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Dealing with Perennial Poor Quality of Service

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Telecommunications - Investors King
  • Dealing with Perennial Poor Quality of Service

The issue of poor service quality reared up its ugly head for the first time in 2006, after the expiration of the five-year exclusivity period granted the first set of licensed telecoms operators that rolled out in 2001, and since then it has been a recurrent issue, writes Emma Okonji.

When Econet Wireless Nigeria (now Airtel Nigeria) first rolled out its telecommunication commercial services on August 8, 2001, followed by MTN Nigeria, a week after, the quality of service was awesome and without hitches.

The quality was maintained even after Globacom rolled out in 2003, and Nigerians were pleased with the service, which was mainly dominated by voice calls. At that time a caller will generate a call at one dial and will connect easily to the call recipient and discussions done in several minutes without each party experiencing drop calls. There was no network congestion then that would warrant drop calls and subscribers were happy with network operators. Within this period, subscriber number was not much, compared to what it is today. Total subscribers’ number was less than 5 million at that time, but today there are over 150 million connected lines.

But shortly after the expiration of the five-year exclusivity period, precisely in 2006, telecoms subscribers started experiencing poor service quality, ranging from drop calls, inability to recharge, call diversion, poor voice clarity, to inability to make successful calls.

The situation continued and degenerated as more subscribers were registered, and subscribers complained.

When Etisalat was eventually registered in 2008, and it rolled out its services in 2008, its network appeared better than that of existing operators, but Etisalat started suffering the same poor quality, few years after, when its subscribers’ number increased rapidly.

Telecoms experts have blamed network congestion on the inability of operators to expand their networks, commensurate with the number of subscribers they register on their networks, while others have blamed the situation on obsolete telecoms facilities that do not have the capacity to accommodate the expanded subscribers’ number.

Disturbed by the situation, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) came up with all manners of measures to address the issue, including sanctions, but the issue of poor service quality persisted across networks.

NCC’s Recent Measures

Worried by the degenerating quality of service (QoS) provided by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and other service providers, the NCC, recently came up with new measures to address the ugly trend, which appears endless.

As part of new measures to cushion the situation and ameliorate the recurrent inaccessibility to foreign exchange (forex) by operators, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, told the operators that the commission had written to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and he was favourably disposed to addressing the forex needs of the operators.

Specifically, as a follow-up to the letter, the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management at NCC, Mr. Sunday Dare, had a meeting with CBN Governor and extracted a commitment from him on how he hoped to address the forex needs of the operators.

Danbatta, who spoke with the operators in Abuja during an interactive session on service quality delivery which NCC management had with operators, said since the NCC had declared 2017 as the year of the consumer, all hands should be on deck for telecom consumers to have a fresh lease to high quality of service. “The consumer has to be treated with dignity,” Danbatta added, saying the “8-point agenda drives this point home.”

The NCC, he explained, has put measures in place to check and monitor QoS on various networks “and we have sent this report to our task force on QoS and have been interacting with governments at different levels as part of the measures to deal with the poor QoS”.

Danbatta admonished the operators and co-location service operators to provide suggestions on how to address the situation.

Earlier, NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Mr. Ubale Maska said, QoS has been a great concern as consumers inundate the commission with complaints.

“It requires everybody’s input if the situation has to be redressed, hence 2017 has been declared the year of the Consumer,” Maska said.

NCC Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity (DTSNI), Dr. Fidelis Ona, explained that the commission was aware of some of the challenges which include Right of Way (RoW), difficulty in acquiring new cell sites, multiple taxation and regulation, vandalism, power supply among others.

“We are engaging stakeholders, including Industry Working Group on Quality of Service, special committee on Counter Harmonization to address this,” Ona said.

NCC’s Head, Quality of Service Unit, Edoyemi Ogoh, in his presentation traced poor quality of service to fibre cuts, community issues, among others.

He said in October 2016, operators experienced 175 cuts across the nation while they recorded 180 cuts in November and 103 in December, 2016. There were 113 community issues in October 2016, 74 in November and 133 in December, adding that fibre cuts and community issues remain major drawbacks for QoS.

Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at MTN Nigeria, Mr. Hassan Jamil, expressed happiness with the interactive session, and said it would help the regulator to know the situation on a one-on-one basis.

Subscribers’ Pains

The issue of poor service quality has caused a great deal of pains to subscribers. At every consumer parliament organised by NCC, consumer complaints on poor service quality always take the centre stage. Most subscribers at some point in time will remain incommunicado, especially at festive periods like Yuletide, because they could not make calls as a result of network congestion. Some text messages were delivered days after the messages were sent, and at the time the message would be received, the essence of sending the message which had been billed, would have been defeated.

In order to address the challenges, the Chief Executive Officer of Teledom Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, called for increased access to ubiquitous broadband across the country. In a similar vein, the President of National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOM), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, also called for increase in the number of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), otherwise known as base stations. Ogunbanjo said Britain with a population of less than Nigeria’s 180 million people, has over 65,000 base stations, while Nigeria is still struggling to maintain about 20, 000 base stations across the country.

Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, however called for growth in local content development in the telecoms sector, which he said would boost telecoms growth among small indigenous players. He said Nigeria should be able to address its collective challenges, to enable telecoms subscribers enjoy the achievements of the sector, since the rollout of GSM services in the country in 2001.

Economic Loss

Both the operators and subscribers suffer economic loss, once there is network congestion that affects successful calls. According to the operators, they are never happy when there is network congestion because what that means is loss of revenue for the operators since people will not be able to make calls and browse the internet.

In the same manner, subscribers who have business calls to make that could fetch them good money, will end up losing funds in the process.

Operators’ Position

Telecoms operators who attended the recent meeting with the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, listed some of their challenges as it relates to poor service quality, and made some suggestions on how to address the issue. They were of the view that scarcity of dollar has worsened the situation, and has resulted to their inability to import equipment to boost network expansion. According to them, we can’t transmit forex to vendors, we have issues with incessant fibre cuts, community related challenges, scarcity of diesel to power base stations, Right of Way issues with different layers of government in the regions, as well as sabotage at different levels. “We planned to install 100 sites for Abuja this year, but after a very long time, we were only able to build six because of the bottlenecks of getting approvals and until we resolve these, quality of service will be a mirage,” the operators told Danbatta at the recent meeting.

The issue of poor service quality, no doubt, is affecting both the operators and the subscribers, and the onus lies on NCC to find a lasting solution to it, in order to bring hope alive.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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MainOne, West Africa’s Leading Carrier-neutral Data Center Provider to Unveil Data Center in Appolonia City, Accra

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MainOne, the leading provider of connectivity, cloud and data center solutions in West Africa is set to launch the  Appolonia Data Center of its subsidiary, MDXi.

The new facility which is located 20 kilometers from the center of Accra, Ghana will expand MainOne’s already robust infrastructure and service profile in West Africa. It was built to cater to the increasing demand for colocation and interconnection services by multinationals and businesses seeking shared services for their ICT resources in a world-class facility.

Speaking on the upcoming launch, Gbenga Adegbiji, Chief Operating Officer, MDXi stated that “Appolonia Data Center is a state of the art facility that is being built to the highest standards required for todays digital infrastructure and consistent with the MainOne brand. With the assurance of high quality of service designed to meet business requirements for digital colocation and cloud infrastructure, the Appolonia (Accra) Data Centre will provide a highly secured,resilient and scalable solution for our customers’’. Adegbiji further said “the operations of the Uptime Tier III certified Appolonia data center will be based on the global MDXI Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) which have been proven with 100% facility uptime of the Lekki Data Centre since its launch in 2015.”

Set for launch in June 2021, the 100-rack Appolonia Data Center offers customers the opportunity to host infrastructure in a facility guaranteed to provide high levels of availability and rich connectivity with a global network of customers, partners and suppliers thus ensuring 24×7 online delivery of services to businesses.

“We established this Data Center in Ghana to bring the highly sought services which MainOne is known for closer to institutions in the country,” Emmanuel Kwarteng, Country Manager, MainOne Ghana noted. “We are confident that the Data Center will not only deliver state-of-the-art services, but also create jobs and ultimately contribute to the economic growth of Ghana.” All data center staff are directly employed by the company and are trained on the latest technology deployed to keep the data center running smoothly. There are staff dedicated to monitoring all critical systems in the data center to ensure that proactive actions are taken to guarantee availability on 24X7X365 basis.

The Appolonia Data Center has also been fitted with high-definition CCTV motion detection cameras, laser-based perimeter intrusion detection systems, and three levels of security barriers before access to computer rooms. Access to the data center is restricted to pre-authorized individuals with identification only and there is an access management system to record access history for audit purposes.

A dedicated service delivery team assists customers with onboarding and ongoing service management. Remote Hands and Eyes Support services are available for customers to troubleshoot or perform various maintenance activities to ensure their equipment operates as expected while allowing our customers focus on their core business.

The Data Center will be unveiled in the coming weeks and open to multi sector businesses and industries across Ghana.

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Global VC Investments in Marketplaces Nearly Triple to Historical High of $28 Billion in Q1 2021

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Marketplaces are continuing to benefit from shifts born out of the pandemic and show no signs of slowing down.

According to the research data analyzed and published by Definanzas, global VC investments into marketplaces hit a new all-time high in Q1 2021. It rose almost threefold from $9.9 billion in Q1 2020 to $28 billion in Q1 2021. It is also $4 billion higher than the previous record.

Based on a Be STF projection, global marketplace sales are set to grow at a 20% CAGR between 2020 and 2025. In that period, the figure will rise from $3.5 trillion to $8.8 trillion. Their share of online sales will also grow, going from 19% to 24%.

Marketplace Unicorns’ Valuation More than Doubles to $5 Trillion

Besides the massive increase in VC funding into marketplace, unicorn valuations in the space have also surged remarkably. From $2.2 trillion in January 2019, the figure soared by 70% to $5 trillion in Q1 2021.

81 new unicorns joined the ranks in 2020, bringing the total number to 370. Among them, the top 30 marketplace unicorns account for 79% of total valuation or $3.9 trillion. That marked a $1.6 trillion increase in valuation.

According to eMarketer, eCommerce accounted for a 7.4% share of total retail sales globally in 2015. The figure rose to 13.6% in 2019, posting a huge increase to 18% by 2020. It is set to rise further to19.5% in 2021 and 21.8% by 2024.

B2C sales accounted for 53% of total B2C online sales in 2020 or $2.45 trillion. It will grow at a 14% CAGR between 2020 and 2025 to $4.723 trillion, accounting for a 61% share of the total. On the other hand, B2B sales, which had a 7% share and a $1 trillion valuation in 2020, will grow at a 32% CAGR in the same period. The remarkable growth will drive its total valuation to $4 trillion and the segment’s share to 14%.

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Global Autonomous Car Market to Grow by 36% and Hit a $37B Value by 2023

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Over the last five years, major carmakers, tech giants, and start-ups have invested more than $50bn into autonomous vehicle (AV) technology. Although there have been many financial, practical, and scientific challenges in developing these vehicles, the entire market continues growing, with many autonomous cars expected to be on the roads in the following years.

According to data presented by BuyShares, the global autonomous car market is expected to grow by 36% in the next two years and hit a $37bn value by 2023.

5.4 Million Cars With At least Level 3 Autonomy on the Roads by 2023

Autonomous cars use radar, lidar or GPS technology, and computer vision to sense their environment. The advanced control systems integrated into the car can interpret the sensory inputs to detect signboards or prevent collisions.

Although fully autonomous cars are unlikely to reach wide acceptance any time soon, Level 2 and Level 3 autonomous cars, which use collision detection, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control, are expected to witness rapid growth.

In 2019, the global autonomous car industry was worth $24.1bn, revealed the Research and Markets data. Last year, the market shrunk by some 3% due to the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19. In 2021, however, the market is forecast to recover and start growing, reaching over $27bn value.

Statistics also showed that in 2019, some 1.4 million vehicles with at least Level 3 autonomy were sold worldwide. This figure is set to reach 2.7 million in 2021 and continue growing to 5.4 million by 2023.

Fully autonomous cars will not reach a wide customer base unless they are completely safe from cyber-attacks. If such concerns are solved, the autonomous car market is estimated to hit 58 million sold units by 2030.

44% of Drivers Willing to Use a Fully Autonomous Car, Safety Issues the Biggest Concern

Overcoming technological hurdles is not enough for autonomous vehicles to take off. People need to feel comfortable about riding in an autonomous vehicle to use them and buy them.

The 2021 Global Automotive Mobility Study revealed customers worldwide had similar attitudes towards autonomous cars regardless of their level of automation. Around 47% of respondents were willing to use a semi-autonomous vehicle, while 44% said they would use a fully autonomous car.

Still, the biggest concern regarding these vehicles was safety. Around 61% of respondents were worried about potential safety issues due to machine error, and some 51% of them were concerned about safety issues due to human error. Liability ranked as the third major concern with a 38% share among respondents.

One-third of consumers were unsure whether the technologies necessary for autonomous vehicles are advanced enough, while 30% of them worried about data security and privacy.

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