Over eight million data and voice subscribers in Nigeria abandoned the services of Etisalat and MTN Nigeria between October 2016 and March 2017, owing to poor quality services, findings by The Point have revealed.
Data obtained from sources at the Nigerian Communication Commission revealed that the affected subscribers had difficulties surfing the internet, overthe six months review period.
A study of network operators’ data for internet subscriptions obtained from the NCC showed that the quality of services rendered by the service providers dropped drastically within the period.
Among the four major Telcos in the country, MTN and Etisalat are the worst hit. MTN lost over three million of its subscribers when its data users dropped from 33.4 million in October 2016 to 30.5 million by end of March 2017.
After MTN, another telco that suffered similar loss within the six months was Etisalat. The United Arab Emirates-based telco lost over two million lines as its subscriber’s base fell from 14.69 million to 12.6 million within the same period.
Active subscriber data contain information on the number of active subscribers fortelephone services on each of the licensed service providers, utilising different technologies, including GSM, fixed wireless and wired phones, among others.
While Glo and Airtel increased their active subscribers’ base from 36.9 to 37.3 million and 34.1 million to 34.6 million respectively between September last year and end of March 2017, findings revealed that MTN and Etisalat shed over three million patrons within the same period.
For instance, Etisalat’s active subscriber base dropped from 22.5 million to 19.6 million within the same period. This represents a loss of 2.9 million subscribers within six months. In its own case, MTN’s active subscribers also dropped from 60.5 million to 60.3 million within the period.
Going by the NCC’s average revenue per user of about $4.5/ month, which is N1,752.50 (with the exchange rate of N385/$1), the drop witnessed by the firms in both data and active subscriber base represents a loss of their potentialrevenue worth over N13.8 billion within the period under review.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH- Subscribers Meanwhile, subscribers are bitter over what they describe as exploitation by the telcos. For instance, a civil servant with Lagos State Government, Mrs.Yomi Anifowosho, alleged that she had been swindled by her Internet Service Providers, MTN, which had, according to her, in the past few months, been receiving money for “half service dispensed.”
She said, “The data bundle expires days before it should and the ISP would always hide behind the frequency of downloading heavy files, which I have encountered over time. As far as I am concerned, the firm has been robbing me of my hard-earned money and I demand an intervention of NCC and refund from the company.”
Managing Director, Master Web, a Lagos-based digital marketing firm, Mr. Akinwole Adekoya, stated that, for several months, the quality of data services he got from Etisalat had been everything but satisfactory.
“I understand that poor quality of service is an industry challenge, but a situation where my ISP would have network challenges from days to weeks is really frustrating, devastating, cheating and unprofitable. The situation would have forced me out of business if I had not bought a back-up network,” she said.
A youth corps member, Miss Ayo Odeyemi, has not also been lucky with the data services from Etisalat and MTN. Though the graduate of Mass Communication from Ekiti State University does not use her Internet for a commercial purpose, her experience at where she lives in Daura, Kastina State, is no less frustrating.
“Here, MTN does between 2 and 4 MGB per second, instead of 15Mbps and that reduces the speed of the internet.
“The network signal is always poor in my area and sometimes, it can be poor for like six hours in a day. The worst part of it is that you cannot roll over the balance to the next month and this has left sour tastes in our mouths.
Every effort I have made to call the customer care and make complaints have been abortive because the agents have been giving excuses and promises that the network would soon be better while I continue losing money,” she lamented.
NCC NOT DOING ENOUGH – CAFON
President and Founder, a not-forprofit organisation, dedicated to advocacy for consumerrights and protection, ConsumerAdvocacy Forum Nigeria, Ms. Olusola Salako, blamed the development on the lack of adequate commitment and innovation on the part of NCC.
“Subscribers feel they are at the mercy of telcos because they have beenneglectedby NCC. NCC should compel service providers to go back to the drawing table and introduce ways to please their subscribers.
They must listen to the consumers that have been fleeced overtime and introduce affordable packages that will meet their needs. If that is done, the telcos will make money because Nigeria is a large market that is filled with people that like to talk at affordable rates,” she told The Point.
According to her, NCC does not guarantee protection to over 120 million subscribers in the country in action but only in words.
“NCC should adopt the ‘look and feel of consumer protection’ approach. Inviting 1,000 out of over 120 million subscribers for a protection forum is a waste of money but introducing a short code message to report infractions to the regulator without delay will benefit the telecom population. A lot of smart phone users don’t know how to preserve their data and in the process they waste it and think the ISP has fleeced them. It is the duty of the regulator to educate the people on how to avoid being fleeced and to manage data effectively,” she added.
RECESSION, ILLIQUIDITY CREATE DISAFFECTION – EXPERTS
Industry experts have blamed the development on the current economic recession that has forced several Nigerians to cut down on some of their expenses, especially data subscription. Also, they argue that anotherfactorthat contributed to the drop in the patronage of the firms is poor quality of the data and voice services rendered by the firm, which was largely caused by some financial constraints that have eaten deep into the fabrics of MTN and Etisalat.
In the case of Etisalat, its poor network is allegedly caused by the $1.2billion debt the company owe eight Nigerian banks, which has been adversely affecting the company’s ability to deliver quality service and impeding its expansion.
Similarly, both data and voice network of MTN have reportedly been dwindling since early 2016.
The drop cannot be separated from the regulatory impasse between the firm and NCC over a N1.04 trillion fine slammed on the South Africa-based firm for its failure to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered subscribers’ SIM cards from its network. The situation contributed to the firm’s $200 million loss declared at the end of the 2016 financial year, which allegedly made it sack about 260 workers recently.
An Information Communication Technology expert, Mr. Dare Oloro, said, “It is natural for people to reduce their data consumption considering the recession and pressure to meet other pressing demands. I understand that lots of Etisalat and MTN patrons have ported to other rival networks because they believe the duo have liquidity crisis.
“While MTN is just coming out of its first full year loss in 22 years of existence, Etisalat is taking steps to pay the $1.21bn debt owed eight banks. They currently don’t have the kind of cash flow for product development, product activation, promos and advertising, and other activities that should retain its customers at the bottom of the pyramid, who are about 80 per cent of their total customers.”
Lead consultant, Mobility Company, Mr. Yomi Adegboye, also decried the high cost of Internet services in the country, which he alleged could be responsible for drop.
“The cost of data services is not affordable for users, especially the small business owners. Most of them cannot afford to buy the required data they need because they have to attend to otherrunning costs to keep the business afloat,” he explained.
Adegboye added that the ISPs needed to understand that the market was at the bottom of the pyramid because that was where the largest size of the population resided.
He said, “If they can meet the needs of these people, then they will make more money in the long run than some operators that focus on blue chip customers alone. That is why Chinese manufacturers and even Dangote rush to produce lowcost products. The revolution is what happens at the bottom of the pyramid.”
Also, Mr Dare Oyeduntan, an IT expert with an insurance firm, noted that the quality of service rendered by the providers was still below expectation.
According to him, to download a file on a 3G-enabled network still lasts for about 20 minutes or more. “I expect our data services to perform optimally without much fluctuation. We deserve to get infinitely more value for our money now that the NCC concentrates on the development of broadband that has immense potential for all sectors of the economy,” he explained.