In the last few weeks, a series of Tsunamis of mobile data tariffs has hit the West African country of Nigeria. The emerging market with a huge population – and a vibrant youth – watched in amazement as one mobile operator after another crashed the cost of getting internet access on their networks.
As I type this, with N25, subscribers on a certain network can get 500MB data. On any of the big four networks, you can now get at least 1.5GB with just N1,000. Just yesterday, one network further spiced things up so their subscribers can now get 2GB with just N1000.
Ladies and gentlemen, it may not immediately appear how epic these developments are. But when you consider that not too long ago, on many networks, that N1,000 would get you just 200 MB. What we have now is an upheaval.
Suddenly, greater opportunities open up. Subscribers can do more on their smartphone and tablets without the morbid fear of running out of data in a few hours. Media streaming and downloads is about to take off properly. It will still take further crashes in tariffs for video to become huge in the country, but I can imagine that consumption and production of audio and other less voluminous media will immediately see a meteoric rise.
However, it isn’t all good news. Service quality is still a major concern. Many subscribers regularly complain that they are unable to use their data subscriptions to their satisfaction because of the unreliable, epileptic nature of the network. As a result, media consumption is a pain for many users. Production and upload is even even more painful. Try uploading an audio or video file on any of the mobile networks during peak periods, and the result is likely frustration.
If you’re fine being Batman or Daredevil, you can stay awake all night to use mobile data, as that is the period that subscribers are guaranteed stable, usable service. But we cannot all be like that. There is a serious need for capacity expansion by all networks to make this new wave of tariff reductions a satisfactory experience.
Nigerians now have more data to play with. How well they will enjoy playing with it is a different matter entirely. It is like arriving at a Nigerian owambe (party) where jollof rice is being served aplenty, only to sit to eat and find out that you have been served Ghanaian jollof.