The fortunes of CDMA mobile providers here in Nigeria keep dwindling – and alarmingly too. They are bleeding subscribers too fast. As an example, from over a million active subscribers in 2010, Starcomms now has only 475,841. Of course, it has been worse for others. ZoomMobile is no longer in the picture, like a number of others.
Recently, I wrote about the ongoing merger between Starcomms, Multilinks and MTS to form a new business entity, CAPCOM. Between those three, we are looking at a little over one million active subscribers. Consider that the only other CDMA provider left standing and which is still larger than the CAPCOM units combined, Visafone, has only 2,428,011. Then consider that the smallest GSM provider, Etisalat, has a whopping 13 million active subscribers – and built that in the last few years as CDMA subscribers dwindled. The picture is not rosy at all. Things do not look hopeful for the CDMA networks.
I daresay that CAPCOM cannot save the CDMA mobile sector in Nigeria. CDMA is so outgunned and outperformed here that they might as well throw in the towel.
Saving The Day
What exactly can turn the tables and make CAPCOM viable? Nothing short of the same kind of huge financial, technical and media onslaught that the GSM networks are deploying. I am talking of a deep war chest here and a rapid deployment of services.
CAPCOM is smart to be targeting data. There is a huge untapped market for broadband across the country, and CAPCOM can latch on to that. But they cannot afford to do it half-heartedly. Starcomms pushed data and are failing. Other providers have pushed data and failed too. Soo pushing data is not enough. It must be done aggressively and swiftly. Again, technical expertise and deep pockets are needed.
Open Networks: BYOD
CAPCOM must open up its network and implement a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, so subscribers can choose, purchase and bring in their own devices and terminals for use. This factor is a huge joker in the hands of the GSM providers. The trends till date show that this liberty is important to subscribers. A situation where subscribers are compelled to use only whatever end terminals a provider makes available will not work. It might work well in the USA, but not here in the FRN. Two different markets.
Just go take a look at the available smartphones on Visafone’s network: Motorola XT800 and ZTE R750. How many of you have ever heard of those smartphones before? Take a look:
You get the point. Why on earth would a gadget freak like myself want to tie myself to a network on which I am that limited? And costing N90,000 and N54,000 respectively too! Those phones? Make no mistake about it: people love their gadgets – and very often more than the network.
CAPCOM or Bust
CAPCOM Limited was established in Mauritius in 2012 as a holding company for Nigerian telecommunications investments. If the promoters of CAPCOM are unable to execute the above, they might as well not bother, as this will result in another failed venture. However this goes, CAPCOM seems like the last hope for the CDMA mobile sector in Nigeria, and a very weak one too. While Visafone rule that roost for now, they are not doing particularly too well either, if their active subscriber base of 2.4 million is anything to go by.