telecom

How Telecoms Impacted Lives, Economy in 20 Years of GSM Rollout

August 8, 2021

Today marks 20 years of the roll out of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) in Nigeria as the first commercial GSM call on the Econet Wireless Network, now Airtel Network was made on August 8, 2001

Expectedly, operators, regulators and consumers of telecoms products have continued to speak about the revolution which GSM has brought into the Nigerian national life,

Interestingly, there seems to be a consensus among industry players and the regulators that the transformational development in the Nigerian telecoms sector in 20 years, have significantly transformed the Nigerian socio-economic life in a positive way.

Chief among these contributions include increased contribution to GDP and the ability of Nigerians to communicate through the mobile phone and the opportunity to carry out several banking transactions on the mobile phone, while on the move.

Millions of Nigerians use the shortcode platform to access banking services daily through their phones, but the telcos say they are being owed by the banks.

The importance of telecoms to banking was amplified by the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive (EVC/CE) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, who declare that telecommunications remains the best enabler in expanding the frontiers of financial inclusion in Nigeria.

MTN Nigeria, which had carried out a trial test on its network before August 8, 2001, also rolled out its commercial GSM services, few days after August 8, 2001, before the emergence of Globacom in 2003 and 9mobile in 2008.

Before the GSM rollout in 2001, Nigeria had a combined subscriptions of about 400,000 lines, which were built on the defunct Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) network and few other existing Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) networks, from the time of Independence in 1960 to 2001.

In less than two years of GSM rollout, total telecoms subscriptions grew to millions, and today telecoms subscriptions have reached over 200 million in just 20 years of GSM rollout.

Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, told THISDAY that telecoms has impacted the lives of Nigerians and the Nigerian Economy in the last 20 years.

According to him, “Before GSM technology, there was Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology but all these have transformed to total neutrality of technology, leading to availability of service, quality of service among others, and they have brought about significant improvement on mobile communications.

“We have transformed from 1G technology, which was the CDMA technology, to 2G 2.5G, (voice only) 3G, 3.5G, 4G and 5G technology.

“These transformations are function of technology, but the beauty of it is that Nigeria moved at the right speed of technology, and if the country had not moved in that speed by adopting emerging technologies, we would not have had that rapid growth. Today there is no kind of service you find on the network of developed countries that are not on our networks in Nigeria and we give the credit to our operators. So part of the progress we have made as a country, is by accepting and adopting the rapid changes in technology.”

Executive Chairman, NigerIan Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, said the telecoms sector has contributed well over $70 billion to Nigeria’s GDP since 2001.

According to statistics obtained from NCC’s website, telecoms contribution to GDP in 2012 was 7.7 per cent, but the figure doubled to 14.3 per cent as at the second quarter in 2020. This represented a N2.3 trillion growth, whereas the total contribution of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to GDP, was put at 17. 5 per cent.

According to the statistics, telecoms contribution to GDP had maintained a steady growth rate between 2012 and 2020, excerpt for 2013, when there was a slight drop in the contribution, compared to the contribution in 2012.

The statistics showed that in 2012, telecoms contribution to GDP was 7.7 per cent and in 2013, the contribution dropped slightly to 7.4 per cent, but it picked up again in 2014, contributing 7.6 per cent to GDP. In 2015, telecoms contribution to GDP further increased to 8.5 per cent and it had another increase in 2016, contributing 9.13 per cent. In 2017, it contributed 8.7 per cent to GDP and in 2018, telecoms contribution to GDP grew to 9.9 per cent.

In 2019, telecoms contribution to GDP grew again to 10.6 per cent and in 2020, as at second quarter, telecoms contribution to GDP, reached 14.3 per cent, representing N2.3 trillion, whereas the entire contribution of ICT to GDP within the same period was 17.5 per cent.

MTN, one of the early telecoms operators that has not changed its brand identity and ownership structure since 2001 till date, has extended its gratitude towards Nigerians as the country celebrates the 20th anniversary of GSM rollout.

As part of its expression of gratitude towards Nigerians for their support over the years, MTN said it would be commissioning an ultra-modern head office in Nigeria to be powered by renewable energy. This is also a testament to its desire to continue to plant its roots in the country.

The Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, Mr. Karl Toriola, in a statement, said the building would serve as a central hub for creativity and innovation.

According to him: “In line with our desire to plant deeper and more permanent roots in Nigeria, we have also initiated plans to commission a purpose-built, state of the art MTN Head Office, designed to act as a central hub for our network, a catalyst for creativity and innovation, and a showcase for the flexible working structures that are driving efficiency gains in this new normal working environment.

“Aligned with our wider commitment to environmental sustainability, it will meet the highest global environmental standards, demonstrating the role of green technology in our future.”

The company said it owes its success to the immense support of Nigerians over the years.

“In 20 years, we have been able to reach impressive heights thanks to the support of Nigerians. This has been our motivation for doing more, and we will continue to put Nigerians first,” Toriola added.

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