Data Frustrations of Nigerian Subscribers

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Despite spending a chunk of their hard-earned money on data daily, Nigerians, in recent times, have been getting services seemingly below their expectations. BRANDPOWER captures their growing frustration with the broadband service providers amidst the floundering Nigerian economy.

Information has proven to be an essential tool for human development and transformation. All over the world, information carries huge power and this has made internet access very expedient in the modern-day knowledge-driven world. Before the advent of internet technology, printed books and journals were the main sources of information available for mankind. But the invention of the computer has made internet the greatest source of information.

Daily across the globe, people access the internet and this comes at significant data costs. Mobile data are internet content delivered to mobile devices such as smartphones, and tablets over a cellular connection. Mobile data services sometimes come as a built-in option in laptops. Often times, cellular providers offer mobile data through a number of different technologies including GSM (in 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G LTE Advanced).

In the context of Internet access, broadband is used to mean any high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than dial-up access over traditional analogue or ISDN PSTN services. An Internet service provider is a company that provides services which enables people access, use and participate in the internet through the use of various technologies. In Nigeria today, there are many internet service providers that cater for the ever growing number of internet users in the country. Some of them are Telecommunication Service Providers (TSPs) which include MTN, Airtel, Globacom, 9Mobile among others. Other ISPs include Spectranet, ipNx Nigeria Ltd, Coollink NG, VDT communication Ltd, Smile Nigeria, Swift Network and many more. It is worthy to note that all Telecommunication Service Providers (TSPs) are Internet Service Providers (ISPs), but not all ISPs are TSPs.

Nigeria is witnessing a steady increase in the number of ISPs and this obviously has created a viable competition as each of the service providers struggle daily to retain and expand its own share of the market. However, the competition has not translated into a faster and cheaper internet browsing rates for Nigerians all over the country as each of the service providers especially the TSPs still fails the citizens in some areas.

Some TSPs have been a tale of cheaper data rate with poor connectivity while others have been faster network quality with very costly data rate. Findings showed that MTN, which takes 38% share of the Nigerian Telecomm market with 65,379,196 subscribers, is one of the internet providers who charge Nigerians exorbitantly for mobile data that hardly last long. Lamenting on Twitter recently, an MTN subscriber who doesn’t want his name in print, said he spent N3500 to purchase 3.5 gb of data but became very angry when he got a notification on his phone about ten days later that the data remained less than 100mb despite the fact that he hadn’t downloaded any film nor watched any on YouTube.

Another MTN subscriber who resides in Akure in Ondo state, Oluwaseyi Oluwalade seems to have the same issue with MTN. In a chat with BRANDPOWER, he said: ‘For MTN, often more than not, its mantra of ‘everywhere you go’ seems correct because of its availability. However, it’s not economical. Truthfully, consumption of data on MTN network is astronomical’.

Oluwalade, who also uses Glo, further decried the fluctuating nature of the network. He said: ‘For Globacom, which I presently use as my data network provider, it’s almost the finest for me when I am at my workplace. But it’s always frustrating when I am at home. I am yet to find a better option for it’.

‘Airtel would have been my favourite communication network provider because its services (both call and data) are cheaper than the other two on my list, but for its limited coverage: fine services at home, but very poor at work. Though, I had stopped using Airtel for the reasons given above, the people that still use it around me confirmed it’s still the most user-friendly network with cheapest rates, especially in terms of calls’, Oluwalade further added.

Another Glo subscriber, Bisola Ogeele, who resides in Yaba area of Lagos, confirmed Oluwalade’s claim on the snail-paced nature of Glo network when browsing. She said the network is only good for calls despite its cheap data rate. She said Airtel is perfect for browsing in her area unlike the Adenuga-owned network. But Abiola Sahid, a resident of Ede in Osun state, had a different experience. He said both Glo and Airtel networks are bad in his area and that most of the residents in his neighbourhood often resort to the stable but costly MTN for both data and calls.

Iyanu Oyedeji, an HND II student of the Polytechnic of Ibadan, also had sad tales to tell about the frustrating nature of the networks. Being a petty business owner on the school campus, she explained that she often experienced some service disruptions when making bank transfers using MTN and Airtel lines. Her experience also brings to the fore the constant hitch which most subscribers of the three networks including 9 Mobile often experience, one of which is dropped calls in which lines accidentally go off in the middle of important conversation with close associates. This, as findings has shown, can be very frustrating especially when one tries to call the person back and the usual error audio message from the service centre says: ‘the number you are trying to call is not reachable or available at the moment’.

Meanwhile, the poor network status of Globacom Nigeria seems to be taking its toll on the company’s patronage as the latest report published by the Nigerians Communications Commission (NCC) shows that the Nigerian-owned network has lost its second spot to Airtel which has added more subscribers to its base in recent times.

A country like Nigeria with over 200 million population and large economy shouldn’t be short-changed with poor telecommunication services which weakens business operations and results in low productivity. The NCC said earlier in 2019 that about 40 million Nigerians are yet to be connected online. This implies that approximately 160 million Nigerians are active users of the various telecommunication networks. The Federal Government of Nigeria has put plans in top gear to increase its VAT charges to 7.2% which means increase in the prices of goods and services lurks around the corner. If this happens and the four leading internet service providers in the country still offer unreliable and limited connectivity, then, more economic hardship lies ahead for the common man.

Samson Oyedeyi