Nigeria: Once Upon Time, When the Networks arrived

The mobile phone got into Nigeria officially in 2001 and along with it came two private telecommunications network namely, MTN and Econet, now known as Airtel.

The advent of these private networks led to the folding up of indigenous telecommunications like Nitel (Land Phones that's what we called it) with wires connecting your land phone to NITEL portal close by.

Lack of foresight and ingenuity were part of the factors that led to the dissolution of the company.

Back to the issue at hand and the privately owned telecoms.

MTN which was a company originating from South Africa was the first to arrive on Nigerian soil(Popular opinion) followed by Econet.

During this time, an MTN sim card sold for nothing less than #30,000 while some pioneer subscribers bought theirs  for #50,000. The same with Econet.

The call rate was so high that the common act of "flashing" was synonymous to "calling" in those days because the networks were certainly going to deduct your credit

Calling a customer care centre was not free and yet they didn't pick up early.

Messaging was #15 per message.

International calls were just beyond reach for the middle class and the lower class. This was the time of exploitation and these networks took advantage of the ignorance of Nigerians who were being introduced into the digital space

If you lost your sim, that was another story entirely. You had to bring police report, affidavit and all sorts of unnecessary paperwork. Then these networks coined another way to exploit Nigerians through Internet Services(GPRS)

Nigerians were thrilled! They could connect to other people from various parts of the world but it was at such a high price and discomfort.

Before you could get internet settings on your phone, it was a tough struggle for Nigerians at the time. And if you got lucky, the network would have the settings for your device if you were using the popular phones at the time,  BlueBird, Thuraya, Samsung (bluelight), Sagem, Ericsson, NEC, Nokia etc or whatever phone you were using.

If you weren't, it is either you visited their offices at V.I or some far place to get the settings or you don't get them at all.

At this time, Nigerians browsed with their money, there was nothing like Data, Mb, Gb, etc and Nigerians at the time did not consume that much data because majority used it to check their yahoo mail i.e if your phone was that advanced or used it to download pictures of their favourite international actress or actor, musician or checked 2go or Facebook at a later period.

Nigerians were being exploited and yet they didn't know that they were.

So, 5 years after these networks came in, other indigenous networks started emerging and this led to the drastic reduction in the prices of Sim cards to as low as #100, and this marked the beginning of the freebies era.

Imagine, the reduction, from #30,000 to #100, what happened?

The drastic change in price should have marked losses for the companies but no they were going stronger. They already took the bonuses from us before giving us the freebies and they reduced the price to increase customer base. So they lost nothing by reducing the price.

Now 15 years after, internet and data in Nigeria is everything.

Prior to this time, Nigerians would buy data for 200mb as high as #500, 10Mb for #100.

This continued until the social media revolution age whereby Nigerians need for data increased. So the networks decided to reduce the stronghold on data by increasing the data but not reducing the price.

However, there was a network which I must note in this article and that is Visaphone.

This network came after the 2 pioneer networks. it operated on the CDMA platform i.e it was a land  line on a mobile phone which means , no fibre or wires and after this came networks like Multilinks etc. but Visaphone never really got positive feedback from Nigerians in terms of patronage.

The 2 pioneers had already taken a larger share of the subscribers and were not relenting in getting more subscribers.

One of the factors that caused the bad feedback for Visaphone was that it's call service was not as good as mobile networks like MTN and Econet but when the internet craze began , Majority of Nigerians was oblivious to the fact that while these major networks were charging such high prices for meagre data. Visaphone was giving unlimited data at a fixed and affordable price which is exactly how it is supposed to be done.

For instance, in the First world countries, there is enough data transmission and wifi is virtually everywhere you go and that is why "information" passes faster there and hacking is easier( No pun intended)

Data quantification is a major setback for Nigeria's social media generation and every other Nigeria that needs data on a daily basis.

Late this year, Visaphone which was formerly owned by Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia, was recently acquired by MTN.

So those who were using unlimited data now have to revert to other networks exploitative data plans ( Although the Glo network according to popular opinion has been fair with its data service).

The question is how long before this network revert to unlimited data for a fixed price in Nigeria?


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