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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

3G’s poor outing threatens quality service

The recent marathonic unveiling of the Third Generation (3G) products among leading Global Systems for Mobile communications (GSM) operators, may have after-all become a threat and further increases the deteriorating quality of service (QoS) in the country.

Champion Infotel recalls that in the last two weeks, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector witnessed rushed plans to roll out 3G services commercially among the operators in their bids to claim one first or the other.

It was also gathered, for instance, that while the like of MTN Nigeria lays claim to being the first to launch the services into the market, Globacom points to its demonstration ever before the licensing was granted to any of the operators by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which was over a year ago.

Our checks indicated that the level of drop calls among these two 3G giants have risen considerably, especially since the forthnight ago when the competition hot up the sector.

Further checks revealed that one of the 3G operators tried to give reasons via Interactive Voice Response (IVR), the other network would simply display network error, or connection error and informing that the “number you are calling is unavailable” even when they are available among others.

Equally, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe recently predicted a bleak yuletide for Global System for Mobile communications subscribers in the country inspite of 3G debut.

Ndukwe who spoke at the December edition of the monthly Telecom Consumer parliament in Lagos, foresaw a gloomy festive season for Nigerians due to deteriorating telecom services, even as he warned operators to live up by improving on their networks through adequate expansion plans.

He stressed that the poor quality of service in the sector is long over due for correction and tasked operators to wake up to this challenge.

“Nigerians would experience network congestion this Christmas season as current infrastructure and transmission facilities may not be able to cope with the expected high volume of traffic, he said.

He also noted that unless the service providers expand infrastructure to carry the current capacities in their networks, which experts say is already over subscribed, the possibility of a smooth holiday telephony would not be achieved this 2007.

Dr. Ndukwe admitted that network problem is a global issue but noted with optimism that in no distance future, Nigeria will become one of those best countries in the world if enough capacity is expanded by the operators.”

Although he said that the quality of service in the country has not improved as expected, promising that Nigeria will continue to build infrastructure until we get to an appreciable stage and charged network operators to ameliorate network congestion.

According to him, “The problem in the network is carrying capacity. We must continue to build it even up till the next five years. We may not expect a perfect network now. There is not even a perfect network in the developed countries. We need more base stations. Let us hope that network quality will improve especially, this Christmas season, when there will be more congestions in the networks. The operating companies must do something now to abate the impending congestion to the barest minimum.”

He tasked the operators to be proactive and build more capacities in order to abate drop calls.

“We do not have enough capacity to the size of the network. The consumer deserves best QoS. That is the bottom line. It is very important that the operators prepare for the challenges ahead. That is the simple truth of the matter”, Ndukwe said.

This is in addition to the negative impact of what the operators under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), described as ‘excesses’ of the Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency (LASIMRA).

Just as ALTON said its ready for meaningful negotiation as being solicited by the management of LASIMRA.

Champion Infotel recollects that the group while reacting recently to the incessant arrests and detention of telcom officials from its member companies in Lagos, over what LASIMRA alleged as unlawful laying of infrastructure, ALTON said that the trend would impact adversely not only to the development of telecommunications in the country, but also to Lagos as the nerve centre of the nation and would be drastically hit with the increased poor quality of services across the networks.

ALTON chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, had said their attention have been drawn to some media adverts inciting communities against telecom operators sponsored by LASIMRA, asking those communities to call the agency on sighting of telcos site engineers, adding that the most worrisome now is the arrests of site engineers and confiscation of their tools as well as cables.

“It is with considerable concern that we draw attention to recent closure of some operators’ sites on the orders of the General Manager of LASIMRA,” he said, lamenting that ALTON major concern is that this act of disregard for the rule of law is coming from a state led by Mr. Babatunde Tunde Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

Industry analysts, however, opined that although the sector is competition deriven, there is need to ensure that adequate arrangement is made to avoid serious damages to the operating companies and unforeseen emotional impact on subscribers.

Some other analysts said that the bid to hastely explore the Nigerian telecom market by the telcos has not given them ample time to establish firm footing on a given Value Added Services (VAS), such as available in the 3G platform.

They equally cited an instance of Short Messaging Service (SMS), which is still having hard times to deliver on most of these networks.

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