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TMCNet:  Shoddy Network Rollout, Planning As Bane of Telecoms Sector

[January 11, 2013]

Shoddy Network Rollout, Planning As Bane of Telecoms Sector

(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Emma Okonji examines how shoddy network rollout and planning by telecoms operators became the bane of the telecommunications sector, resulting in the poor service offerings across networks When Econet Wireless (now Airtel) and MTN first rolled out commercial services in 2001, the launch of Globacom two years later, and the subsequent launch of Etisalat in 2008, little did Nigerians know that a decade later, their networks which were once adjudged the fastest growing networks in the world, would be fraught with inconsistency and poor telecoms service offerings, as witnessed throughout last year.



Shoddy Network Planning Worried by the whole scenario, an expert in the telecoms sector, who preferred not to be named, has advised telecoms operators to go back to the drawing board and trace the missing links.

The expert, who attributed the whole issue to accumulated network challenges since the rollout by various telcos, said all the networks were built in a hurry, not taking into consideration, the expansion plans that would have accommodated more subscribers as the network grew.

According to him, apart from the hurried nature that characterised the building of the networks, supervision of the networks were also poorly managed and as such, the trial testing and commissioning was imperfect. All these, he said, started manifesting as the networks grew.

According to him, "If one Base Transceiver Station (BTS), otherwise known as base station, is imperfectly built, and the same thing applies to another, there is a likely tendency that their imperfections will rub off on other base stations, and it goes on and on like that, creating room for network congestion and poor service quality." The expert, who has managed the technical departments of major network operators in the country, said his opinion was based on practical experience he had with the building of several networks. He advised telecoms operators to go back to the drawing board, to trace the root cause of network challenges across board.

He dismissed suggestions from some quarters that substandard equipment from telecoms vendors may be the cause of the network challenge.

NCC's Position Having tried several avenues to address and arrest the ugly situation that has bedevilled the telecoms sector in the last one and a half years, the NCC came to the conclusion that the networks had become congested as a result of increased participation in telecoms promos and lotteries.

Director, Public Relations at NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, had in October last year, announced the decision of NCC to place an indefinite ban on all telecoms promos and lotteries, following the increased network challenges, which the commission blamed on promos and lotteries.

According to Ojobo the decision became necessary, following increased congestion across networks that was traced to incessant promos and lotteries. The ban, Ojobo said, would cover all proposed and approved promotions and lotteries on which the commission had given approval further to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) entered into with the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC).

Unfortunately, nothing was done by NCC to review and inspect the quality of network upgrades undertaken by the telecoms operators.

Operators' Position Although the operators are as concerned as the regulator and the subscribers, they have said government has to take a share of the blame for not investing in a telecoms infrastructure backbone before operators were licensed. They pointed out that after licensing, government would have used the proceeds for telecoms infrastructure rollout, and blamed government for sharing the proceeds among the three tiers of government, a position that government had since admitted to.

Although Corporate Services Executive for MTN, Mr. Wale Goodluck, had told Nigerians that the MTN ongoing nationwide network modernisation process that is expected to last till the end of the first quarter of this year, would address the challenges immediately the exercise is completed, subscribers are becoming sceptical of such assurances, since there seems to be no end in sight to poor network quality.

Indeed, in spite of the modernisation exercise started since July last year, there are no improvements on the MTN network a few months to the end of the modernisation exercise. Similarly, operators such as Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat, that have equally promised better network service offerings, have fallen short of expectations.

The Backlash Emma Okonji examines how shoddy network rollout and planning by telecoms operators became the bane of the telecommunications sector, resulting in the poor service offerings across networks The effect of poor telecoms service offerings has been so devastating that subscribers have lost confidence in the operators' ability to deliver and improve on service quality. From subscribers' inability to recharge phones with airtime, to their inability to make of conclude calls, many have written off the network operators as abject failures.

One aspect that they find unfathomable is that they are charged by the network operators for unsuccessful calls. Mr. John Oladele, a Lagos State civil servant who narrated his ordeal, said operators must be forced to refund all monies charged for calls not completed and for unsuccessful calls.

"How would normal operators still have the guts to bill subscribers, when they try to make calls, but cannot hear the recipient of the call, yet the recipient hears the caller, he queried. That, as far as I am concerned, is communication breakdown as a result of network failure and it becomes a criminal offence for any operator to still charge for such kind of abnormal calls," he said.

Copyright This Day. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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