Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Etisalat’s plans for GSM subscribers

Nigeria as the most populous black nation basically had about 400,000 fixed lines and 20,000 mobile lines as at year 2000, barely a year after the enthronement of democratic rule in the country.

Also on record was that as at June 30, 2008, Nigeria had estimated 54 million connected active mobile lines while as at March 2008, the apex telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said there were about 60.9 million phone subscribers in the country.

Nigeria’s acclaimed leadership in emerging telecommunications market globally according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) appraisal among its peers in less than seven years, is no longer in doubt.

It all begun like a big dream by a big nation with the deregulation of the telecommunications sector elucidated by the political will of the then federal government led by President Olusegun Obasanjo, following the worldly acknowledged auctioning of the first batch of Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) in February 2001 and by August of the same year most of the initial three licensees, namely the MTN, Econet now Zain and MTel have commenced roll out at various stages.
And two years later, the Second National Operator (SNO), Globacom, was licensed with avalanche of licenses including another GSM license.

For most Nigerians, yes, it may have taken the aforementioned operators just about seven months to commence roll out, especially those in the first batch, but to what extent have that taken the telecom subscribers in terms of Quality of Service (QoS)? It was not surprising that NCC recently dragged some telecom operators to the law court in search of compensation for consumers, including a high number of dropped calls, poor interconnectivity to other networks exorbitant tariffs to name a few as well as placing ban on sales promotions until services improve, mostly across the GSM networks.

In addition, some industry analysts noted that those few months prior to roll out although was spurred by competition. Nevertheless it was not enough time to properly lay the relevant foundation for endearing telecom services for Nigerians.
Equally, it was postulated that the idea then for most of these GSM licensees was to use what they invariably have to get what they want by way of going to the market no matter how bad and overtime use what they generate as revenue to re-invest into the sector.

Then came the fifth GSM operator, the Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS) operating as Etisalat Nigeria, scaling through the NCC requirements by paying $400 million (about N516 million), to acquire the Unified Access License (UAL), which offers the telco a mobile license and spectrum in the GSM 1800 and 900 Mega Hertz (MHz). EMTS got the license in collaboration with the United Arab Emirate firm, Mubadala Development Company the parent company of Etisalat.

This follows the endorsement of Etisalat by NCC last April for making its first official call on the network after receiving 0809 prefix from the regulator.

Chief Executive officer, Mr. Saoud Al Shamsi said that considering the pedigree of the telco in managing over 600 million subscribers in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), Etisalat is determined to replicate a unique feat achieved in Egypt by targeting to engage over 5 million subscribers within one year of commercial launch in that market.

“It is because of that kind of services and quality that we have managed to do that and we do not think that our performance and accomplishment in Nigeria will be anything less,” Al Shamsi said, noting that with presence in 15 countries, 10 of which are in Africa, Etisalat has thrived in building a network that spans MEA and Asia and could even be tagged as more difficult markets than Nigeria infrastructure-wise, stressing “We’re putting and rolling out the network in various cities of Nigeria so that we have greater coverage and we have better reach to the various ends of Nigeria.”

While urging Nigerians to expect Etisalat services eventually at every end of the nation’s geographic representation, Mr. Al Shamsi insisted that its entrance into the Nigerian market was not motivated by early profit, premature launch and then face the quality of service issues.

“We’re trying to manage all of these problems before we give the Nigerian consumers exposure to ourselves,” he asserted.

Also, by end of April 2008, saw Etisalat moving into its own property as corporate office complex. A move depicted by the Head, Communications at Etisalat Nigeria, Mrs. Nwugo Nwoke, as a demonstration of the telco’s attentiveness to offer Nigerians world-class services.

She said that the property located in the highbrow Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, provides Etisalat’s top-rated employees with the right environment to function with their possible best, even as the acquisition is a confirmation of the telco’s believe in Nigeria dream.

ITRealms Online gathered that about 500 staff of Etisalat were recently inducted into the firm’s strategic training programme to inculcate its core values, vision, mission, and ambitions on the employees. Just as 150 customer-facing staff have completed training and were deployed to the state-of-the-art Call Centre facilities in Lagos.

Vice President Marketing, Mr. Wael Ammar said Etisalat’s business has not only been the hallmark of global quality but is key to its latest ranking as the largest telecommunications company in both the Middle East and Africa.

We, therefore, place a high premium on training our staff as well as on the quality of services we offer our customers,” Ammar said, adding that the telco has completed core network implementation as well as full integration of its switching systems cum intelligent network Online Charging System (OCS).

Pointing out that Etisalat has completed interconnectivity to other major GSM and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators in the country.

Confirming this, the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Etisalat Nigeria, Mr. Oladamoye Oyesiku said that the operator as the fastest growing telco in the world “is committed to providing world-class telecommunications services to prospective customers in fulfillment of our mandate in Nigeria and in line with our operating standards in over 15 other countries.”

Noteworthy is that three rating agencies lately confirmed Etisalat’s competitive edge, according to recent studies by Standard & Poor’s (A +), Moody’s (Aa2) and Fitch Rating (AA-), saying the firm is the fastest growing telecommunications company in the world, with very strong economical edge. Recollecting that last month, the global rating of Etisalat continued to soar ahead of its commercial launch in the country by Financial Times rankings (FT500).

Responding to this rating development, chairman, EMTS owners of Etisalat Nigeria, Mr. Hakeem Belo-Osagie, said the ratings are fitting testimonials to the operator’s high standards of performance.

“These coming just as we fine-tune plans to deliver commercial services to Nigerians, strengthens our commitment to replicating the prudent financial strategy in order to build a network that is stable and offers Nigerians access to world class telecommunications,” he said.

“We’re capable of maintaining Etisalat’s track record in quality services, stable growth, as well as in other areas of our operations,” he assured.

With these words from Osagie, probably Nigeria telecom subscribers should not expect less from Etisalat, given that customer satisfaction and QoS formed part of the agenda for the fifth NCC organized Telecom Consumers Parliament which held at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, last weekend.

Indeed, expectations of telecom consumers are high for a more vibrant and reassuring offer as Etisalat has advanced plans to further revolutionize the telecommunications industry with the launch of its services that will make mobile telephony a pleasure for all its subscribers.

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