The increase in demand for mobile and data services became inevitable during the lockdown period, as the need for efficient internet service became prevalent with virtual meetings, work from home, video conferences, e-commerce and online religious activities.
It therefore came as no surprise when mobile network service providers started to struggle to cater to the sudden surge in numbers of data subscribers and daily users, resulting in widespread complaints of poor network quality.
The need for individuals to have a reliable cellular network and internet connection has become even more necessary now and this new reality has indeed affected the way service providers will operate now and in future.
In a recent interview, Mohammed Rufai, chief technical officer, MTN Nigeria, exposed some of the challenges telcos are facing across the country.
According to him, there are three reasons mobile network subscribers should be more patient with network service providers:
The COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone
In many ways that the pandemic has affected us personally, it has also affected these businesses. They were bound by the same travel and movement restrictions and social distancing measures.
In the interview, Mohammed Rufai said ‘Fortunately, we have multiple layers of redundancy built into our networks and some headroom. It is however a concern, not knowing the extent or duration of the restrictions we currently face. If the situation persists, it might lead to resource constraints because it might affect our ability to import equipment as and when due.
Telcos have more responsibilities at this time
Amidst the pandemic, one of the challenges the telcos face is catering to customers’ needs while supporting the government financially and technologically with their expertise.
Buttressing this point, Mohammed Rufai said “With the Y’ello Hope Initiative, we have been able provide communication equipment for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to aid contact tracing, partnered with other private sector organisations in the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CaCOVID), and provide free SMS to customers monthly, which to date has been in excess of N8 billion, if costed for.”
People make up a business
As individuals, sometimes we forget that businesses are run by people and with people.
Yes, there should be systems in place by businesses to provide the best possible customer experience but even these systems are handled by people.
Mohammed also added that; “The current situation is unprecedented and telecommunications networks are immensely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Let me give you a few examples: How do we get telecoms engineers, equipment and supplies (diesel, spares etc) to base stations under a lockdown scenario? Can we cross state borders? How do we get our technical partners to carry out needed network capacity expansions and maintenance in various locations spread across the country? How do we import the parts we need for network expansion and/or sustainability when many parts of our supply chain are also facing restrictions?”
Although the Federal Government’s latest COVID-19 advisory have relaxed nationwide curfews from 10pm to 4am, public gatherings of more than 20 people are still prohibited while citizens have been advised to continue to observe hygiene precautionary measures.