Number portability will spur competition, innovation, says Evans

by | March 12, 2013 8:21 am



The Nigerian Communications Commission has expressed its commitment toward implementing the much anticipated mobile number portability in the first quarter of 2013. In what way will the scheme help to sustain the successes recorded in the telecoms industry? What is the level of Etisalat’s network preparedness for the scheme? 

Mobile number portability will drive competition and with competition comes innovation. That innovation will lead to the development of exciting products and services for the benefit of the customer, making the customer the ultimate winner. Etisalat is ready for mobile number portability. Year on year, we have continued to build new sites to cover more regions and provide the best coverage on our network. We are also increasing capacity to provide end user experience and better service delivery. So yes, we are ready for MNP.

Operators for long have complained that Nigeria’s poor business environment is slowing down network expansion initiatives. What are these critical drawbacks hindering operators from making the needed investments in network expansion? What is the way forward? 

The way forward to this challenge is government intervention in providing the right environment for investors and operators alike. This process can begin with bridging the Infrastructural gap, providing a favourable tax environment for investments and expediting approval of permits and rights of way, amongst other things.

How much is Etisalat Nigeria investing in network expansion and upgrades in 2013? How many base transceiver stations does Etisalat currently have? How many does Etisalat intend to build in 2013? 

Network roll-out is an ongoing process. At the close of 2012, we had deployed about 3,000 base stations and, we continue to increase our base stations by about 1,000 units, year-on-year. It will be no different this year. We signed some contracts with Huawei and Alcatel Lucent at the end of 2012 and beginning of this year for this purpose.

The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has just ended. Many telecoms operators have called on device manufacturers to provide $10 price points for mobile broadband dongles and $30 price points for smartphones. In your view, how can this help improve internet adoption in the emerging markets? 

With low prices comes increased demand of products and services, so the introduction of low-cost dongles and smartphones by manufacturers could be one of the ways to improve internet adoption in emerging markets. That said, a major milestone which Etisalat achieved at the Mobile World Congress was entering into a partnership with Mahindra Comviva. The partnership when launched in Nigeria will enable Etisalat provide low-cost USSD messaging service including access to email, social networking and messaging services, to basic mobile devices and feature phones at very affordable prices.

Mobile operators already believe that existing wireless service such 3G and WiMax will not be a definitive solution to Nigeria’s internet access problem. They are looking at LTE because it enables service well beyond mundane voice and data services. What is the market potential for LTE vis-a-vis mobile application development and broadband service delivery? 

Local content and e-commerce are key to stimulating the use of broadband internet. Every facet of the economy can benefit from the use of mobile applications and broadband services. Etisalat through its Prize for Innovation is at the forefront of developing local content and mobile applications which will enhance ways in which government ministries, educational institutions and the private sector operate. The Etisalat Prize for Innovation awarded in two categories (the most innovative product and the most innovative idea) rewards corporate organisations; small and growing businesses, as well as individuals developing advanced mobile broadband solutions and platforms which will boost the growth of mobile broadband in Africa.

What are the constraint to the adoption and implementation of LTE in Nigeria? What do you expect the telecoms regulator to play in this regard? 

Lack of infrastructure – power, transmission, transport, security and adverse local operating environments remain a bottleneck to the development of telecommunications services including LTE deployment. Broadband spectrum is the major constraint for the implementation of LTE in Nigeria. We urge the government to work hard to release more frequency spectrum. The Ministry of Communications Technology is actively pursuing the conversion from analogue to digital and there is hope that the process will free up critical spectrum resource within the 460 – 790 MHz frequency band.

Etisalat’s Easy wallet was named the best mobile money product in the Global Mobile Awards 2013, what factor do you think was responsible for that award? 

Innovation plays an important part in Etisalat’s operations at the Group level and in Nigeria. Simplicity they say is the ultimate sophistication, Easywallet is innovative yet simple. Easywallet is the first fully secure Mobile Money SIM Application offered to customers with the Easywallet application installed on their SIM cards. This innovative mobile application supports multiple languages – English, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba and works across all makes and models of phones, smartphones and even tablet devices.

The Mobile World Congress witnessed Etisalat’s signing of several agreements including its renewal of its sponsorship deal with FC Barcelona. What does that sponsorship signify for Etisalat? 

Etisalat renewed its partnership with FC Barcelona for another four years, making it the official partner in the UAE, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Niger, Gabon and Central Africa Republic. The FCB partnership creates a suitable platform to connect with customers across segments that are passionate about international football. Etisalat will continue to support the development of sports in Nigeria and provide platforms such as this to key into the passion of Nigerians.

BEN UZOR JR