GSM in Nigeria – The journey so far

Nine years after the launch of GSM technology in Nigeria, I feel so disillusioned about expectations not met. Sure, its pluses has been pointed out to me countless times, that apart from it been the major (somebody said only) achievement of the Olusegun Obasanjo 8 year administration, it is also said that the boost it has given to the socio-economic growth can not be quantified. Well, true, but you and I also know that we have, as individuals, paid a hefty price for this.

I have refused to try to compute what may have ended up in South Africa via MTN from my little pockets. I’ve come to realise that maybe I may have paid more for all the ratzmatazz, the glitz and the childish “i was the first to bring 3G” adverts than for any good service. What 3G are you guys talking about?! Dont even get me started! But thinking of it deeper, I thought, yeah maybe they do have these equipment they claim they do, so why are the services not at par with GSM networks from some countries i’ve been priviledged to experience? Or is it a case of “Overselling”, when the number of subscribers to a particular facility far exceeds the installed capacity of the equipment to handle it?

Oh Nigeria, why do we condone mediocrity? Why is mediocrity so much prevalent in every facet of our society? And to think that we are paying so much for it! Sad.

I apologise if I have sounded so cynical, please forgive me, but it helps to get all these off my chest.

I don’t know what it is about Econet/Vodacom (?)/Vmobile/Celtel/Zain (Did I leave anything out?), we may excuse them that their seeming lack of innovative ideas may be due to their unending management changes. But MTN?!

I was in the east in 2002 when GSM was introduced to that part of Nigeria. With my N27,500 Samsung R220 and a N15,000 (yes, fifteen thousand naira) MTN sim, i felt out of this world. It didn’t matter that I practically had to climb trees and high rise buildings to get fairly decent reception on my phone. And the N50/min tarriff? Good God! Those guys must have broken even the very first day they launched!

Before you proceed, I must warn that this write up was intended to share my experience with MTN and as such, it is more of an MTN bashing. Check this;

I was on a training programme somewhere in Surulere last year, so I decided to visit one of their service centres there to inquire about the possibility of combining their N10,000 data service with my post paid line. I was responsibly dressed and I conducted myself same way. Unfortunately I do not recall what transpired between me and the customer service lady in attendance, so I decided to approach someone who seemed to be her superior. The guy rudely told me off even before I got to his table. I felt so embarrassed. Well, after a mail to the Customer service centre about the incident, a lady apologised on their behalf.

Well, my last experience coupled with the fact that I wasn’t getting the best deal from them was all i needed to make up my mind, I decided it was time to end my contract with them. So I requested that they migrate my SIM from Post Paid to Prepaid on MTN network, that way, I felt I could still retain the SIM for sentimental reasons. It took me about 5 months of them tossing me about to realise that either they do not have the capacity to do it or some warped policy is preventing them from doing so. I must mentioned that I had successfully done this on the Glo network.

Anyone remember the per second billing issue? Thank God for Adenuga, a lot of us were finally able to Glo with Pride.

Glo too has come a long way from their innovative days, I understand they’ve been too busy laying cables and being the second national carrier (ehm, where is the first?). All I see nowadays are the faces of Jim Iyke, Dominic and others who I understand were actually smiling because of the cheques they received from Glo.

If you ask my son, he’ll probably tell you Etisalat is the best network in the world, I’m not sure if it is the soccer ball and other gifts he received from their Service Centre at The Palms, Lagos that influenced his decision but the fact is, he may just be right.

Again, I was probably among the first batch of people in Ibadan to pick up my reserved SIM for the network. They are the new kids on the block, that may account for the relatively higher rate of innovative and realistic products being introduced like the 15k call rate in the South South part of the country.

What I like about Etisalat?

CUSTOMER SERVICE. Very key. I subscribed to a N5000 monthly postpaid package called Elite World. For this, I get additional N750 worth of any network calls and 50MB data. More about the data later. Payment is due beginning of every month but they give you a 20 day grace period to make your payment. There was a particular month I did not make my payment even after the 20th. What did they do? Someone called me to ask why I hadn’t paid. I felt so touched, really I did. MTN would have yanked you off since.

The other day I was at their office at The Palms for some inquiries, I was attended to by Ibrahim, I guess he is their head. He really took his time to answer my questions and went an extra mile to call me back on my phone to give me aditional information. I intentionally mentioned his name, hoping that someone that matters there would commend him for his efforts.

What I don’t like about Etisalat?

The data service. I dont believe there has been any month I exhausted my data allocation, not because I don’t use it but because it is not always available, making rubbish of my push email. For August, 31MB out of my 50MB allocation was unused.

If you guys can improve on this, I will have no qualms giving the Arabs my money!


  • Lovely Post! What made me to have an Etisalat SIM is just becouse of their free 15MB Data Bundle when ever an Easy click Loads a recharge voucher of 200 naira within a week, but now, I use to get 30MB Within just a week using 400 naira recharge voucher. Now am talking,

    I gbadu MTN own so much cos of their high Hi-tech equipments and gadgets. They are the first telecommunication company that I called their customer care and they told me the type and the brand of the phone I were using and detected where I was calling them from….Truely Every where I go.

  • When last did any of you connect to an MTN customer support representative via their Helpline? 🙂 That’s my biggest beef. You call their 180 line and you hear a message that their reps are busy, before you’re disconnected immediately.

    • Help, i am been bombarded with spam. Having to sieve through can be a very daunting task. With this, i hope Oluniyi Ajao will accept my apology for his comment reflecting on this post after 3 days.

      I must confess, the last time i actively used MTN was over a year ago, and then, it was a known fact that 180 was not an option. Well, coming from the days when customer care lines was not toll free, i have never been used to calling their lines. I discovered their customercare email address, i used it for a while, the response time was ok, you are sure of a response within 24-48 hrs, quite fantastic by MTN standards.

      I dont know how far with glo, their postpaid customercare was probably the best. Guaranteed response within hours.

      • maghamid

        I have the worst experience with mtn,I paid for subscription of 10000 naira and I was never given any bundle to browse with for the whole month went to their office like every 2 day nothing happened,and I tried paying for subscription, they will send me a message that I have a active subscription but I could not browse when I check it will say I have no subscription then at the end of the subscription they sent me a text that my subscription has ended and I decided to pay for the nite plan 2500 naira and the same thing happen,since then I’ve been with glo and I’ve never had such problem.

  • spacyzuma

    I agree with you and henry.

    What MTN has is a very acute business sense, and control over the nigerian telecoms regulatory agencies (i believe). I wonder how the NCC can simply keep quiet and ignore all the evil MTN is doing in this nation. Glo is a great company. The just need to improve on their data & voice services, bring in technologies like DVB-H, initiate their fibre-optic network, etc.

  • MTN has been one of the worst networks in nigeria, at least in my books. They have a nasty way of doing business which in a more advanced country, they wouldn't dare to. There used to be a time mtn would make it so hard for their subscribers to call other networks they viewed as serious competition. First it was glo, and now they are doing it with etisalat. The curious thing is that, when calling mtn with another network, it connects easily and sometimes, more easily than calling within mtn's network. I do prefer etisalat over mtn, their customer care service is excellent (they once called me back to update me on an issue I had on my pre-paid line), plus the innovative packages they introduced, (I've been wondering when call-collect feature will be implemented here). If they keep on this path and improve on their not so good services (signal strength is still poor in some places), they will take over the market in a couple of years.

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