The much talked about 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology may not fly fast in Nigeria, owing to limited customers and limited 4G devices that will drive its penetration and growth.
Country Manager, Ericsson Nigeria, Mr. Kamar Abass who made the disclosure recently, told THISDAY that government was bent on driving 4G/LTE technology in the country, but has not taken cognisance of the number of people that are ready to be served and the available devices that are compatible with the new technology.
“If you want to move spectrum from 2G to 4G you have got to have a sizable volume of 4G customers, but today there is a tiny number of 4G devices that are accessible to the mass market. The devices that I have cost several hundreds of pounds, about 700 hundred pounds (roughly N180,000). There are iPads that will do it but we are still talking about several hundred of pounds. 4G devices are at a premium today and going into mass market is a long way off,” Abass said.
According to him: “Today, the operators have tens of millions of customers on 2G, why would they move away from those customers just to serve a scanty ten to twenty or thirty thousand customers who can access 4G? For the moment, having these tens of millions customers on the 2G network is the most efficient use of the spectrum today. If they had 10 million customers asking to use their phone on the 4G network I am sure they would listen. But for today, 2G and 3G is still a lot better use of the spectrum.”
Addressing the issue of service quality across telecoms networks, the Country Manager who exonerated telecoms operators of the challenges on poor service quality, said: “When the operators bought their licences they paid $285 million each.
When that investment was made, some investors would have put up that money and they would have put it up in the hope for a return in a fair market, a market where the rules are known and understood.”
He insisted that if government had invested such monies from licence fees on infrastructure development, the country would have been freed from infrastructure challenges, which he said was largely responsible for poor service quality in the country today.
He however called on telecoms operators not to neglect their customers because government failed to provide the needed telecoms infrastructure for the country.
If an operator consistently neglects its customersâ€™ interest, it will ultimately fail and that law of the market will catch up with it.
Abass called on operators to invest more on infrastructure rollout and advised that the industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), must tell operators what is expected of them.
“I think what the regulator has done with number porting is excellent, because it gives all the operators the message that whatever the customers are experiencing on the networks, they will definitely be the judge to take decision whether they stay with a particular operator, or look for another. This of course will check poor service quality across networks,” Abassi said.
He however blamed the regulator for planning to stop operators from selling more SIM cards, describing the situation as inimical to telecoms growth.
“My joy about the regulatory body is that it has done the right thing, it has told the telecoms operators what is expected of them and had put in place the number portability scheme, and made public, the statistics of service quality across networks statistics and has put a modestly demanding bar on what operators must do. So it is over to the customers to vote with their SIM cards and phones in relation to what they want. We are in the mere foot hills of the market today. Quality of service will gradually diminish as a problem, he said.