Justice Godfrey Okamgba
The ambitious move by Ntel, former NITEL, to dominate the lucrative broadband market in Nigeria is now becoming a mission impossible as current poor customer service, lack of finance for network expansion, low server downtime pose the biggest threat confronting the 4G VoLTE provider, according to business a.m.’s investigations.
These impediments are strongly linked to inadequate finance to beef up operations, maintain a seamless customer service, and deepen network coverage in the three main cities it operates – Lagos where it currently has 72 percent coverage, Abuja (92%) and JUSTICE GODFREY OKAMGBA Page 2 Port Harcourt (60%).
“Some of the staff are leaving, contractors are complaining, while those still there are just managing, hoping that something good will come up,” a reliable source close to the matter told business a.m.
“In fact, one of the reasons Theophilus Danjuma was brought in as Ntel’s chairman, board of directors, was to leverage him for finance. And he has be assisting financially based on his capabilities but this is not a one man show,” the source added.
In three years of operation, Ntel has had different management and leadership changes ranging from the position of the chief executive to chairmanship of the board. Before Earnest Akinlola, the current CEO at Ntel, took over from Kamar Abas, his predecessor, Ntel was on the move to acquiring $1billion to invest on the 4G broadband network before 2020, having paid $252 million to acquire NITEL. However, since Akinlola assumed office, Ntel has been looking for a robust working capital to beef up its network and get to speed as some areas in Lagos are still not having access to the proposed 4G broadband. “I’m always talking to investors, potential investors. I knew, from the very get go that it’ll be challenging for an investor to look at our story around September and say, great, let’s put money in this,” Akinlola said in an interview in March 2018. The Ntel broadband experience has been worrying; the network starts off with blazing speed, rolls over the top and after a while, the speed drops and degenerate to a slow paced network resulting to total loss of signals for days before restoration.
Analyses of Ntel’s Facebook page reveals a pervading negative reputation as many customers make complaints ranging from total loss of signal, inability to activate lines for data usage and difficulty in accessing the website.
A text message and call put through to Akinlola, the company’s CEO by business a.m. were declined.
Ironically, Ntel has maintained a consistent growth trajectory on the number of Internet subscribers between July 2017 and May 2018, according to data by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). Ntel currently boasts of 6,833 active telephone lines and 76,155 active Internet subscribers as against 20,963 subscribers recorded in July 2017.
On kickoff, the expectations of subscribers were high on the grounds that they would be the last solution to affordable broadband in the country. Indeed, Ntel rolled out an unlimited family data plan at the rate of N8,500, which it has increased on three consecutive occasions to N17,500, representing more than 50 percent hike in three years.
While the pricing may not necessarily be an issue to some subscribers, but a proactive move towards resolving issues such as activation of data plans, stability of network where there is coverage already remain imperatives for Ntel.
Reuben Muoka, head public relations NCC, said if Ntel customers are having issues concerning service they need to complain to the NCC as there are different channels to do that.
“NCC does not micro manage telecom providers or speak for them on internal issues as Ntel is in a position to do that. However, the NCC will be open to any consumer complaints.”
Alfred Eguabor, a Lagos resident who works at British America Tobacco is one of the many Ntel customers who complained about the company’s services. He claims that getting his SIM card activated for a data plan has been a difficult task.
“I don’t have access to network even after 24 hours of fruitless effort to activate my line. I was told that I will receive email with activation links but I didn’t receive it,” he stated.
Positively, Akinlola has maintained a good Internet subscription data base on assumption of office while making strategic moves to repositioning Ntel for growth having partnered with some of the telcos for national roaming service that will push the network forward.
Few months ago, Akinola had a breakfast meeting with the members of Nigeria Information Technology Reporters’ Association (NITRA), where he maintained that national roaming would help Ntel acquire more customer base, having ventured into partnership with 9mobile and MTN.
However, the concern is that these strategic moves are yet to yield the urgent needed result in the ecosystem to at least ensure good service quality, which has been unstable.