Business Hilights
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4G everywhere, no ‘LTE’ to enjoy—Business Hilights investigation

No doubt, the true experiences of anxious Nigerian subscribers that have spend their hard earned money to buy 4G enabled smartphones and migrated to the platform are beginning to regret their action.

Reason, being they have not been able to get the real services they bargained for and nobody is talking to them or explaining what is happening including the networks that launched the services either.

From all indications, the 4G LTE recently rolled out by leading GSM networks are in acute limited availability and cannot give the needed experience as claimed by each of the networks when they rolled out.

The 4G is the fourth generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology, succeeding 3G. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, and 3D television.

In quick succession, the trio of Glo, MTN, and Etisalat rolled out the wireless communications standard designed to provide up to 10 times the speed of 3G networks for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, notebooks and wireless hotspots.

Since October 4, this year, when indigenous service provider, Globacom launched the service, they were immediately followed by South Africa-based MTN two days later, and the United Arab Emirates’ Etisalat more than one week later, subscribers have been trooping into the nearest shops of their service providers to migrate to the new wonder generation fast speed network.

The true position now is that most subscribers have been disappointed as it takes at least two to three hours of waiting at the friendship centres of the service providers to migrate, only to be upgraded into more hassles and worse communication and Internet frustrations.

One major complaint by many of the subscribers who have migrated to the new service has been the slow connection time of the 4G offerings across all the networks.

In a telephone interview with the chief executive officer of Spectranet, the pioneer driver of 4G LTE in Nigeria, Mr. David Venn, he missed no word in revealing the veiled truth of the matter.

He said all the major GSM networks that claimed that they have launched 4G LTE, did that to create a marketing gimmick because they are fully aware that they do not have all it takes to drive the technology for now.

He said “Many of them have launched 4G, but they have not got enough to really deliver the service. All of them have very patchy coverage which is insignificant to claim having launched 4G LTE”.

“Etislat announced they got 4G, but it is very few base stations that actually have 4G.

MTN said they got 2.6GHz to deliver 4G which is the one they bided for and got actually from NCC, but people for now do not have the enabling devices to use it.

He said the spread of the service from MTN is so patchy also because that frequency coverage does not go very far from base stations where they are installed. If you move around Lagos, you can hardly get much of the service signal.

“Then Glo, Glo has announced 4G nationwide which is ridiculous because as old as we are in the business of 4G, Spectranet haven’t gone nationwide.

While disclosing that his group, Spectranet which rolled out 4G LTE some years ago is still working on going nationwide, Venn made it clear that “All of them that jumped in and say they got 4G, they got 4G; actually they have not got it to the level that should warrant the noise they are making as I speak to Business Hilights now”.

“The main issue is that all of them got bits of it but not enough to make the kind of campaign they are carrying out because subscribers will be confused on what they will be getting when connected to their 4Gs.

Giving more insights to the challenge, President of Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engineer Teniola Olusola in a telephone interview explained that “What is actually happening is that the networks have launched the base stations and upgraded them to 4G LTE in some of their sites but not in all”.

“They have also in some cases launched new services that have been introduced LTEA, which is the more advanced 4G.

“But again, they have only launched it in limited base stations in select areas because economic situation and forex crisis in the country now are not favourable.

He said “Now we have new providers that have joined mobile network operators that have launched LTE for data services only. Some of them have also included voice known as voice LTE”.

“The Mobile network Operators (MNOs) Etisalat, MTN and Glo have upgraded some of their base stations and radio networks to now be 4G LTE compliant but it not everywhere.

Also, you have to know that some of the infrastructure in terms of having optic fibre to those base stations where they have upgraded 4G has been completed.

“So as we know currently in Nigeria, though many people can attest to it that when you go mobile internet in some areas its good and works fast and in some areas, it’s bad and ineffective.

“This is because the infrastructure for broadband and data is different for voice and sms. For voice it’s called narrow band, while for 3 and 4Gs it is called broadband.

“There is need for further investments in infrastructure for broadband to go round everywhere in the country, not only voice but also data. These are the issues we are facing right now. The main challenge is how do we find fund to continuously improve the 2G networks which is for voice, and 3G and 4G for broadband.

“This funding will take some time and money. So what subscribers are experiencing in some parts of Lagos and all other places that we are told that have 4G will take some time.

In summing, Olusola noted that “Currently, there are what I can call patches and pockets of 4G in Nigeria. We need time and money for 4G to be really up to the level of enjoyment for users”.

It would be recalled from a recent report released by Ovum, global telecoms survey agency said “In terms of its broadband development, Africa is the second-lowest ranked region in the world despite the big changes that have taken place in its telecoms market in recent years due to a combination of economic, infrastructure, and regulatory obstacles that continues to hold back progress”.

Ovum also noted that there is evidence that digital service strategies are beginning to pay off citing that Mobile Financial Services accounted for about 8% of MTN Group’s revenue in the first half of 2016, according to the telecom.

The research group added that to improve broadband, regulators and other authorities could do more to assign spectrum and licenses that would encourage the rollout of mobile broadband and bring Internet access and relevant data services to underserved audiences.

Accordingly, the Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta while at the recently concluded International Telecoms Union (ITU) conference in Thailand agreed to the fact that even though Nigeria has hit 21 per cent so far, “investments will be needed for 3G, 4G and to take services to under-served and un-served regions of Nigeria,” stressing that “we need to deploy infrastructure to those areas that have no services, we understand that and the strategy to address them hence we came out with the eight-point agenda to address this.”