About 90 million data and internet subscribers in Nigeria are being short-changed daily as they are challenged with slow, inefficient, yet expensive data services by different Internet Service Providers.
Despite the national average broadband speed that has increased from 1.0Mbps in 2011 to over 4.7Mbps in 2015, most Internet users still face difficulties while surfing the net.
Many subscribers, who spoke in separate interviews with our correspondent, lamented that they were being swindled by the ISPs, who had, in the past few months, been receiving money for half service.
“The data bundles expire days before they should and the ISPs would always hide behind the frequency of downloading heavy files,” Mrs. Joke Omosanjo, a civil servant, said.
The Managing Director, Master Web, a cyber café around Cocoa House, Ibadan, Oyo State, Mr. Gbenga Ajagbe, lamented that, for several months, the quality of data services he got from O’Net, a subsidiary of the Oodua Group of Companies, had been everything but satisfactory. “I understand that poor quality of service is an industrial-wide challenge, but a situation where my ISP would have network challenges from weeks to a month or more is really frustrating and unacceptable,” he said, adding that the development could have forced him out of business if he had not changed to another network.
Miss Motunrayo Louis has not also been lucky with the data services from MTN, another ISP. Though, the graduate of English language does not use her Internet for a commercial purpose, her experience, 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,” she told The Point.
Some subscribers in Lagos are also not impressed with their internet services. For instance, a resident of Alausa, Ikeja, Mr. Caleb Biobaku, criticised Spectranet over what he described as ‘dwindling data service’.
According to the engineer, who recently switched to Etisalat, the ISP deceived him that he would get full reception at Alausa only for him to find that he could hardly check his mail from his apartment.
“The network signal is always poor in my area and sometimes it can be poor for like 10 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 lose money,” he lamented.
Rather than the ISPs providing fast and efficient Internet services to about 90 million Nigerians (according to the Nigerian Communication Commission data) that have penetrated the Internet, the teeming population is experiencing Internet connectivity at a snail speed.
As if the alleged snail speed and inefficient data services are not enough pain for the subscribers, the cost of the service is also said to be too expensive for many of them, including the experts. For instance, Mr. Segun Mustapha, a web designer, spend about N20,000 to keep his data plan running every month without the required speed.
Afolabi, who spent a month in Ghana for a web-training course, added that his experience in the gold coast was not comparable to that of Nigeria. “Internet works at a speed of light in Ghana without much fluctuation. I believe we are still far from where we are supposed to be in ICT development. I think the NCC is too lenient with the ISPs,” he stated.
Lead consultant, Mobility Company, Mr. Yomi Adegboye, also decried the high cost of Internet services in the country. He said intense competition between GSM operators and other ISPs would eventually force down the cost.
“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 other running 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
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 low-cost 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 five minutes. “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.
‘NO LEGAL TOOLS TO PROTECT CONSUMERS’
A lawyer with expertise in corporate governance, Mr. Dele Solanke, told The Point that, in
Nigeria, “consumers don’t get value for their money and there is no fair trading”. Solanke explained that the required legal infrastructure to protect consumers from rip-off was not in place.
The solicitor added that the operations of the Consumer Protection Council could not be really effective untill an enabling environment was created for the agency to work. “There is a pathetic customer service relation in Nigeria that you don’t get anywhere. We need
to strengthen our law; we need strong enforcement institutions and regulatory institutions to change the face of quality service delivery in Nigeria,” he explained.
WE’LL INCREASE BROADBAND PENETRATION SOON - NCC
The Executive Vice-Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, has assured Nigerians, especially internet users, that the increase in broadband penetration is at the heart of the commission’s eightpoint agenda.
“There is an existing broadband plan and the role of the NCC is to drive the deployment of the infrastructure to all parts of the country, initially from major cities, then to other parts. There is also a plan to license companies that will deploy broadband infrastructure to facilitate its penetration,” he disclosed.
While two zones in the country, Lagos and the North Central zone have been licensed, the
apex regulator is processing the licences of the South-West, South-East, South-South and North-East. Contrary to the argument of some critics that the sector does not have sufficient infrastructure to cater for its consumers, Danbatta insisted that telecommunications infrastructure in Nigeria was inadequate to cater for the needs of consumers. He urged operators to invest in infrastructure deployment, saying that the NCC would support such initiatives.