Network glitches: How cheap infrastructure wrecks MTN services | Bizness Watch

Network glitches: How cheap infrastructure wrecks MTN services

Despite recent investments in infrastructure upgrade, the quality of services offered by MTN Nigeria has reached the lowest ebb, no thanks to poor facilities deployed in the purported upgrade.

MTN invested $1.3 billion on the network upgrade in 2012 alone, a development which was supposed to enhance quality of its operations.

The telephony company embarked on an extensive network optimisation and swap-out exercise in June 2012, which is now at an advanced stage.

However, for most subscribers on the MTN network they have never had it so bad. Poor quality service continued at frustrating levels especially during festive season across the country.

In the South East it came close to system collapse as most people could not make or receive calls, while short messages continued to bounce back.

THE CITIZEN investigation showed that the ugly situation is traceable to the use of cheap products in the purported upgrading of its network by the service provider.

Sometime in 2012, MTN Nigeria and a Chinese based ZTE Corporation signed a contract to build GSM/UMTS networks in Nigeria. As part of the agreement, ZTE will help MTN Nigeria modernise and expand its mobile network in two of the country’s most economically developed regions by providing its innovative SDR-based Uni-RAN solution.

But according THE CITIZEN investigation, MTN decided to choose ZTE as its supplier principally to cut cost and not necessarily to improve its services.

MTN Nigeria, it was learnt, fell for ZTE whose offer was at a rate far cheaper than what other credible suppliers were ready to take but it was gathered that the quality of ZTE’s base transiting stations are not as rugged and efficient as the ones been changed.

Nevertheless, MTN Nigeria still settled for ZTE, with a projection that doing so would reduce its operating expenses by more than 50 per cent, which would also translate into a total cost of ownership saving over a s pan of seven years of 40 per cent after modernization. In addition, it was also learnt that ZTE offered the network an irresistible payment incentive that spans for five years which invariably swayed the juicy contract.

In all these, the subscribers’ interest and the primary goal of quality enhancement were traded off for cost-cutting.

MTN Nigeria, which controls about 48 per cent of the telephone subscribers in Nigeria, is the most profitable GSM Operator in the country at the moment.

Since the upgrade contract kicked in, MTN subscribers have not experience any improvement; rather they are groaning under worsening quality conditions.

It has become very difficult for its teeming subscribers to make smooth calls within and across networks.

THE CITIZEN reliably gathered that in the south-east for instance, the last two weeks was hell for most of the subscribers on the network as they faced challenges of incessant drop calls, call diversion, weak call signals to activate calls, poor voice clarity, delay in SMS delivery, among others.

The Nigerian Communications Commission recently conducted a Nationwide Benchmark Drive Test on MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat network and MTN was trailing other networks.

The research was the first of such tests and it concentrated on Call Completion Rate, which encompasses the major network Key Performance Indicators (call drop and congestion).

The service providers were ranked in Lagos and six Geo-Political zones of South-West, South-East, South-South, North-Central, North-East and North-West.

The study by NCC revealed that MTN finished third in three zones; namely North-Central with 74 per cent, South-South with 71 per cent, and North-East with 58 per cent. It was fourth in the other zones such as Lagos with 72 per cent, South-West with 72 per cent, North-West with 59 per cent, and South-East with 53 per cent.

Meanwhile, it is busy advertising that Posted about 63 days ago that  it has commenced network upgrade through its network modernisation and swap –out exercise, that will address the situation and put an end to subscriber challenges on its network.

But unfortunately even the areas already upgraded, poor quality of service has been on the increase in recent times without any improvement from the service provider.

According to Mrs. Chimobi, one of its subscribers based in Onitsha, Anambra State, her experience was very frustrating. She said that most times her calls could not connect, and her messages were either undelivered or took time to deliver. “The worst is that when you eventually get your calls through, you hardly hear the other side. Meanwhile, you will be charged throughout the duration of the calls,” she lamented.

She said that all her Christmas messages could not leave her phone until a few days after Christmas. “I have never seen a thing like that. I could not send Christmas wishes to my people and they thought it was deliberate, not knowing that it was network problem,” she said.

Another subscriber in Owerri, Imo state said that they had to drop the sim card for other networks and that was how they were able to reach out and were reached too. He said that for most people, the season was agonising because of poor quality service from network providers.

“I made frantic effort to call out. Not because there was no credit in my phone but due to bad network. It is something that NCC needs to look into. They come to Nigeria and are installing cheap equipments from China in the name of cost cutting, while the subscribers groan. This cannot continue this way,” said Mazi Okwuoma, a civil servant.

In the same vein, Sunday Asogwa, a student of Enugu State University of Science and technology told THE CITIZEN that he blames operators for poor service quality experienced in his neighborhood, which he said, was already affecting business in Enugu metropolis. He called on operators to come up with lasting solution to the continuous drop in service quality across networks.

All efforts to reach the General Manager, Corporate Communications for MTN, Mrs. Funmi Omogbenigun proved abortive.

(The Citizen)

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