today, the total number of telecoms subscribers is put at over 174 million with a teledensity of 91.17 per cent as at June this year, and Globacom, which is the third entrant into the telecoms space, has 46.6 million subscribers with a teledensity of 27 per cent, making it the second largest telecoms operator after MTN, according to the current statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

Prospects

One thing that is key among telecoms operators  is to provide value added services that will enhance subscriber experience on their networks. Having this in mind, telecoms operators have always strived to offer the best of services to subscribers to make them comfortable on their various networks, a situation that has led to healthy competition among telecoms operators.

For the past 16 years, Globacom on its part, has positioned itself as the network of choice and has continually offered value added services, while upgrading its network.

As a brand Globacom offers subscribers the best in the market and is enriching customer experience on the network in terms of installing the best technology and lifestyle-changing products and services. Glo has scaled up the offering to its subscribers by upgrading its equipment for better voice and data service delivery.

Old equipment have been swapped in several states and cities of the country including Lagos, Oyo, Rivers and Ebonyi, Ogun, Edo, Abuja increasing the capacity and improving the quality of the network across the states.

The operator’s 2G and 3G network components have been swapped with new and higher capacity equipment to deliver improved data and voice service. 4G Coverage is also being extended to several more cities.

Its transmission capacity has been increased with pure Internet Protocol (IP) backhaul in several states across Nigeria.

Fibre route relocation has been completed in Abuja to solve the problem of incessant fibre cuts which consistently impaired network quality in the Abuja area. Consequently, network availability and the overall network quality have improved tremendously.

The data core network interface ports have been upgraded from 40GB to 100GB – meaning the traffic handling capacity is more than doubled to 150 per cent.

According to Globacom’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Bisi Koleosho, “We have also upgraded the transport backhaul with additional 100GB route and redundancy, resilience – thereby making the network more stable. Hundreds of New sites are being integrated to improve coverage and take on additional traffic – meaning it is a brand new network now.”

These innovations from Globacom have offered subscribers the best of experience on the Glo network, which have impacted immensely on subscriber lifestyles. With the support of value added services from operators, telecoms subscribers can make calls to long distant locations within and outside Nigeria and get responses in few minutes, without the pain of traveling just for the purpose of communication. Banking services are carried out from the comfort zones of bank customers, through mobile devices, courtesy of value added services offered by telecoms operators. The era of WhatsApp messages and calls offered by Over the Top Technology (OTT) players, while riding on the network of the traditional telecoms operators, has transformed telecoms service offerings in Nigeria and beyond.

 

Challenges 

Despite the prospects brought by Globacom and other telecoms operators like MTN, Airtel and 9mobile, the telecoms sector is still faced with some challenges that are affecting service quality across networks.

Paramount among these challenges are the lack of national backbone infrastructure, low broadband penetration, and poor service quality.

Stakeholders are worried that Nigeria is yet to develop a national backbone infrastructure that will transmit broadband capacity from the shores of the country to the hinterlands.

According to them, Nigeria has several submarine cables landing points at the shores of the country from Glo 1, MainOne, MTN WACS, and SAT 3, yet access to ubiquitous broadband is a huge challenge because there is no national backbone infrastructure that will transmit the broadband capacity to the hinterlands where demand for broadband is high.

President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola, and Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, had  been calling on the federal government to build and protect key national infrastructure like national backbone infrastructure that will transmit broadband capacity from the shores of the country to the hinterlands, where demand for broadband services is high.

They are of the view that developing national backbone infrastructure, will drive down the cost of broadband bandwidth and create more access to the internet.

In order to address the challenge of transmission of broadband capacity, Globacom in 2018, commenced work on its Glo2 project, which  has to do with the building of a second multi-billion naira optic fibre submarine cable from Lagos to southern part of Nigeria, otherwise known as the national backbone infrastructure.

The new fibre optic submarine cable, known as Glo2, when completed, will have 12 Terabit capacity per second, spanning 850km, providing last-mile connectivity to businesses and oil companies in the Southern part of the country and beyond, and will further crash the cost of bandwidth and internet access in Nigeria.

Giving details of the project, Globacom’s Regional Director, Technical, Mr. Sanjib Roy, said the submarine cable would be built along the Nigerian coast from Alpha Beach in Lagos, where Glo 1 landing station is located, to the southern part of Nigeria. The facility will enable ultra high capacity connection to South-south region and provide capacity to offshore oil platforms and the communities.

He stated that the Glo 2 project would boost telecommunication service delivery in the country by providing economic as well as social empowerment of the communities in oil producing regions.

It will also provide high speed internet connectivity as well as digitalise oil platforms to improve productivity, upload data to remote oil platforms at the speed of light.

“Glo2 will be the first submarine cable in Nigeria to land outside Lagos as the five existing submarine cables only landed in Lagos. Glo 2 will have capacity of 12 Terabit per second and will provide ultra-high speed connection to oil platforms and communities to empower data coverage and support enterprise market growth in this part of Nigeria,” Roy said.

Glo2 complements the Glo 1 international submarine cable built by Globacom in 2010. It is the only international submarine cable in Nigeria managed end to end, from Lagos to London, by one company and currently provides sufficient bandwidth for the West Africa sub-region.

Globacom’s milestones

Before Globacom launched services in 2003, GSM lines were selling for between N20,000 and N25,000. Glo brought this down to N7,000 and later N1. Now average cost of GSM line is N100.

Globacom became the first network in Nigeria to launch the 2.5G GPRS technology which enabled multimedia convergence, and pioneered a lot of innovation in Nigerian telecommunication sector like the Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) and International MMS.

Being first network to launch Glo Xchange – Mobile Money Agent network to drive government’s financial inclusion strategy, the telecoms company extended free access lines to government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), and pioneered Blackberry services, which supports push button e-mail, mobile telephone, text messaging, web browsing and other wireless information services.

It launched its 3G Plus, which in addition to giving customers high- speed mobile internet access, allows them to do video calls and video streaming on their 3G mobile handset. It also offers other advanced mobile services such as Video Greeting Kiosk, Video Mail Box, Video conferencing on both Phones and PCs and so many other services.

Globacom supports poverty reduction initiatives of government, and partnered various state governments such as Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) to provide call centre packages for unemployed youths.

Globacom  was once the biggest promoter of African football and sponsored the Premier League, the Super Eagles and their coach and other national teams, Lagos International Half Marathon, Glo CAF Awards and Glo Soccer Academy. It is also the biggest corporate supporter of Nigerian arts and culture, including sponsorship of Ojude Oba, Lisabi and Ofala festivals.