Since the inception of the rollout of Global Service for Mobile Communication (GSM) in 2001, competition to provide best quality service to customers has been the order of the day till date.
Econet Wireless Nigeria, which severally changed its brand name, based on new ownership agreement, before it eventually retained its current brand name as Airtel Nigeria, was the first to roll out GSM services in Nigeria on August 6, 2001, followed by MTN Nigeria, which became the first GSM company to commercially roll out telecoms services in August 8, 2001. Globacom, the third entrant, rolled out its GSM services in 2003 with per second billing system, which crashed cost of telecoms services across networks.
Since 2003, Globacom has introduced several consumer products to further drive competition, a development that helped it to overtake Airtel some years later, in terms of subscriber numbers on its network, to become the second largest telecoms operator in Nigeria, after MTN Nigeria, which still maintains the market leader in terms of subscriber number for voice communication subscription.
Aside voice communication subscription, MTN has also maintained the market leader in data subscription, followed by Airtel and Globacom. But in the past four months, Globacom became the market leader in terms of mobile data subscription, and has maintained the lead for mobile data, as at the date of the last release of data figures in May this year, by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.
Commending Globacom for the feat, the President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola, said Globacom has rolled out several mouth-watering consumer products that have attracted data consumers to its network to experience quality data connectivity from their mobile devices.
Data service delivery
The incursion of GSM operators into mobile data service offerings, even though they were originally known for voice communication, deepened competition for data services among core Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Although GSM operators were initially licensed to provide voice services only, their licences were later expanded after the expiration of the five years exclusivity period, to include mobile data services. Since then, Globacom intensified efforts in both voice and data service offerings, and eventually rose to become the largest mobile data service operator in the country.
Some telecoms subscribers, who spoke about the quality of data services they receive from both GSM and ISP operators, said in the area of service quality, Glo has extensive 3G and 4G data coverage, and became the first network to achieve nationwide 4G coverage. Glo data service is powered by Glo 1 submarine cable, which offers sufficient internet bandwidth. Glo also has extensive fibre optic network spanning thousands of kilometers. All these have ensured reliable and qualitative data service delivery. The network is also known to carry out regular modernisation and upgrade of its facilities to guarantee pristine services.
In the area of affordability, they the subscribers said Globacom had over the years, established a reputation for offering the most competitive data plans in the market and attractive packages with unmatched value. Its innovativeness came to the fore when the lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic started. During the period, Glo rolled out two unique plans, the Stay Home Data plan, which gives subscribers up to 20 per cent more data and the Sunday Data plan, which offers 1.2GB for just N200 on Sundays.
NCC’s data rating
According to the recent NCC’s released figures on mobile data among GSM operators, internet subscriptions across GSM operators’ networks, grew in the last five months. In January this year, mobile data subscription across GSM networks, was 128.4 million. In February, the figure increased to 131.7 million subscriptions, and in March, it rose to 135.8 million subscriptions. In April, the figure rose again to 138.3 million, before reaching 140.8 million in May this year. When combined with Fixed Wired and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) subscriptions for data in the month of May this year, the figure moved up again to reach 141.2 million, according to the NCC statistics.
Of these figures, Glo had a clear lead, as it gained additional 1,748,501 data subscribers in the month of February this year; 2,917,651 in March; 2,072,369 in April; and 1,292,714 in May this year, totaling 8,031,235 subscribers in the four months.
MTN came after Glo with 960,814 data subscribers in the month of February; 794,020 data subscribers in March; 698,593 in April and 882,458 in May, totaling 3,335,885 in four months.
Airtel is next to MTN, having added 670,474 data subscribers in February; 654,549 data subscribers in March; 41,791 data subscriptions in April and 448,504 subscriptions in May, totaling 1,366,814 in four months.
The fourth GSM operator, 9mobile, is next to Airtel with 96,220 mobile data subscribers in February; 181,973 data mobile subscribers in March; 302,125 mobile data subscribers in April and 204,595 mobile data subscribers in May this year, totaling 580,318 in four months.
From the NCC statistics, Glo leads in mobile data subscription of 8,031,235, in four consecutive months from February to May 2020, followed by MTN with a total mobile data subscription of 3,335,885, within the same period. Airtel added a total of 1,366,814 mobile data subscribers within the same period, while 9mobile added a total of 580,318 mobile data within the same four months period.
Glo data plan
In a bid to maintain market lead in data service offering, Glo announced fresh data plans for customers. Globacom increased the data volumes offered its esteemed subscribers in line with the company’s resolve to make life easier as humanity continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
The telecoms company announced mouth-watering data bonuses for existing and new subscribers who purchase any of its data plans including night volume which is operational between 12 midnight and 5 a.m.
For instance, anybody who recharges with N50 will get additional data value of 18MB and an additional night bonus of 5MB, making a total of 50MB as against the earlier data value of 32MB. This is for both new and existing subscribers. New customers who recharge with N100 will be offered 35 MB night data bonus in addition to the usual 160MB, bringing the total to 195MB, while existing customers who used to get 105MB will now have 150MB.
N500 data plan now gives an additional night bonus of 550MB to bring the total to 1.35GB from 1GB for existing customers, while new customers who normally got as much as 1.85GB, will now have 2.15GB data value. For N1,000 recharge, existing customers who got 2.5GB will now have a whopping 2.9 GB total value, while new subscribers who used to get 3.8GB will now receive a total of 4.2GB of data. The data bonuses are graduated to reach N20,000 recharge which now gives humongous 12 GB data bonus, bringing the total to 138GB for both existing and new customers instead of the former 115GB .
According to Globacom, the data values were revised to give the best benefit for money in terms of data volume at unique price points for subscribers. “The prevailing Covid-19 pandemic entails much more being done online by data users. People require reliable and affordable internet services to be able to work, shop, study, socialise and do business transactions online. This is why we have empowered them with additional data value for every recharge made on our network,” Globacom stated.
Data offering competition among major Internet Service Providers (ISP) in Nigeria has been intense, as the ISPs ensure that their brands are known as the best, most affordable and fastest in the industry, in terms of internet connectivity.
From MTN’s Nedu Proposal Data Video commercial to Airtel’s Data is Life, to Glo’s Emoji campaign and to 9mobile’s Moreblaze, mobile data service providers have continued use innovative data plans to have competitive edge over and above other mobile data service providers. The competition has brought about varieties of consumer products that are more affordable, and that can give customers the opportunity to make their choices.
In the midst of the competition, Globacom has maintained a clear lead in mobile data subscriptions in four consecutive months (January – May 2020), as evident in the recent NCC’s release on mobile data.
In terms of market share, MTN maintains the lead, as it controls 39.61 per cent of the market as at May 2020, with a subscriber number of 76.0 million followed by Glo with 27.12 per cent market share and 52.1 million subscribers, then Airtel with 26.83 per cent market share with a subscriber base of 51.5 million and 9mobile with 6.37 per cent market share and a subscriber base of 12.2 million within the same period.
Internet service quality
Nigeria has evolved in terms of internet service provision, beginning from 2G to 3G, to 4G and the planned 5G, which most countries of the world have started deploying, including South Africa.
The advent of 4G/LTE, which is the highest generation of technology currently being deployed in Nigeria, is an improvement on the 3G technology, otherwise known as third generation technology. The 4G LTE came with expectations of fast internet speed. 4G is the fourth generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology, succeeding 3G, and offering faster data speed. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, and 3D television.
However, years down the line, Nigeria is still faced with poor internet quality. In a recent survey conducted on download speed experiences of subscribers across 87 countries including Nigeria, a network monitoring outfit, Opensignal, concluded that congestion remained a major challenge with the user experience in data connectivity. Nigeria ranked 83 out of 87 of the countries surveyed in terms of download speed experience.