By Aniefiok Ikoh
Nigeria was at the crossroads when Globacom showed up on the scene two years after GSM operations began. At that time, the telecoms terrain was still rough and rocky for the subscriber and the potential subscriber; tariffs were prohibitive.
Nigerians who are culturally very warm people love to greet, talk and greet again but the epileptic services at that time made conversations difficult and Nigerians became a “yes…, no…,” people on the phone. The epileptic services combined with the high tariff of N50 per minute to make the use of the telephone more of annoyance than pleasure. Often a call would drop just a few seconds after connection and that meant N50 already spent even for a call that lasted just five or less seconds. The joy of having the telephone was nearly marred by the resulting fury and frustrations; many fought at public phone kiosks (or umbrellas) and some almost lost their lives.
Indeed coverage was limited to a few cities. It was into this landscape that Glo was born, August 29, 2003.
The first set of licenses were issued for the operation of mobile telephony using the General System for Mobile GSM–protocol in 2000 at $284 million with two companies setting up shop and commencing operation in 2001. Econet Wireless (now Airtel) in June and Multinational Telecommunications Network, better known as MTN in August, were providing mobile telephony services to a limited area of the country. A third operator, Mtel, was tagging along, albeit sluggishly.
Before the establishment of the GSM market, the national carrier, NITEL, enjoyed unfettered monopoly. But the new lease of life began with the deregulation of telecommunications services in 1992 through the promulgation of Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Decree No. 75 of 1992, introducing private participation in the provision of telecommunications services in Nigeria, thus ending the state-owned NITEL’s monopoly of the sector and ushering in competition.
After the roll-out of MTN, Econet and Mtel, teledensity rose rapidly and consistently from 0.49; telephone lines became easier to obtain and service quality moved up some notches. Generally, it was a difference between light and darkness, but it was not yet high noon.
All but one of the companies that applied for operating licences got licences and began operations. CIL lost its bid to become an operator in the new GSM dispensation.
Globacom, the fourth entrant into the field, rose from the ashes of CIL and was eventually awarded the Second National Operator, SNO, licence in 2002 to provide telecommunications services under the following categories: Digital Mobile Licence (GSM), National Carrier Licence (fixed and fixed wireless), International Gateway Licence and Online services. The company was offered a licence as a National Operator, the second National operator after NITEL.
It rolled out its mobile service, Glo Mobile, on August 29, 2003 with pocket-friendly offerings, which immediately endeared the network to the people.
The impact of the entry of Globacom into the market was immediate and far-reaching. The new entrant immediately began to charge per second, thereby enabling Nigerians to make calls with ease without pains. Competition followed suit. The market pacified and nerves were calmed.
Also soon after, Globacom introduced the N1 SIM, thereby lowering entry point into telephone ownership. I remember I bought my first line (not Glo) for N30, 000 and I was offered a very low grade handset with the starter pack.
Eight years on, Nigerians are still grateful to Globacom for forcing down cost of acquisition, and tariffs for telecoms services. But that was just the beginning in a long list of innovations to be introduced by the wholly indigenous network owned by business mogul, Mike Adenuga.
The company rolled out on superior, more up-to-date technology and catalysed the technological development of the telecoms sector. From the legacy technology that was the standard before Glo came, Adenuga’s company was instrumental to the upgrading of network technology in the industry and the introduction of contemporary value added services in the sector.
Glo rolled out on a 2.5G network when the industry standard was 2G. With this advantage, Glo was able to roll out a variety of value added products like Multimedia Messaging Services, MMS, text to e-mail, Magic Plus, vehicle tracking, M-banking, etc, while the network in August 2006 became the first to launch and operate the Blackberry service in Nigeria.
The launch of the Blackberry has been said by some to complete the curve of Globacom’s clientele – from the poor to the rich. From Classic package to the flagship Maximizer, from voice calls to video conferencing, from multimedia messaging to vehicle tracking. Glo is said to meet everybody’s need.
In addition to these, Glo was the first to do a public test of the 3G network in June 2008
As if these were not enough, Globacom among all the telecoms firms, is the only one to own and run a submarine cable which hugs the west coast of Africa and snakes under the Atlantic to Bude in the United Kingdom and with a hub in the United States of America.
Mr Ikoh, a communications consultant, wrote from Lagos