Death and sabotage hinders MTN progress in Nigeria

The four Nigerian operators which have been fined $7.38 million for poor service have rallied to defend their commitment to the telecoms sector in the country, despite facing numerous obstacles – including death and sabotage.

Earlier this month, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) imposed fines on Airtel, Etisalat, Globacom and MTN Nigeria for ‘failing to meet the minimum quality of service for the period under review in the period March – April 2012.’

The fine is payable on or before 25 May 2012.

The operators have put out a joint statement assuring customers of their commitment to provide high quality of service.

“Over the last ten years more than N1 trillion has been invested in building and enhancing the four mobile networks. In 2012 alone, the four operators will be spending over N400 billion of further investments in their networks. All four operators are actively competing with each other on quality of service to win the loyalty of existing customers and attract new customers,” the statement said.

The group apologised to its customers, but quickly asked for understanding and pointed to the numerous challenges faced as operators, including attacks on their employees.

The group said that the main factor affecting quality of service was the absence of a reliable source of power, while network quality was also being disrupted by “frequent cuts of fibre networks which link the cell sites. These are frequently malicious in nature”.

Akinwale Goodluck, MTN’s corporate services executive revealed that MTN’s network is one of the largest in the world, running almost entirely on self-generated power. He added that the company expends billions of Naira annually on diesel alone.

Goodluck also lamented the indiscriminate vandalism of telecommunication infrastructure around the country. He estimated that MTN suffers more than seventy cuts to its fibre on a monthly basis.

“Another equally worrying development is the recent trend towards indiscriminate closure of sites by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal, State and Local Governments in pursuit of multiple taxation of telecommunications infrastructure.”

“Finally, the issue of security is a prevalent threat from our operating environment. We have had particularly unfortunate instances where our employees have been physically assaulted, and in some instances killed, during site maintenance visits – all in a quest to sustain service quality,” the statement read.

Goodluck commented that the heightened insecurity in several parts of the country has limited MTN’s ability to carry out routine maintenance and emergency repairs.

The operators warned against the regulator wanting to impose further fines.

“While we continue to make these investments which will also improve service quality, it needs to be pointed out that in the telecommunications industry, such investments do not yield the requisite improvement in service quality until well after 12 months.”

“We are therefore concerned that fines will not bring about the desired service quality improvements or offer a lasting solution but will merely deplete essential resources that would otherwise be deployed for network roll out,” the statement said.

The group also expressed concern that, due to the capital-intensive nature of their operations, a regime of sanctions would inevitably erode the confidence of financial institutions and critical partners in the industry.

“We are also concerned that it could create an atmosphere of anxiety and regulatory uncertainty which is unattractive to investment,” it said.

Goodluck said that, while reinstating MTN’s commitment to improve its services and apologising to its customers, the company would invest  more than N158 Billion in 2012 alone in its network infrastructure.

“No company has invested more than MTN in network infrastructure since 2001. We have not been shy to invest heavily in our business and we will continue to do so,” he concluded.

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Death and sabotage hinders MTN progress in Nigeria