Smile Communications Nigeria Limited has applauded Nigeria’s move towards a digital economy.
The 4G Long-Term Evolutions, LTE, broadband internet service provider said, to achieve this major aim is to create a significant IT industry as the motto of a digital economy is numerous skills.
Speaking to Nigerian Pilot, the MD of Smile Nigeria, Mr. Michiel Buitelaar said the country needs to have lot of smart people as a good number of Nigerian university graduates have lots IT skills.
The Smile boss reiterated the need to have a decent infrastructure, common and reliable access to internet connectivity for entrepreneurs in the university that want to benefit from IT development.
According to him, “Universities need make use of digital stuff to get their services, tools, clothing to the people. Nigeria needs human skill, infrastructure. The economy requires people that can move into e-business. I will argue that all of these are more or less present, than what I have seen in other countries.
Nigeria is in good step towards digital economy.”
On the expansion witnessed, He revealed that the fund secured last year aided the expansion seen today at smile adding that the money used for voice calls, network expansion.
Buitelaar stated that it was important they spend the money to expand smile network to other cities across the nation and further improve the network in existing cities.
According to him, “The financial power we have enables us to do the task ahead of us. We have shown strong presence in Tanzania, Uganda, and Nigeria. In these three countries, we launched unlimited network. We also have presence in Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, but we are yet to roll out the network.
“But I think it is fair to say that as a company, we aim to think big, so we do things on the basis of scales. In developing voice, we did that as a big project for the three countries.
“We believe that the way we implement voice unlimited for that matter is the way to go.
“Because, if you look at the way we develop voices network here, there are local regulatory conditions to be met, there is competition which plays a role in pricing or the way we do the positioning it need to be logical.
“It really a product for the Nigerian market so it should be seen as such even though if it might be 70 or 80 percent the same in other countries.
“We benefit from the scale, which enable us to provide better product at low cost across this market, but it’s still about making it happen in the local market.”
Speaking further, he said that they are gathering data, as there are a lot of things that could be better, and something that could be pretty good.
“I think we anticipated a drip, especially in respect to the pricing, understanding the pricing is very important.
“Obviously, we have to educate the customers too. People need to understand what is data, people also need to understand that is not every handset that is ready to receive it We are convinced that our pricing is good .
“We are Data Company, but we are not ready to move into other area. We have to explain it now, which we are doing I think we are confident that once people get used to it, they will be happy with it,” he said.
On the issue of 4G LTE, he said that 4G LTE market in Nigeria is a bit more advanced than others and are still benefiting from what is on the ground.
“We think we have the best platform, technology, the market is moving much more above that direction and we are happy with it. We intend to play a big role in making Nigeria embrace technology.
“We are aware of infrastructural issues in Nigeria market but I think there is an opportunity for those providing real quality services both in data and voice.
“LTE is fundamentally a mobile high network with internet which is very different from GSM and also different from 3G.
“In VOLTE, known as voice over LTE, we offer a voice over a digital carrier. If you make a call on 4G/LTE network, the quality is very high that’s one of our claims. We say super clear voice; we believe that the quality of our voice will beat the existing benchmark in Nigeria. That said not to complicate it, but the voice always have two sides, there is one who calls and the one who get called. Now in most of the voice calls we get carriers of two networks.
“We have high ambitions and can guarantee our entire network. The reality is a bit more complex. We are confident that will play a part in providing a very high quality service and we think that the market is ready for that.
“Our strategy, we want to be seen as high quality, reliable and fast, not necessary the cheapest, but we do want to be seen as best voice provider .
“The way we position voice is an example of that and is very well placed and very attractive to both national and international traffic.
“Our market strategy is to be the voice provider of choice. What we do is we sell broad band data, it something we intend to own and needs to capture the market, to take people away from what they are used to, that is a narrow band piece which is of low quality where their expectations are not met with regards to broadband quality.
“And I think everything we do whether data or voice is built upon that and is a key selling point for us and our positioning in the market.
“We think it will increase our sales and our revenues to a reasonable extent. The market for voice will not go down. It cannot go away; everybody wants to make a call.
“We are here to double the customer base, and double the gain, we want our customer base to grow more rapidly. We need to cover two third of the state. We are going to meet the license obligation. We are going to meet it, and we are going to go further.
“Overtime we will in more states across the nation. I would expect broadband demand to be bigger in every state.”
Speaking on challenges, the Smile boss said that not every Nigerians have seen the benefits of broad band.
He said that Smile have set the access to internet in Nigeria, which is rapidly developing adding that about 90 percent of Nigerian thinks they need broad band but it is still not there but think it is still increasing.
He said, “Another thing is the availability of devices is rapidly changing. If you look at the availability of high quality internet enabled devices, price is still an issue.
“Samsung is now coming in with LTE enabled devices. To exaggerate it, the prices of devices are coming down dramatically.
The access to broad band is relatively expensive, but it’s going to be extremely affordable.
“Now we are still in a market that is pretty much dominated by WI-FI, and is moving towards smart phones and tabs.
“The third one is the growth of company like Jumia, Konga. They will fuel broadband access as many people are beginning to shop online.
“Another challenge is how to enhance digital growths in Nigeria, which create a reliable platform for us, which will bring people to a much more sophisticated internet usage for which they will probably use technology.”
He praised the Nigeria regulatory approach which is reasonable and practical.
“I will not say it has inhibited our operation but in every country, voice tends to attract more regulators.
“There is obligation in regard to national and international traffic plays different role in connecting voices considerably more sophisticated for data. We have to add number pledge, which is not difficult, which is relatively straight procedures.
“You have to carter for the sales and the procedures, for the sales vary for some countries. When you get number, you also get into another There is also much fairer regulations, there is also strict regulations.
“There is more also to technically. In my view, for the average consumer, a lot more interesting, to make voice work, you have to go through some steps.
“It hasn’t delayed us as a company. We have people on board who have done these things severally in other countries that got it done.
“The regulator gives us the list of requirement that we need to meet, at each point they come to us.
Every country has a regulator and every country has its rules. The major differences in launching voices in other countries is that each countries have to meet it regulatory rules, there is nothing in our regulatory laws that was tedious to us. They ask us for our prices, we give it to them they ask us of our documentation, and we give it to them.”
He however restated that Smile’s CRS strategy is focused to help people, organizations that may not have step into the connected broadband as they are determined to make that step.
It would be recalled that Smile recently introduced two 4G LTE innovations to its customers in Nigeria, namely SmileVoice and SmileUnlimited.

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