GSM telephone operations took off in Nigeria in 2001 with MTN and ECONET Wireless (now Airtel) slugging it out from the take-off line. Glo joined the slugfest in 2003, and eight years after the commencement of GSM operations, Etisalat joined the fray in 2009.
One would think that such a huge head start that the competition had would be a terrible disadvantage for the new entrant, but in my opinion, Etisalat has successfully turned the situation to their own advantage. While there is no perfect network in the country (or anywhere else for that matter), one cannot but marvel at the progress that Etisalat has made in terms of coverage, call and data service quality.
The latest subscriber data (April 2014) from the NCC speak volumes. Have a look at where the four big telcos stand:
- MTN: 58,355,855 active subscribers
- Airtel: 25,475,672 active subscribers
- GloMobile: 24,015,713 active subscribers
- Etisalat: 19,111,664 active subscribers
Between 2009 and 2014, Etisalat Nigeria has closed the gap between itself and the trailing operators significantly. With another 5 to 6 million subscribers, Etisalat would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Airtel and Glo. And if their growth rate is anything to go by, we might as well chip in here that this is the network to finally give MTN a run for their money. As far as the statistics have shown, neither Airtel nor Glo is capable of doing that.
So far Etisalat has demonstrated some capacity for that kind of stunt. Yes; all other things being equal, Etisalat Nigeria looks to catch up with Airtel and Glo, leave them behind and give MTN a good chase. We can use that kind of excitement in Nigerian telecoms for a change.