The rise and adoption of social media have created the emergence of big data in the information communication technology (ICT) world.
Technology has similarly evolved in the mobile communications space beginning from the first generation (1G) analogue technology to 2G, 3G and 4G long-term evolution (LTE).
Some markets are said to be doing 5G already. Data centres investments have also been on an increase.
LUCAS AJANAKU reports that much more work still need to be done to fully harness the potential of big data.
Data has undoubtedly altered the way virtually every sector of modern day economy works, enabling companies to access more information about customers and allowing them to offer services tailor-made to their life patterns/styles.
In the insurance industry for example, data allows operators the potential for cheaper premiums and rewards. Telematics, wearables, and connected homes are the main established drivers here.
According to Market Research.biz, a firm that provides syndicated industry reports and consulting services, the health sector is where big data’s impact is most evident, with wearable technology increasingly used by large insurers, which offer cheaper premiums, reward schemes and health benefits in exchange for personal data.
Statista, the portal for statistics, has forecast that the wearable device market value will hit $12.7 billion while 13.45 million devices will be shipped globally next
The popular embrace of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp and several others including Internet of Things (IoT) has led to the explosion of big data which smart businesses are already leveraging on to offer unique value proposition to their clients.
The benefits of big data are however still being deliberated. In the insurance industry for example, it is argued that the more information that becomes available to risk bearers, the more they are able to price niche policies, or at least have peer-to-peer insurers cover them; diabetes is the most commonly cited example. Cheaper premiums for customers who are able to improve their lifestyle are another potential advantage.
The argument against the use of big data is that more information will lead to the creation of an insurance underclass, where sections of society become uninsurable because insurers will insist it is simply not profitable to offer policies to certain individuals.
Many aspects of taxi, hotel, travel and entertainment services have been digitalised to offer customers quick and easy access. Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, eBay Uber and Airbnb have all revolutionised their respective sectors.
All these services hold some level of personal information and tailor offers around them. The lack of ability to tailor products is a primary reason for the inability of some sectors to compete.
An individualised approach, based on customer data and pushing other products based on life events, is the next step industries will take to offer customers the level of service they have come to expect from nearly every other sector.
But for the economy to tap from the limitless opportunities inherent in big data, investment on infrastructure and technology must be increased. And one technology that readily comes to mind is the 4G LTE.
According to a study by global telecoms body, the Global System for Mobile communications Association (GSMA) Intelligence, the number of 4G-LTE connections worldwide will pass one billion by next year.
The group said LTE users consume 1.5GB of data monthly on average – almost twice the average amount consumed by non-LTE users.
According to the GSMA, in most cases, the migration to 4G-LTE is happening considerably faster than the earlier migration from 2G to 3G.
However in Nigeria, the LTE momentum is building despite the many challenges along the way. Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Smile, Spectranet, Swift Networks, are already rolling out services on 4G LTE in some major cities in the country while e.Stream Networks has struck partnership with Bitflux Communications. No fewer than 28 African countries offer 4G/LTE services.
All GSM operators say they are deploying the technology but customers in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and other major cities, hardly get services on 3G let alone 4G.
But MTN appears to have taken the bull by the horns at ensuring a pan-Nigeria deployment through investment in the purchase of spectrum. Director, Spectrum Administration at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Austin Nwaulunne, says spectrum is the ‘oxygen’ of the telecoms industry. It has already launched LTE services in countries such as Cameroon, Rwanda and Uganda.
Not too long ago, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, awarded MTN the 2x30MHz slots in the 2.6 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band, following the payment of N18.96 billion ($96 million) licence fee.
As customary of the regulator, the spectrum was offered on a technology neutral basis and can be used to provide any telecoms services.
The need to deliver present and future generations of broadband services to subscribers in line with the Nigerian National Broadband Plan of 2013-2018 to raise broadband penetration by 30 per cent necessitated the auctioning of the 2.6GHz spectrum by the regulator.
This follows the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) decision to set aside the spectrum in the 2.6GHz band for the provision of Advanced Wireless Broadband Services (AWS).
Bitflux had beat Glo to win the $23.251million 2.3GHz spectrum licence to provide wholesale broadband services across the country in 2014. The 2.6 GHz, the regulator said, will complement the 2.3GHz, which is expected to offer retail services. Globally, about 108 networks have rolled out telecom services on the 2.6GHz spectrum to indicate its importance to the telecom industry.
MTN secured a 10-year national spectrum licence on a state-by-state as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for the spectrum band.
“In line with the provisions of the information memorandum guiding the auction process, having paid the fees specified for 2 x 30 MHz in the 2.6 GHz Spectrum, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited has been awarded the licence,” Danbatta said, adding that it is a significant fillip to the realisation of Eight-Point Agenda of his administration designed to transform the industry.
Again, in its desire to expand the frontier of services, it paid N34 billion to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for the acquisition of 700 megahertz (MHz) broadcasting spectrum.
The acquisition of Visafone Communications Ltd with its 800MHz frequency band is another strategic step the telco said will allow it to roll out 4GLTE services across the country.
CEO Ferdi Moolman said the telco plans to have about 1,500 LTE collocated sites backhauled with fibre optics offering 4G VoLTE to its over 60 million customers.
He said the 2.6GHz band guarantees superior performance for wireless networks, especially 4G LTE services.
“With the 2.6 GHz band, we expect to roll out and provide the full range of LTE services to Nigerians, empowering Nigeria with the latest mobile broadband technology.
“Our subscribers, especially those in clustered areas, such as the major cities, can expect distinct improvements in browsing speed, quality and experience. This means that they will have fast access to high definition video streaming as well as conferencing and calling, lag-free music streaming, and improved data uploads and downloads,” Moolman said.
He assured that a new dawn had come for customers as services on the 4G LTE broadband internet services will be deployed across the country, beginning with major cities of Lagos and Abuja.
MTN, which has deployed fibre optic cables (OFC) across the country to boost the transmission capacity on the network, argued that its success in the auction is a big boost to its desire to deliver high speed mobile broadband and LTE 4G services to over 63 million customers in Nigeria. It also plans to use FDD networks in addition to its existing WIMAX over TDD networks, as this provides for greater consistency with existing 2G and 3G deployments.
While the telco said it is committed to pursuing its mission to provide the best data network to the people of Nigeria some factors are holding it back.
The rise of headline inflation to about now18.72 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), is a major disincentive to investment.
There’s depletion of operators’ revenues by unlicensed providers of over-the-top (OTT) telecoms services that do not have any physical presence; nor pay any taxes; nor make any significant contribution to employment or other socio-economic objectives of government in the country.
The inability of operators to access foreign exchange (forex) is particularly debilitating to given that most of their inputs are sourced off-shore. This has very significantly increased both operating and capital expenses.
Stunted tariff structure
Despite these macro-economic challenges, telecom tariffs have declined significantly (over 67% between 2007 and 2016) and data prices are amongst the lowest on the continent.
Voice termination rates review
The NCC has however hired PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to among other things carry out an impact assessment on subsisting interconnect regime; identify shortfalls on its interconnection rate regime and provide workable solutions.
It said this is the beginning of the process that will culminate in the review of mobile voice termination rates in the country.
Prof Danbatta who gave indication to this at the Stakeholders’ Forum on the Cost Based Study for the Determination of Mobile Voice Termination Rate for Telecom Industry, said the review had become necessary in view of the changes in the sector since the 2013 review.