LTE: History is repeating itself from the GSM-versus-CDMA era

Once upon a time, CDMA ruled the telecoms landscape in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, it ruled unchallenged, and at the first challenge, it more or less crumpled and died a swift death. GSM technology killed off CDMA in Nigeria. Today, there are only a little over 2 million CDMA lines left active as against GSM’s over 130 million lines.A number of factors were responsible for this decline of CDMA. One of them was how consumers were left with little liberty as to how to subscribe for services.

SIM cards

While with the GSM providers, a subscriber could walk into a store, buy a SIM card and go to another store to get a smartphone or modem of his choice, the CDMA subscriber was on lock down from the beginning to the end. He had to buy from whatever handsets the telco made available to him. His choices were extremely limited.

This scenario is being played out again right now in the 4G/LTE war. There are three providers for now – SWIFT, Spectranet and Smile. A fourth, Ntel, should be launching this month. For now, we can only analyse the available three.

SWIFT has 4G SIM cards but which only work with SWIFT modems. Subscriber lock-down.

Spectranet has 4G SIM cards, but they keep insisting that their SIM works with only Huawei Mate 7 for now. I am pretty sure that the claim is untrue. The Mate 7 cannot be the only smartphone that is compatible with their network. It sounds to me like Spectranet has a deal with Huawei to market the Mate 7 – and this exclusivity deal will hurt their service.

Smile seems to be the most progressive of the 4G providers. You can purchase a Smile SIM and put it into a compatible tablet or smartphone. Note that it is data-only for now, so the best use-case is to put it in a 4G tablet, or a dual-SIM 4G smartphone. You can put your Smile SIM in any LTE internet device – smartphone, tablet, modem, mifi, or router. That is the kind of liberty that gets subscribers zeroing in.

When Ntel launches, we can only hope that they will let subscribers enjoy the liberty to make use of their SIM cards as they wish. Ntel has ambitious coverage plans. Smile has ambitious coverage plans and are executing it already. SWIFT and Spectranet need to change their strategy or history will repeat itself and they will witness a mass exodus of subscribers.

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9 comments

  1. I’m currently using my Smile SIM in my TECNO Phantom 5. The rate at which my data is being swiped though!

    Smile may be more independent in terms of devices, but they are ripping their customers off data. This will counter any advantage they may have gained.

    I’m going to visit Spectranet today. If they insist on the Huawei phone, I have a right to at least test their SIM on the Phantom 5 after buying it though. If it doesn’t work, I can try any of their other devices.

  2. The market for 4G LTE networks being in its embryonic stages such scenarios as depicted is entirely to be expected,hopefully with the entrance of Ntel and others the inherent competition should normalize the situation to the consumer’s benefit..

  3. Mr Mobility, CobraNet and the relaunched MTN HyNet are also 4GLTE.
    The technology of CDMA didn’t use SIM cards and I don’t think that the CDMA telcos deliberately locked down their phones. It was just a limitation of the existing technology at that time. This is different from selling a carrier locked phone which GSM telcos even do when phones are purchased on a contract.
    SMILE is testing their VOLTE (Voice over LTE) and should launch in the not-so-distant future. You can use VOLTE with a variety of phones. Just a handful of carriers the world over have deployed VOLTE. This seems to be the future of voice.

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