Mr. Karl Olutokun Toriola, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria Photo Collage: Proshare

5G Networks are potential game-changer in Nigerian telecoms sector ─MTN CEO

*As more businesses rely on remote working and e-commerce, demand is growing, and it is essential that we continue to enhance service quality and reliability while being cognizant that these services are affordable, accessible to as many consumers as possible ─Karl Olutokun Toriola, Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

As the Federal Government has disclosed it plans for the commercial deployment of the fifth-generation (5G) technology in the West African country by January 2022, MTN Nigeria Communications Plc has stated the socio-economic and digital transformation that the telecommunications sector catalysed in the last 20 years will no longer be driven by voice and SMS (Short Messaging Service), but the Internet of things (IoT).

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ConsumerConnect reports Mr. Karl Olutokun Toriola, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MTN Nigeria, stated this in a recent interview by the leading telecoms operator, on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of telecommunications services in the country.

The MTN CEO said: “We’re on the verge of introducing 5G services, which is another potential game-changer, really driving the adoption of the Internet of Things.”

Assessment of Nigerian telecommunications sector in 20 years

Going down the memory lane on how the telecoms sector in Nigeria has performed in the last two decades, Mr.Toriola said in respect of the ability to communicate with loved ones and teams at will, “it is surprising to many of us that it was only 20 years ago when it was impossible to let someone know you would be late for an appointment!”

He explained that the first wave of transition is so deeply embedded in daily life now, that it is taken entirely for granted, but the telecoms consumers must not forget that despite the ongoing transition to data, millions of Nigerians still rely on voice and SMS services, especially the most vulnerable in the society.

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“That was so clear during the COVID lockdowns when we gave every customer free 300 SMS per month and saw more than 52 million customers send more than 4 billion messages in less than three months.

“We still have work to do here, with voice connections continuing to grow on the back of existing growth opportunities and a fast-growing population.

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“We need to continue to expand into rural areas and serve the under-served, bridging the remaining connectivity divide,” Toriola noted.

Efforts at making services affordable and accessible for telecoms consumers

According to him, as Nigerian telecoms consumers do this, the transition to data is happening very rapidly and has accelerated since the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

He stated: “With more and more businesses reliant on remote working and e-commerce, demand is growing, and it’s essential that we continue to enhance service quality and reliability while being cognizant that these services need to be affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. The data journey has really evolved over time.

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In terms of the evolution of the different generations of telecommunications networks over time, the MTN Chief recalled from “the 2G connections that introduced broad access to mobile connectivity in 2001, through the 3G proposition that enabled more tasks to be delivered remotely, through to 4G, which is the backbone for video calling, SVOD and other data-heavy services, that process never stops.

Nigeria ready to deploy 5G technology

Toriala has declared “we’re on the verge of introducing 5G services, which is another potential game-changer, really driving the adoption of the Internet of Things.”

Nigerian telecoms consumers

He as well said that the telecoms sector has impacted the Nigerian economy in the last 20 years.

Toriola noted it has been transformational in so many ways in that some are clear to all and some that are perhaps less easy for the ordinary person to see.

Telecoms industry now enabler of other sectors of the economy

“I think many of the changes have become so embedded that it’s often difficult to relate to life without them.

“But let’s start with basic economics. In Q4 2020, the Telecoms sector constituted 12.2 percent of Nigeria’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product),” MTN Nigeria CEO stated.

He also explained that it is an industry that was virtually nascent in 2001, contributing N1.20Kobo for every N10 the Nigerian economy generates.

Nonetheless, he stressed “that doesn’t tell the whole story. Apart from the huge revenues from the wider ICT sector, the numbers don’t incorporate the catalytic growth that the telecoms industry enables in other sectors.

“Think about the operational efficiencies that connectivity has enabled over the last 20 years.”

As regards how the consumer prices have fared and the value for money in the last 20 years in the economy, Toriola emphasised that in the light of the enabling role of the telecoms sector in Nigeria, it should be noted that “telecommunications is probably the only sector where consumer prices have dropped consistently year-on-year since 2001.

“The steady decline in tariffs has been driven by increasing demand for telecommunication services, stimulating increasing minutes of usage and activities on the networks by a growing number of people.”

Our responsibility to telecoms consumers

Going forward, he said when an industry is growing this rapidly and dynamically, it is inevitable that the stakeholders will take a few wrong turns, but he noted that is a part of every organisation’s growth.

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“The important thing is to ensure that you identify them, learn from them and correct them.

“Pursuing the ultimate customer proposition is at the heart of my focus as CEO. We know that millions of Nigerians rely on the services that we provide, and it’s our responsibility to ensure they can.

“We’re getting better and better at it, but we will never stop trying to improve,” he added.

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