From Celtel to Zain; GPRS further restricted

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In the beginning, there was Econet Wireless. Then, the operator became Vodacom for a brief stint, before metamorphosing into Vmobile. Not too long after, the operator was acquired and became Celtel. Now, with the parent company of Celtel harmonising its various operations, Celtel Nigeria becomes Zain NG.

Change is the only constant thing in life, it is said. But it is not only in name that subscribers have endured change. Mobile enthusiasts especially have had to endure horrible and epileptic changes in the 0802/0808 network’s ever-shifting policies. Of note to mobile data users is the unreliable, visionless approach of Zain to mobile data over the years.

For a period, GPRS was made available to all. Then full internet was restricted to postpaid subscribers only, leaving prepaid users with basic WAP. Then, all subscribers were yanked off GPRS totally. Thereafter, Celtel required all interested GPRS users to show up in person at their outlets for configuration. Now, with the rebranding to Zain, both WAP and internet via GPRS are officially available only to postpaid subscribers (see the GPRS activation page on the Zain NG website). Here’s a quote from the WAP section on that page:

For further enquiries or assistance on how to activate the service, call customer care on 131 toll free. The service is currently available to postpaid subscribers only

Are these guys serious?

Those who know know that taking on a contract with any GSM network in Nigeria eventually leaves a sour – if not outrightly bitter – taste in the mouth. Those who stay on the contract packages are those who are content to be cheated at every turn.

My advice? Stay away from contract packages like the plague.

A short while ago, a colleague on an online forum mentioned that he had laid down his Celtel SIM months ago, as the network was no longer offering him any special value. Then, I thought he was being hasty. Now, I am sure that he was in his right senses. I expect more subscribers particular about mobile data to follow suit. And that means millions of active young GPRS users who will flock to MTN or GloMobile.

By the way, way back in 2006, Celtel announced that its network was 3G-ready. This is mid-2008, and its 3G services are nowhere to be found. MTN and Glomobile subscribers have been largely enjoying 3G and 3.5G service (on both prepaid and postpaid lines) for months now.

Go figure. I give up on Celtel/Zain. At least for now. Where’s my MTN SIM?

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