BusinessDay conducted a sample survey over a four week period to understand whether Nigerians are willing to change their phone service provider with the introduction of number portability by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).
More than half of the respondents to the survey were in the age bracket 25 to 34 years. Males made up 71.4 percent of the respondents with females making up the balance. However, all the respondents that chose Etisalat as their primary network provider were males. It is not clear if this is an accurate reflection of the client base of Etisalat in Nigeria, which is a relatively new network compared with the other service providers.
MTN was chosen by 47.6 percent of respondents as their primary service provider. Globacom was the second most used phone service provider, picked by 26.2 percent of respondents, followed by Airtel with 23.8 percent, and finally Etisalat with 2.4 percent of respondents. The response largely mirrors the current market share of the service providers. The chart below shows the breakdown of respondents by service providers.
Interestingly, 74.4 percent of phone users have been with their network service provider for more than five years. This shows a high level of loyalty by phone users. The loyalty likely stems from many phone users not wanting to lose their established numbers and also the fact that many users are on more than one network simultaneously.
The survey also found out that there is a strong awareness of the introduction of number portability with more than 90.5 percent of respondents claiming to be aware of number portability in Nigeria. The massive advert war launched by mobile service providers since the launch of the service may have raised the level of awareness noticed. Also, 72.1 percent of respondents also claim to understand how number portability works.
Even though most phone users know about number portability and understand how it works, 62.8 percent said they are not willing to change their service provider.
Based on gender, females were evenly split on whether they would want to change their service provider or not. This seems to suggest that many females are not clearly decided on porting, opening room for service providers to market them. More males however clearly indicated that they would be unwilling to switch network providers.
Based on age, a greater proportion of younger respondents indicated readiness to switch service providers than older respondents, implying younger people may be a ready audience for mobile network service providers looking to get them to dump their old numbers.
Poor quality of service is the top reason advanced for wanting to change service by many respondents. A significant number of respondents, especially younger respondents, also indicated “to make cheaper calls.” The chart below shows the top reasons why respondents would want to change their service provider.
However, of the significant 63 percent that are unwilling to change their mobile service provider, their top reason was the fact that all service providers have similar poor quality of service which make any change not worth it.
The high number of people not wanting to switch service providers because all the networks have similar poor quality of service suggests that the current advert war chest deployed by service providers in a bid to win subscribers is money not efficiently employed or rather they are passing out the wrong message to their intended audience.
Smart mobile network companies should be spending money ensuring that they have a network that provides quality service rather than spending money asking already sceptical Nigerians to change their network. The truth is that most Nigerians already use more than one service provider so they are largely aware of the quality on competing networks and therefore may not need any advert campaign to tell them where to switch if there is better quality service out there.
What we expect to see happen in the telecom service going forward is that Nigerians will instead of switching network service providers gradually migrate to the network service provider that has best quality calls. Since most Nigerians have more than a single line, they will, perhaps unconsciously and consciously use more often the mobile network that has the best quality calls than the one that has consistently poor quality calls.
So, in the long run, the mobile network company that will win the subscriber war is not necessarily the one with biggest advert war chest, but the one that provides the best quality and affordable calls backed up with the right advert campaign. “Saka” has ported, but clearly majority of Nigerians need a good reason to follow Saka.
Editor, BusinessDay Research Unit
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