Taking a megabyte out of the competition
Airtel is redefining the data experience in Nigeria and is reaping the rewards – including a 92 percent increase in its internet customer base.
Writer Ian Armitage
Project manager Donovan Smith
Our pages are littered with investment opportunities. Whether it is opportunities in Kenya's insurance market or new mines in Namibia, we've pretty much covered it all within the pages of Africa Outlook over the past six months.
Investors are definitely excited by what Africa has to offer.
And they are particularly excited about opportunities that exist within the telecoms sector. To quote the UK's BT, "it's good to talk".
Nigeria is one market causing quite the stir and according to U.S.-based research firm Pyramid Research, the rate of growth in Nigeria's telecommunications industry and a large population are parameters that will continue to make the country one of the most attractive markets to investors in Africa and the Middle East.
Pyramid Research is a company that provides international market analysis and consulting services to the communications industry and its study took a five-year look at the country's telecommunications sector returns, saying that demand profile in the country, both for voice and data services, is high and by far, the largest in Africa.
It also identified the sound regulatory regime put in place by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry regulator, as a key factor bringing about and sustaining the growth potential.
One of the country's leading mobile telecommunication services providers is Airtel, a firm that has seen its fortunes transformed and is now close to becoming Nigeria's second-biggest mobile phone company.
Nigeria accounts for 35 percent of Airtel's sales in Africa. Its market share in the country is now at 20.2 percent.
What's that down to? Airtel is committed to "driving positive change" in the nation's telecoms industry by ensuring a "steady stream of innovative product offerings to the market," says Managing Director & CEO of Airtel Nigeria, Segun Ogunsanya. "We have redefined the data experience in Nigeria," he says.
Airtel was recently rated the fastest growing Internet/data operator in Nigeria based on a recent study carried out by industry regulator, the NCC.
According to the report, covering the period of June 2012 to March 2013, Airtel recorded a 92 percent increase in its internet customer base.
"Without a doubt this report confirms our leadership position in providing reliable and fast 3.75G network coverage to telecoms consumers across the country, especially as we have the widest data/ internet footprint in the country," says Ogunsanya. "I must say it is a great feeling that telecoms consumers in Nigeria are beginning to realise that Airtel has the widest and most reliable 3.75G network in the country. I want to specially thank all our customers for the confidence they have reposed on us. As a network, we always feel a sense of constructive discontent; and this will, without a doubt, deepen our resolve and commitment as we continue to provide excellent network and service experience to all our customers. We are passionate about providing the most amazing hitch-free Internet experience to telecoms consumers across the country."
In the last 12 months Airtel has introduced revolutionary High Definition voice services and a Google cache solution.
It has repeatedly been voted the best telecoms brand in the country and at the prestigious eight edition of the Nigerian Telecoms Awards beat other Telcos to emerge the Industry's Most Innovative Telecom Company of the Year, Telecom Brand of the Year and Customer Friendly Operator of the Year.
Leadership newspaper also named it Best Telecom Company of the Year 2012. Airtel is determined to make the best services easy and affordable to the majority of Nigerians and make the most of existing and future "opportunities".
"There are opportunities in the Nigerian market," says Ogunsanya. "We have a strong youth population. Then uptake of trendy gadgets is on the rise and there is a huge demand for data just as there is demand for voice. Certainly, high penetration of smart phones is defining the mobile telephony landscape. The transition from voice to data keeps gaining traction and this is changing the game. You must also single out the extreme and huge demand for mobile broadband. The youths are early adopters with a large appetite for mobile broadband."
The company recently completed is Long Term Evolution (LTE) trial operations in Lagos and taken a huge step forward in launching a service that will support faster data speeds on mobile networks.
"At Airtel, we pride ourselves as leaders and we are passionate about continuously creating the next innovation to empower telecoms consumers and enrich the lives of our customers across the country," says Ogunsanya. "Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria and with the successful completion of the first 4G LTE trial we are ready for test in the other major cities across the country including the country's capital, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
"The Lagos trial threw up exciting results as data users could open up simultaneous HD Videos on YouTube without buffering. Download speed, under ideal conditions was 37 Megabits per Second (Mbps), while under non ideal conditions, was 32 Mbps; upload speed was - 10.6 Mbps. Measurement under non ideal condition was done using www.Speedtest.net. This shows our commitment to strengthening our position as a true pioneer of innovation in the Nigerian telecommunications domain in line with our overall corporate vision of becoming the most loved brand in the daily lives of Nigerians. At Airtel, we pride ourselves as leaders and we are passionate about continuously creating the next innovation to empower telecoms consumers and enrich the lives of our customers across the country. At present, we are taking the Lagos success story to other parts of the country so that Nigerians will benefit from this innovation when finally unveiled."
Airtel's burning passion is to create a new culture of services in the telecoms industry and become the "most loved brand in the daily lives of Nigerians" – its brand promise.
Amongst other things, it has deployed mobile device and data experts to its shops to provide customers with data and device solutions to boost their product knowledge and enhance their experience.
"This is to provide customers with data and device solutions to boost their product knowledge and enhance their experience on our products and services," says Ogunsanya. "The 'Airtel Techies', a team of tech-savvy young men and women are always on hand to attend to customer queries and concerns at our showrooms and contact centres. The introduction of Airtel Techie further confirms our customer-centricity and innovativeness. It emphasised that the drive to consistently delight customers with best in-class service delivery remains Airtel's priority as the company exists primarily to meet the expectations of its numerous customers. As telecom consumers, especially the youth, increasingly embrace Airtel's robust 3.75g network that covers the 36 states of the federation and Abuja, there is a corresponding increase in the use of data-enabled and high end phones. Naturally, enquiries on data and devices as well as other concerns are on the increase. That informed our decision to provide round-the-clock solutions to customers in this regard."
Airtel is a great place to work, an exciting organisation with a highly motivated workforce, which is "truly passionate about enriching the lives of our stakeholders and creating positive impact", he adds. "Our corporate vision is to become the most loved brand in the daily lives of Nigerians. We are clear in our key objectives as we want to be the preferred by more customers, targeted by top talent and benchmarked by more businesses.
"As a business, our core values include: Empowering people, Being flexible, Making it happen. Being open and humble and creating positive impact. At Airtel, we are connected as a team and we are committed to our corporate vision of becoming the most loved brand in the daily lives of Nigerians."
Airtel invests heavily in CSR and its concept of social responsibility is not limited to a concern with welfare schemes, charity work, or the occasional support for Health, Education, Security/Emergency, Sports, and the Arts. The company perceives and positions itself as an "integral part of society", which must be socially responsible at all times in all its dealings, maintaining high ethical standards and compliance with the rules and regulations in its methods and practices of doing business.
"We are currently partnering with the government in the provision of education for less privileged children," says Ogunsanya. "As part of our social investment in Nigeria we have initiated a partnership with the Ministry of Education to build and maintain schools, where rural children across the country will be provided free education, free books, and free school uniforms. In May, 2011, we commissioned our first Adopted School, Oremeji Primary School 2 in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area of Ajegunle, Lagos State. The commissioned Oremeji Primary School 2 is a six classroom block with an office for the head teacher and water borehole with lavatory facilities for the boys and girls as well as male and female teachers. As part of the programme, we also provided school uniforms, furniture, books and school bags for the children. All these were accomplished within a record time period of three months. This year, we have renovated and commissioned schools in Oke-Agbo, Ogun State and Ediba in Cross Rivers State. Our school in Amumara, Imo State, will be commissioned soon. It is our intention to also get into more communities as we plan to commission five more schools this financial year.
"We are delighted to partner with the government and people of Nigeria in the quest to chart a new course for the development of education. Without a doubt, quality education offers children the best opportunity in life to realise their dreams and become the leaders of tomorrow. A great environment is also critical to the development of a sound mind. It is, therefore, in recognition of the importance of education and as part our Corporate Social Responsibility initiative that we have committed to the adoption of public primary schools across Nigeria."
Airtel Nigeria recently pledged to help grow and develop Nigeria's economy through sustained empowerment of SMEs.
"We will always welcome every opportunity to continue its role as a catalyst; nurturing entrepreneurial dreams and aspirations of Nigerians and creating wealth across the country. We are committed to the growth and development of the nation's economy through a sustained empowerment of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)," says Ogunsanya. "Airtel will always support initiatives that will unleash the talent and innate abilities of the Nigerian youths and open doors of economic abundance for all."
"We will continue to be innovative in our offerings and strategic in building capacities to ensure that both existing and potential customers enjoy the best telecoms service experience that human ingenuity could offer. The good news is that we have a culture of supporting SMEs and, thus far, we have thrown our weight behind several SME initiatives."
The future is bright. Airtel is positioned as the operator of first choice for Nigerians, in a market that shows so much potential.
"Nigeria is a rich country of determined, energetic, and industrious people," says Ogunsanya. "The country is moving fast towards the direction of a connected society, a positive and interesting development."
Most network providers are adopting a data-focused approach and with huge demand for data, it is definitely interesting times for broadband service providers.
To learn more visit www.airtel.com.