By Daniel Anazia
NATIONAL telecom operator, Globacom marked its 10th anniversary last year, with an extensive network overhaul to reposition it for the challenges of its second decade of operation. The founders of the network must be looking back at its inception, to remind themselves of the critical factors that saw its steady growth from being a late entrant to a leadership position in today's ranking.
GLO, last week explained that one of such factors was the rolling out of the 2.5-generation technology that offered subscribers Per Second Billing, which were innovations in the Nigerian telecom market. That was also a wake-up call to Nigerians regarding the true arrival of GSM service in the country, which crashed the cost of SIM cards from N20, 000 to N200.
The 2.5G technology enabled it to offer GPRS with services such as multimedia messaging, mobile banking, mobile internet, BlackBerry, vehicle tracking amongst other services, that other telecos who operated on the 2G technology were yet to offer their own subscribers then.
That presented Glo as a company that knew its way to the leadership cadre of the industry. But in the words of its founder, Dr Mike Adenuga Jr, being a leader requires consistency. In his masterfully crafted postulations on "Achieving", the billionaire businessman says, "Leading the pack is the only worthwhile resolve for the achiever. There is no room for second place... It is not the mere participant, but the achiever, the winner, the leader who makes the difference that advances the course of humankind in the judgment of history." According to him, "the achiever is a leader, a winner, all the time, not just once."
With this bullish mentality, it is easy to understand the current efforts of Glo to re-energise itself to stay ahead. Group Chief Operating Officer of Globacom, Mr. Mohamed Jameel, declared at the company's 10th anniversary media interactive session: "having played a prominent role in the first telecom revolution in the country, Globacom is now ready to lead Nigeria into the second revolution, which will be an explosive ICT broadband growth across Nigeria in the next three decades."
Thus, the new journey began with the signing of a $1,250,000,000 (one billion, two hundred and fifty million dollars) agreement with Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation to massively expand the huge capacity of the Glo network.
The first contract worth $750 million was signed with Huawei on Thursday, April 25, while the ZTE deal, worth $500 million, was sealed on Monday, April 29, 2013. These were in addition to the projects being executed by Alcatel Lucent and Ericsson.
Speaking at the signing of the partnership agreements in Lagos, Globacom's Group Chief Operating Officer, Mohamed Jameel, explained that the network enhancement projects with the two telecom vendors were part of the tenth anniversary plan to enhance the experience of the millions of subscribers on the Glo network.
"After 10 years in business, we decided to upscale our network ten-fold to the very latest technology in global telecommunications. The massive expansion projects will involve network upgrade and overhaul of infrastructure across the country as well as expansion and densification projects that will on completion enable the network to cater more for its existing and potential subscribers," Jameel said.
One year down the line, the project is bearing fruits in great measure. The swapping of old base stations in Lagos is now 90percent complete, leading to improved network experience for Glo subscribers. It is expected to be completed before the end of this month.
Globacom's Head of Operations, Bisi Koleoso, who disclosed this said Ogun State swapping is fully completed, while Edo State is about 60percent completed. The swapping project has also started in neighbouring Delta State. This is in addition to Abuja, Oyo state, Osun State, Akwa Ibom State, Port Harcourt and several parts of Lagos including Lekki, Ikorodu, Agbara and Otta, which have also been completed.
By the time the project is completed, Globacom would have completely swapped old components on the network across the nation with state-of-the-art network software and hardware. It thus would have turned its network infrastructure into brand new. In addition, the Globacom network, according to Koleosho, will soon achieve its target of having 90 percent 3G coverage, the first in the industry, making it possible for Glo data subscribers across the country to experience significant service enhancement. The project is expected to be completed by the third quarter of the year.
Service improvement is already being felt in various parts of the country, and Koleosho promises that the improvement will continue and manifest nationally by the time the project is completed.
"Globacom will be the biggest player in the second telecommunication revolution in Nigeria. We are converting every cell site in Nigeria into broadband. Nigerians will enjoy the massive transformation on the Glo network after the expansion and modernisation exercise", said Mr. Jameel.
The project covers swapping, upgrade, and overhaul of network infrastructure, as well as building of new switches and construction of additional 4,000 km of optic fibre cable to complement the company's existing fibre optic facility, which is among the most extensive private fibre networks in Africa. The company's existing 10,000km optic fibre network is also being enhanced with IP MPLS and Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) network to ensure constant (24/7) connectivity, provide capacity and route protection.
The massive project, according to Koleosho, also includes installation of new base stations and densification of existing ones, setting up of three new call centers in Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos to take care of vast increase in subscriber figures and upgrade of the radio access network which will ensure that data customers enjoy unparalleled speed and reliability.
"Lagos is being supplied with a sparkling brand new network that will be congestion-free with reduced call drops. The Lagos microwave network is also getting transformed into a full IP Network geared up to meet future data requirements of the rapidly expanding state," he added.
Buoyed by the success of its network overhaul, Glo is also scaling up the offering to its subscribers. In the last few weeks it has launched several products and services to demonstrate the company's commitment to subscribers. One of these is the three new International Direct Dial Packs, which offer millions of prepaid subscribers on the network the lowest call rates to various international destinations. The new packs enable subscribers to call US, UK, China at 10k per second, the lowest rate in the market.
There is also the 3-in-1 Recharge option, a new multiple recharge platform to facilitate topping up airtime for local and international calls as well as data bundles. The new 3-in-1 Recharge option means that subscribers can load airtime in less time to make international calls or to access the internet. It also helps them to maintain separate accounts for local calls, International calls and data bundles.
Glo explained the need to enhance its reputation as one of the biggest voice and data carriers in Africa; by deepening its roaming services with the addition of over 100 leading network partners across the world in the last one year. Subscribers to Glo who are on the postpaid platform can enjoy seamless roaming services in almost every part of the world as Glo has interconnectivity arrangements with over 430 partners in 176 countries. Thus Glo is the network in Nigeria with the largest international postpaid roaming footprint.
Femi Oduntan, Head, Business Development, Glo Gateway noted that the company had similarly extended its prepaid roaming to more destinations as the service is now available in most major destinations where it is partnering with over 80 leading networks.
Among the operators on the African continent, Glo's General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) roaming footprint is also one of the largest. The service, which enables data roaming for mobile phones, laptops, ipads, Blackberry and android handsets is available in 115 countries comprising all major travel destinations. GPRS roaming enables the subscriber to access the value added services available on the Glo GPRS technology such as mobile Internet and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS).
These are indeed promising times for Glo subscribers. With the history of several successes recorded by the network in the last decade, including incursions into other African countries and the bold investment in an international submarine cable, which has opened up Africa for broadband revolution, Globacom appears to have psyched up the telecom industry for another round of revolution with its brand new network.