Globacom, Nigeria’s first indigenous Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is 16, and we can say in every sense of the word that the telecoms giant has come of age. So, what has the past 16 years been like for the company and millions of its subscribers, one may wish to ask?
To some, Glo, as it is mostly called, was that saving grace subscribers needed to survive what appeared as Shylock tendencies of earlier GSM companies that were mostly foreign-owned.
Although Globacom was launched two years after the other GSM companies, it has been able to achieve what seemed impossible before. A Nigerian company that was not given a chance at launch, Glo has dominated a sector that was thought to be for foreigners.
Before its coming, existing operators had subjected subscribers to paying N50 flat rate for calls per minute, whether they spent up to a minute or not. This also applied to drop calls, which was by no means the fault of the subscribers. The claim then was that it would be impossible to bill subscribers per second.
That hoax, however, was busted with the coming of Glo, which pioneered per second billing system in Nigeria in 2003 when older networks said it was impossible until 2008. As a result, telephone users in the country now pay for actual time spent on phone.
It is also worthy to note that Globacom’s introduction of the billing platform at launch in 2003 caused a stir in the industry and ensured that people only paid for actual time spent on phone, a development that was regarded as the most innovative landmark intervention in the communications industry since the introduction of GSM services in Nigeria in 2001.
Indeed, Glo made telephone accessible to millions of Nigerians, considering also that before launching its services, GSM lines were selling for between N20, 000 and N25, 000, which many could not afford. This was brought down to N7, 000 by Glo with an average cost of GSM line now N100.
Thus, as leading march to Nigeria’s digital future, the indigenous telecommunication company is building a resilient brand, in terms of investments in new technologies, which have given it an edge in the market, stature, perception, offerings, investment in subscribers and society.
According to its handlers, as a brand that offers subscribers the best in the market, it is also enriching customer-experience on the network in terms of installing the best technology and lifestyle-changing products and services. To that regard, it is said to have scaled up offerings to its subscribers by upgrading its equipment for better voice and data service delivery.
With this and many other achievements recorded in the past 16 years, Glo may as well be the Sweet Sixteen of Nigeria’s telecommunications industry. And so, the wholly indigenous Nigerian company has every reason to celebrate the coming of age and entering a different stage of life.
That is why in places like the United States and Canada, for instance, a “sweet sixteen” is celebrated by 16-year-old girls, as a rite of passage. It traditionally marks their transition into womanhood and is a formal event that welcomes the girls into a new stage of maturity.
While most young girls view their sweet sixteen celebrations just as important as first dates, proms, graduations and moving out of their parents’ homes, a lot others actually think of it like women think of their weddings.
Although not yet legally an adult, at 16, many girls in the United States where the sweet sixteen tradition is observed, learn to drive, can get jobs and assume other adult responsibilities. In other words, it is a celebration of womanhood and marks the end of a girl’s childhood.
In most other parts of the world, the term is used to describe a charming, dashing young girl of 16 years now set to take on bigger responsibilities in life.
In the same context, Globacom as the “sweet sixteen” of the telecoms company in Nigeria is roaring and stepping into the next level of making all the difference in the industry. Given the positive impacts it has made so far, it is only expected that the telecom giant, regarded by many as the game changer in the industry, will sooner than later, achieve its goal of becoming a one-stop telecommunications solutions provider in the country. Already, it has launched its fixed line services to this effect.
From putting telephone in the hands of the masses, to pioneering lifestyle-changing products and services and making massive infrastructural investments that have redefined how the people live, communicate, socialise, work and do business, Glo has definitely made telecommunications the cornerstone of the people’s lives.
Before its coming, I was one of those that bought GSM SIM card for a whopping N20, 000! This was sometime in late 2001 or early 2002. Looking back now, it sounds so ludicrous that I actually paid N20, 000 for a SIM card that is almost free today.
For me then, it was an exercise planned over many days of fear, or worry, if you like. I was so scared of the long queues that were synonymous with the exercise at the time. Friends and colleagues that had scaled the hurdle came back, narrating their ordeal of spending nearly the whole day, with their hard earned N20, 000 (some even paid more) that may be equivalent to N2 million today, just to get a GSM line!
And so, I planned, re-planned and planned again to make this move I knew was so important, not just for the fun of owning a GSM line but also because of the benefits in terms of communication, which then would be like moving away from darkness to light.
Nonetheless, I eventually made it, got myself a line for N20, 000, after I had earlier bought a cell phone at the Amsterdam International Airport, Schiphol, that cost another arm and a leg for me at the time. Cost for the analogue phone was about N30, 000, when converted.
And because I did not want my line to be cut off, or recovered, as was the case then when the phone is not in use for a period of 90 days, I had to hand it over to someone to be using, mid 2002, while I was away from the country for a six-month programme.
Sadly, I paid dearly for the gesture because by the time I came back, my phone had gone through the roughest side of life. It was in such a horrible shape that I just had to change it.
I decided to narrate this story just to remind that today; I am traveling with my phone and actually using it in virtually any part of the world I find myself by simply roaming the line(s) at no cost at all, which was a rarity at the time in review.
To this regard, Globacom, especially, has not just made such products and services available; it has also made them affordable to the mass of Nigerians. Data, which is like oxygen that drives life today, has been made available also and affordable, courtesy of Glo 1 submarine cable that crashed the cost of Internet bandwidth.
As leading Nigeria’s march to digital future, Glo is building a resilient brand, in terms of investments in new technologies, which have given it an edge in the market, stature, perception, offerings, investment in subscribers and society.
Management of the indigenous telecommunications company will not forget to tell you also that Glo was the only operator in Africa to launch its operations on the superior 2.5G network, which enabled the convergence of voice, data and multimedia technologies.
This robust platform, according to them, does not only ensure unparalleled voice clarity and low dropped calls but also enabled the offering of value added services unavailable on the 2G technology deployed by other operators in the industry then.
Among such services are vehicle tracking, mobile Internet, mobile banking, multimedia messaging service (MMS), voice SMS, Magic Plus and Text2email.
You are equally reminded that customers across the country are now enjoying improved service delivery as a result of the facility upgrade and installation of modern technology, with an overriding objective to position Glo, as having stepped up efforts to offer an all-round richer experience for all its subscribers.
Despite frustrations still faced in some quarters by subscribers, it will be highly uncharitable to deny that today; subscribers are enjoying better Call Completion Ratio, lower Call Drop Rates and Call Congestion as well as faster and more reliable upload and download of data.
Interestingly, introduction of the 3G Plus technology marked the second time Globacom had been in the forefront of pioneering the latest technology in Nigeria, having introduced the 2.5G technology at launch in 2003 when other operators were running on the 2G platform.
And from what technology tells us, the 3G Plus enables a much faster transmission of data, voice, broadband Internet and multimedia services over a range of frequencies. It allows customers to do video call and video streaming and to enjoy high-speed mobile Internet, amongst others, from any 3G-enabled mobile handset.
As the first network to launch a nationwide 4G-LTE coverage in Nigeria, Globacom, it is gathered, successfully placed the country in the League of Nations, where Long Term Evolution (LTE) has continued to gain ground. LTE, as a revolutionary Fourth Generation Mobile Technology, enhances data transfer rates, delivering unmatched mobile broadband experience and highest data speeds and reliability, according to experts.
The successful launch of the Glo 4G LTE, the country’s first nationwide network implementation of the technology, makes it possible for millions of Nigerians to enjoy instant, efficient broadband Internet at speeds far superior to the 3G network, thus enabling them to download ultra high definition videos in seconds.
With the advanced network, individuals, who consume huge volumes of data, government agencies and corporate organisations, including banks, oil and gas companies, academic and health institutions, which require seamless data transfer for their operations now benefit immensely from Glo’s data intensive applications.
The company, as also gathered, has the most extensive fibre optic backbone across Nigeria, built to further enhance voice and data transmission for mobile and fixed telephone operations in the country. This is complemented by a microwave backbone serving as back-up, while the fibre optic cable helps ensure that calls on the network are crisp and clear, without suffering breaks and drops.
Those at Globacom would further beat their chest in reminding that the company has contributed to boosting international connectivity in West Africa by building an international submarine cable, Glo 1, which connects Nigeria to the UK and US, passing through fourteen African Countries. According to company sources, that would be the first time a single company would implement such a massive undersea project in Africa.
After 16 years of telecom services, Glo’s efforts to build an enduring network and a powerful brand in Nigeria and on the continent, is no doubt paying off, as the company was last year recognised as the 4th Most Valuable Brand in Africa. The company has also continued to record the most gains in voice and data subscribers in the industry, according to report.
That is not to say, however, that all is well with the telecommunications giant. Subscribers, oftentimes complain of poor network for voice calls or slow internet services, among others.
But Glo insists it will continue to improve on its services, noting that the network upgrade carried out recently was in sync with its promise at launch to continuously explore new developments in information and communications technology to deliver services that will spur economic, educational and social life.
That is why the company is focused on building the best-in-class network, which all its subscribers will continue to enjoy in line with its vision to be the biggest and best telecommunications company in Africa.