I have been meaning to write this article for a long time now.
Looking at the mobile services market here in Nigeria, I am both amused and sad (though how that combination is possible is beyond me) at how everything seems to boil down to price.
The operators are in a nasty price war – and I daresay that we all are the worse for it. Here is what may have escaped us – every time a network operator has further crashed tariffs, quality of service (QoS) on that network has followed in tow.
Unfortunately, the consumers, who cry foul every time that happens, are as much to blame for the scenario.
But an industry that is price-driven alone is a dangerous thing. Note that I said “alone”.
I wish that one network operator would dare to stand out and offer significantly higher tariffs and superb, stellar services. For example, I’d like to see a network where I can upload 2GB of data without breaking a sweat in a matter of minutes. Every single time. I wouldn’t mind paying more for that service.
That would be serious differentiation based on value, not just price. People who need that kind of reliability are sure to be willing to pay for it.
Let’s take a look at the device market. Apple introduced a device that offered much less features than the competition, but that also cost significantly more. This was at a time that the global economy was going down the drain. Did Apple fail?
No; they didn’t. As a matter of fact, Apple has performed exceptionally well by refusing to compete on price. The iPhone range offers less features than others, but because it does well those things that it offers, it could be sold successfully at a premium price.
That’s market differentiation. Apple was not trying to produce another Symbian or BlackBerry copy back then. While they have since implemented some more features, they are still not producing just another smartphone.
I hope we get the picture. As consumers, we need to accept that all networks do not have to offer low tariffs – if they can offer superb value. We need options, and right now, those options do not exist.
Paying More for Less
While we now have much lower tariffs than we had many months and years ago, the fact that we have to maintain multiple lines and devices means that we may not necesarilly be spending less.
We are probably just going round in circles.
Options and Choices
I want to see the people’s network – one that offers the lowest tariffs. But then, I wouldn’t expect the most reliable services from such a network in comparison with a network offering premium services.
I also want to see the turbo (premium) network – one that offers the most rock solid connections for both voice and data, but perhaps at significantly higher tariffs.
There would also be room in the middle – for those who want a bit of this and a bit of that.
That way, consumers can make real choices. With a market as large as Nigeria, operators should have no fear of standing out from the crowd.
The Present is Mediocrity
Unfortunately, right now, there is no differentiation in the market. Absolutely none. There is no competition, for competition based on price alone is not healthy competition.
Dear network operators, where are your balls? You are all hiding in your comfort zones.
Right now, all you are offering are the same things at more or less the same prices. You are valueless brands. Waterless wells. Tasteless salt.
Your so-called brands only exist on TV and on the pages of newspapers. I know that your brand managers will blacklist me for saying this, but its been said. Go break a leg.
All you have here in the Nigerian market are business names, not brands. You are all the same.
And when someone dares to attempt to glorify this mediocrity with a statement like, “Only in Nigeria is this possible“, yes; I agree – only in Nigeria can anyone make millions daily from offering such poor, tasteless services like our networks operators offer.
In 2011, and in a country of over 150 million people, that’s shameful.