GSM: Why Nigerians Prefer Multiple Lines – By Arnold AlaliboArnold Alalibo, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists Saturday, July 21st, 2012
By Arnold Alalibo | NNP | July 21, 2012 – The world today has attained advancement in science and technology. This is evident in the inventions and innovations in information technology, one of which is the Global System of Communication popularly referred to as GSM.
One of the nations of the world that have been touched with the impact of the revolution in information and communication technology, ICT, is Nigeria. Prior to 1999, mobile phones were the exclusive preserve of the few rich and technocrats in Nigeria. But former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime turned this around by welcoming telecommunication investors and ensuring that mobile phone became affordable to the average Nigerian.
Within a decade of the advent of GSM, many mobile phone manufacturers found a fertile ground in the country as they continuously flood the nation’s telephone market with their assorted brands. Popular today in Nigeria’s mobile phone market are brands such as Nokia, Samsumg, Motorola, Sony/Ericsson, Techno, etc.
However, more than ten years after its introduction, the quality of GSM service is said to be getting worse. Cross connections and dropped calls are now very common features in GSM services. Many Nigerian subscribers complain profusely about the poor services rendered by the various service providers.
A businessman, Mr. Bisi Adeosun, says that he has experienced several cross connections where his call were routed in error to different GSM users other than the ones he wanted to call. Although the errors were theirs, he said, he was still billed for them.
“This month alone, I have experienced up to six cross connections where my calls were routed in error to GSM users different from the ones I wanted to call, yet, the GSM operators still billed me for it,” said Adeosun.
Brandishing two GSM phones with each containing dual SIM cards, Adeosun berated service providers in the country for poor services, saying he uses four GSM lines in order to conquer the epileptic network yet to no avail. According to him, even the one dial philosophy propagated by the service providers before the launch of mobile phones has never been realised. “You can hardly make any GSM call with full certainty that it will go the first time. You have to try two or more times,” Adeosun observes.
A civil servant, Mrs. Henrietta Hart, says she uses two lines because no particular line is reliable. For her, anyone who wanted to communicate effectively must subscribe to at least two or three lines or even more. She describes GSM service operators as merely interested in building market share than offering quality services to their consumers.
“There is hardly any country where a person uses more than a GSM line because services there are very reliable and so you don’t need more than a line. But here, some use as many as four or five line’s yet, their communication needs are hardly met. All the service providers know is to announce the number of millions of subscribers they have. Some of them are even rolling out new numbers without asking how existing customers are faring,” Mrs. Hart laments.
Continuing , Mrs. Hart says the poor services rendered by GSM operators are taking us back to the shackles of NITEL of those days. Although she sees GSM as an improvement on the services provided by erstwhile NITEL, it, nevertheless, leaves much to be desired.
The only difference, in her view, is that now we have a choice. We can choose which GSM operator to oppress us. For her, this is better than being helpless under one oppressor.
Some Nigerians share the view that GSM service operators have turned many people to night watchmen all in the name of free night calls. Others have been turned into speculators as they send text messages to short codes to win various items but ending up poorer in the process with service providers smiling to the banks.
A Port Harcourt based businessman, Mr. Louis Amadi, shares the same sentiments as Mrs. Hart. Like many of the over 80 million mobile phone subscribers in Nigeria, Amadi uses multiple phone lines, switching from one to another as the need arises. Poor network service and drop calls are his major complaints. He says poor quality of service makes it hard to depend on one line, especially for the businessmen.
“Poor services at many high cost have become the albatross of telecoms operators in Nigeria. Sometimes services are not rendered at all or people experience very poor reception for days and no explanation or apologies are given to the users. During periods of poor service, it could be risky to depend on a single mobile line,” says Amadi.
Although Amadi would have loved to see the situation improved, he says he is no longer bothered because the four mobile lines/cellular phones gulp a monthly N40,000 from him since he could reach his clients at all time.
Investigation’s by The Tide reveal that millions of subscribers in Nigeria use more than one phone line and this places financial burden on them as they spend between N5,000 and N50,000 to credit them. This, however, depends on their personal and business needs as well as the value of the services offered by different network providers.
According to an engineering student of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, RSUST, Port Harcourt, Mr. Miebaka Harold, his decision to use three mobile lines was informed by the services rendered by each of the network providers. He says he spends an average of N5,000 to maintain the lines every month because many of his contacts are reached through e-mail and facebook. Else, the amount would have been more than that,” Harold bemoans.
But a legal practitioner, Barrister Arugu Brown, disagrees with the view that the use of multiples phones and lines is often associated with poor network service. The legal icon agrees that much as many people use numerous lines because of poor services from operators, some also use them for status symbol.
“I use only one phone. I know many people use more than a phone because of poor service from the operators. Some also use more than a phone for status symbol,” Brown asserts.
A hairdresser, Mrs. Benmy Brown-West, says her choice of two service lines has nothing to do with ego or status, neither does it have anything to do with poor service by the providers. Rather, her choice was borne out of the need to make calls at cheaper rates.
“I am a business woman. I only make calls when such is necessary. By the way, I am an astute spender and so averagely, I spend about N5,500 recharging my accounts with the two lines,” Mrs Brown-West adds.
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