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9mobile subscribers in pain, threaten to dump network over torpid service

Telecoms subscribers on the 9mobile network are complaining about the services provided by the company since July this year, when it changed its name from Etisalat Nigeria.

Most of its subscribers have taken to social media to vent their anger concerning the company’s terrible network, especially its data services.

According to multiple online sources, the telecoms network has been unable to resolve challenges resulting in minimal or no coverage in most parts of Lagos since Thursday, August 17, 2017.

Officially, a statement signed by Ibrahim Dikko, one of the company’s vice presidents, explained the issues as “technical issues” which the company’s teams were working to fix.

There have been rumours that the IHS Group which owns most of the cell towers in Nigeria had yanked 9mobile of their cell towers because of a debt, but a staff of the company who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the press said that the problem was a technical one. According to him, the cooling systems in the 9mobile data centre overheated and there was a problem during the transfer to the backup systems.

Such explanations appear to have fallen on deaf ears of irate customers. Adewale Aliu, a mobile plumber and 9mobile subscriber told Daily Times that the poor network service, which has become worse since 9mobile took over from Etisalat had hindered progress of his business, as his clients find it difficult reaching him. However, he said that he had decided porting to more reliable network like MTN and Airtel for effective business.

Another subscriber who gave his name as Ike Okeke expressed so much frustration with the network provider, asking whether the old Arab owners, Etisalat, took away all their masts when leaving Nigeria.

A 9mobile subscriber named Nighthawke on intenet forum, Nairaland said that “it is no longer news that struggling Etisalat is now 9mobile but what is louder than trumpets is their plummeting internet services. It has been so frustrating that you could attempt to load a page, make a 13km away appointment with traffic and get back with that page yet to load. Meanwhile your data is counting.”

This could signal a downturn for the telecommunication company, as it also takes a whole lot of time getting through with their customer service, which cannot even explain what is happening on their network.

“Obviously, their poor services now at its worst can be likened to one with suicidal tendencies as they may ultimately close shop. Maybe the outgoing team left with their technical support [though poor]” a subscriber named Ifeanyi Onogwu said.

It seems a different ball game for some subscribers whom despite the challenges in the service still believe that the network will be stronger, especially when it has finally resolved the problem at the management level.

Juliet Omere, a civil servant said that since the change, the network had not been very stable and urged the new management to improve on the service as soon as it settled down.

Omere said that Etisalat data used to be the cheapest and very effective but in recent times, some subscribers had been experiencing some difficulties with the network.

“Since this change to 9Mobile, the network has not been very good but I believe that as the management settles down to work, there will be an improvement. “It may be part of the fallout of the crisis and we expect improvement soon,’’ she said.

According to experts in the industry, complains and threats from subscribers should be taken seriously, as 9mobile risks losing even more of its customers than it did when the company failed to meet its loan obligations and was forced to restructure management and change its brand name from Etisalat to 9mobile.

Etisalat Nigeria Ltd., Nigeria’s fourth largest telecommunication firm was recently faced with financial crisis since Mubadala Development Company of United Arab Emirates, the company’s largest shareholder pulled out its investment from the country.

It failed to reach an agreement on possible repayment plans with 13 Nigerian banks, where they took out a $1.2billion medium term syndicated loan facility taken in May 2013, hoping to be able to refinance the existing commercial medium term debt of $650 million, but missed payment in February 2017, due to an economic downturn and scarcity of foreign exchange in the country. This forced the UAE Company to pull out of Nigeria, causing a total rebranding to the new 9mobile to reflect the new management led by the Chief Executive Officer, Boye Olusanya.

Nigeria’s Zenith Bank, Monday August 14, 2017 made a provision on 30 percent of its loan to 9mobile.

Peter Amangbo, the bank’s CEO in a conference call said that “we have taken about 30 percent, as a provision which we believe is very prudent as the company is undergoing restructuring, to prepare for a new investor.”

Statistics from the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) shows that 9mobile currently has just over 18 million subscribers, down from its over 21 million subscribers in 2016, due to shakeups from bank loan debts.

Industry analysts say with the recent network problems and without investors, 9mobile may not survive in Nigeria’s telecoms market and may have to merge with any other existing operator to remain competitive in this tightening industry.

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