|*Mike Ikpoki, MTN Nigeria CEO|
MTN Nigeria has rolled out a record 10,000 base stations across the country, reinforcing its position as the largest telecom network in Africa.
The additional base stations are expected to contribute to significant improvements to quality of service. They are a major component of the company’s infrastructure and they have direct impact on network capacity and the experience of customers.
MTN Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Michael Ikpoki, said the company is focused on three major areas, one of them being significant improvement of customer experience. He said that MTN would be building on a track record of aggressive investment in the network to ramp up capacity and ultimately improve service quality.
Ikpoki said MTN has led the industry in terms of rapid network rollout, adding that the company’s aggressive drive to significantly improve customer experience on the network in the last few months has led to record deployment of base stations across the country.
“In the last few months, we have ramped up our rollout. Last month we had a record rollout figure and we are currently rolling out up to 300 sites a month to make sure that we have enough capacity. We are getting more head-room, more dormant capacity in the network. That way, we can carry more traffic and give our customers a decent quality of service on a consistent basis. Indeed, there has been noticeable improvement and this will continue,” Ikpoki said.
The first indigenous CEO of MTN Nigeria noted that apart from crossing the 10,000 base station deployment mark, the company has also installed additional switching centres,aside from its world-class network management centre, and approximately 20,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable cross country and around metropolitan hubs.
“If you look at our investment portfolio from inception till now, MTN has invested more than a trillion naira. From whichever angle you look at it, by normal indices in terms of investment ratio, in most emerging markets, any ratio above 15-17 percent of revenue is a decent ratio in terms of investment. We are doing far in excess of that at MTN Nigeria. This year, we are going to be doing about 42 percent of revenue as capital investment. Last year we did 34 percent of revenue as capital investment,” he said.
Ikpoki said following the unrelenting investment, service quality has actually improved, but there is still room for improvement, pointing out that operational challenges relating to the environment sometimes robbed the network of the gains it has made in capacity expansion.
“Challenges with quality of service are related to operational issues and I know a lot has been said about these challenges. However, we acknowledge that we have a responsibility to ensure we deliver a good customer experience. That is something we take very seriously. That said, there are quite a number of operational issues which we cannot wish away. Sixty to seventy percent of the challenges we have are mainly power-related,” he said.
The CEO said that other impediments relate to multiple taxation and over-regulation resulting in interference with MTN infrastructure by various state and local Governments.
“Right now, we need to have a harmonized tax regime in all the states and local governments or else, we will continue to have a situation where roll out is impeded. So it is a very complex logistical matter to effectively manage a network of this size in an environment where taxes and levies are often diverse and completely arbitrary. But we are doing the very best we can and we are receiving a great deal of support from the NCC, the Ministry of Communication Technology and other Government stakeholders. It is in every one’s interest for us to deliver excellent service and this is our goal,” he said.