I remember the advert in preparation for a telco that will change the face of the industry. The unzipping of the mouth and the “Now you’re talking” tagline. I was expectant and hoped that finally, a telco that understands me is about to be born. A lot of people customized their mobile number to their name. 08090FISAYO, 0809ADEMOLA etc. Excitement was in the air, we were expectant. A lot of us didn’t mind that Etisalat was coming late into the game, we just wanted the breath of fresh air.
We wanted a saviour and Etisalat didn’t disappoint us too much. One thing was clear to all, if you want great mobile data connection, Etisalat is where to go. It was that simple. Etisalat was known for something – Data. Although it was pricey we did not mind, we had a connection and it was fast. Etisalat got that right.
A Changing Industry
In 2014, a London based research firm Ovum predicted that the telecommunications industry will lose a combined $386 billion between 2012 and 2018, from customers using over-the-top (OTT) voice applications such as the market-leading Skype and Lync, both owned by Microsoft.
According to Ovum, consumer use of OTT VoIP will grow at a compounded annual rate of 20 percent between 2012 and 2018 to reach 1.7 trillion minutes. That translates to $63 billion loss in revenue in the final year of its forecast.
Just last year, another UK based firm – Dialogue Communications made an assertion that more than half of mobile operators across the globe are actually losing more than 50 percent of their potential revenue from business-led Application to Person (A2P) SMS traffic.
In the last 5 years, it has become clearer that OTT services including Whatsapp, WeChat, Telegram, Skype, Messenger are now the dominant means of communication among millennials (Anything that means). So Telcos need to be deliberate on how to operate in an increasingly digital world.
One thing is certain, the era of text message is gone, and it is not coming back! Voice call might also be on its way to dying once broadband data connections become more widely accessible.
Back to the Basics – Data
Suddenly in 2017, our dearly beloved Etisalat died and 9Mobile resurrected and on its way to a second coming following the conclusion of its sale to the new owners. Few things I believe 9Mobile should get a handle of in its second coming are summarized below;
⦁ Simplify Products – I remembered my attempt to buy an Etisalat sim, I was confused from that point. The attendant asked if I wanted EasyStarter or EasyCliq sim. I didn’t know what those terms meant, I didn’t care either, I just wanted a sim. I was polite, I asked her what the difference was. She explained, but sincerely I can’t remember what her explanation was. But I was shocked when she now said that I could switch to EasyCliq even after choosing the EasyStarter sim. At that point, I lost my cool, so why the distinction at the point of purchase?
I believe Nigerian customers are not asking for too much, provide quality service at a fair price (now fair is relative), but you get the point. You can’t sell your service lower than the cost of it, that won’t be fair to you as well.
⦁ Double Down on Data – At your first coming, Etisalat, you were known for quality data service, please double down on it during your second coming. In 2018, telco service is becoming an infrastructure play or what some people call utility.
Mobile internet is gaining adoption across the country with the proliferation of cheaper smartphones and OTT services. Telcos are the drivers of such growth through its mobile internet (data) service. Etisalat should double down on data to ensure it continues to grow.
In fact, the Maslow’s hierarchy of need has been altered to reflect this new reality.
⦁ Don’t Fight Dirty on Price just yet – The temptation is to reduce the price of product or services to attract customers. I don’t think you should yield to such a temptation. I am not claiming to be a sales or marketing expert, however, I know that most customers you win by low prices will have to be kept by low prices. Case in point is the online marketplaces. Sales typically spike during Black Friday or during special discounts and abysmally low without discounts. This is true for humans but it is bad for business. As a business, I will rather focus on providing good quality service and charge the customers for it.
⦁ Invest in Smartphone Penetration and Retain Customers Through Contracts – This point might be the next phase of competition within the industry. We have established that SMS revenues are gone, and voice is following suit, while OTT services are becoming much more prominent.
Rather than swimming against the tide, 9Mobile should rather facilitate this new wave by ensuring that smartphones get into the hands of a lot more people. Since you are not a charity organization, you lock in the 9Mobile sim into the smartphones that are being distributed through your channel and sell the users annual contracts.
Technology exists today to guarantee monthly repayments and added security layer to ensure that phones are difficult to steal. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean forcing some strange smartphones on people, I mean assisting people to get the kind of smartphones they actually want. Tecno may be a great place to start.
⦁ Keep an eye on cost – The cost of providing the service should not outweigh the financial benefit to the firm. I also mean keeping an eye on the cost of the infrastructure. This also means selective investment in infrastructure upgrades and overhaul. I believe the whole country does not need Broadband internet service, “narrowband” might be perfect in a lot of locations.
⦁ Invest in Technology and Startups operating in the Telco Vertical – There are quite a number of them. These startups might be exploring a major infrastructure shakeup to revolutionize distribution or satellite backhaul etc. It could also be startups that just use mobile data for decision making both for the telco or for third parties. We can definitely learn from Telefonica through its accelerator – Wayra. Now I don’t mean photo-ups, I mean backing real companies doing great stuff across Africa.
⦁ Being more deliberate in managing the Nigerian Regulators – This is another kettle of fish. I believe that 9Mobile should have a direct strategy of managing and supporting its regulators. Explore every legal and ethically upright way of being in their good books. Remember that if a Policeman stays long enough around your car and doesn’t find any evidence to arrest you, he will just create one.
⦁ Re-evaluate Partnership with Facebook and Google – I am trying to figure out the benefit of offering Facebook users and YouTube streamers free data. Really? You are holding a short end of the stick. Don’t forget that Facebook is testing its own telecom infrastructure project. Though it was mentioned that Facebook had no interest in monetizing the project, it will, however, serve as an alternative to your data service. Then again, maybe it’s best you take Facebook’s words with a pinch of salt. We’ve heard this monetization story before with Whatsapp.
I believe with this few points of mine, I have been able to convince you and not to confuse you that 9Mobile still has an opportunity to truly win in this space.