Osondu Nwokoro is the Director of Regulatory Affairs and Special Projects at Airtel Nigeria.
The Com World Series team caught up with Osondu ahead of the NigeriaCom conference and exhibition, taking place at the Lagos Oriental Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria, 17-18 September to find out a bit more about his experiences and focus at the event.
Com World Series: How is your company positioned in Nigeria and what are its future objectives?
Osondu Nwokoro: Airtel Nigeria is a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel, India, the third largest mobile telecoms company in the world that has presence in 21 countries across Asia and Africa. Airtel draws from this global experience to run its operations in Nigeria. Basically, we are positioned by coverage, quality and innovative products offered at competitive rates as distinguishing features for our operations in Nigeria.
Airtel’s future objective is to become the most loved brand in the daily lives of Nigerians. Airtel has deployed the most extensive 3G network coverage across Nigeria, pursuant to our goal of becoming the leader in the mobile broadband segment of the industry . We are very pleased to say that this target is being achieved as a Study by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) shows that Airtel recorded the highest percentage growth of 92% in data segment within the period June 2012 to March 2013.
Com World Series: What do you think are the top 3 major trends that are affecting your business in the region in 2013?
Osondu Nwokoro: The Nigerian market currently has the largest number of blackberry subscriptions in the world and this is expected to impact positively on data usage, which is projected to be a major driver for the industry in 2013 and beyond. The number of internet users in the country is put at below 50million with penetration rate of 28.6% (as of March 2013), which represents very huge untapped market potential for the industry. The three trends that will facilitate data uptake are the ongoing extensive 3G infrastructure roll out, the country’s large youthful population which stands at over 65% and the increasing number of smartphones in the industry
Com World Series: What are the remaining challenges in terms of connectivity and quality of services in the region and which technologies are most likely to resolve these issues?
Osondu Nwokoro: The absence of reliable electricity power supply and high cost of obtaining Right of Way (RoW) Approvals for deployment of transmission infrastructure (fibre optic cables) have adversely impacted on the delivery of optimal service to subscribers. Wireless Operators are deploying hybrid power solutions to work around the challenge, in order to deepen telecoms penetration and the realisation of broadband aspirations in Nigeria.
Osondu Nwokoro: Beyond the role being played by Operators, Government is invited to implement the Power Reform Plan aimed at improving power generation and distribution, and support industrial growth and development of the country. Also, Government at the Federal and State levels are encouraged to institute a mechanism to ensure expedited RoW approvals and adoption of administrative fees regime, so as to support the deployment of robust transmission infrastructure for broadband development in the industry.
Com World Series: How are smartphones/tablets and cloud services impacting mobile/internet service providers in Nigeria?
Osondu Nwokoro: Prior to the advent of Smartphones, internet access was mainly restricted to cybercafés and this use resulted in Nigeria having very low internet access and users. According to the NCC, increased smartphone use has enhanced the number of internet access/users which stood at 32.5mM as at March 2013. To facilitate this development, Airtel has entered into collaboration with Techno to offer smartphones at N12,000 each (USD80 equivalent), and this initiative has impacted positively on the number of mobile/internet services users on our network. Cloud services is still at its infancy in Nigeria and significant growth is expected in this segment within the next few years.
Com World Series: In your opinion, which companies are spearheading innovation in the region and what can be learnt from them?
Osondu Nwokoro: A number of companies have spearheaded innovation across different segments of the industry and Airtel is a trail blazer in product innovation in response to subscribers needs. A typical example, Airtel’s One-Network “one of a kind” which eliminates roaming charges for subscribers who are travelling to any country where Airtel is operating. Constant reference to subscribers to find out their needs is the key here.
Com World Series: Who are you most looking forward to meeting/hearing from and what do you hope to achieve from taking part in NigeriaCom?
Osondu Nwokoro: NigeriaCom will present an opportunity for Industry Stakeholders to exchange ideas and chart the way forward for the Nigerian Telecommunications Industry.
Find out more at NigeriaCom. Osondu Nwokoro will be speaking on Day 2 in the Mobile Money stream at 15:00 in the session “Low mobile money uptake in Nigeria: Causes & Remedies”.