Raheem Akingbolu writes on recent activities embarked upon by telecommunications companies to deepen market penetration
Top operators in the telecoms market are at the peak of competition for consumers’ loyalty, with each coming out with innovative ideas to win the biggest chunk of the market. As a major player, Airtel is using innovation and sponsorship to make a statement.
From MTN to Glo, Airtel to Etisalat, it has been a fierce ‘war’ in the last few years. At the beginning, the subtle brand war was between MTN and the then Econet. Of course, MTN carried the day because of instability at the board level of the then Econet. Then Glo came on board and changed the game with the introduction of per second billing. The new phase of the struggle came with the launch of Etisalat and the rebranding of Zain to Airtel, which seemed to end many years of trouble for the then ‘Zain’ brand. Today, the trend has changed as both Airtel and Etisalat are giving MTN a run for its money. For Airtel, innovation, sponsorship and partnership have become major tools for positioning. The latest is the business collaboration between the telco company and facebook, which will enable its subscribers have access to basic and free internet services on their mobile devices, while using a connected Airtel SIM card. This was preceded by the launch of SmartSpeedoo, a revolutionary service that allows customers experience real data while browsing at affordable tariff and enjoying free megabytes
For instance, its Airtel Rising Stars, which is now in its fourth season, is a unique football initiative that seeks to provide support for the development of football talents by discovering youngsters with football talents and providing them the opportunity to gain football skills and develop into renowned stars. With a pan-African appeal, ARS has become an annual feature in the sports calendar of Nigeria and 16 other African countries where tournament sponsor and organiser, Bharti Airtel Networks, presently has operations.
Since making a sensational debut in 2011, Airtel Rising Stars has grown in awareness, followership and participation, attracting within the first three seasons approximately 18,000 youth teams and 324,000 youngsters pan-Africa.
Airtel Smart Speedoo, which can be activated using *141#, was unveiled at a press briefing held recently in Lagos.
Chief Commercial Officer, Airtel, Ahmad Mokhles, said the company is passionate about creating innovative mobile Internet platforms, value offerings and opportunities that will help telecoms consumers in Nigeria stay connected and be fully empowered to fulfill their dreams.
“Airtel Nigeria is intensely interested in democratizing data tariff and we have taken a huge step forward in this journey in line with our major objective of becoming the provider of first choice for mobile Internet services,” Mokhles added.
Speaking on how Airtel Speedo works, Vice President, Data & Digital Services, Airtel, Nitin Anand, said customers using Smart Speedoo enjoy low rate in addition to free data the more they browse.
“When a customer uses up to 10mb at 1kobo/kb, Airtel gives him 10mb free. And when his usage gets to 50mb, the browsing rate drops to 0.5kobo/kb, then he gets 50mb free. When the customer’s usage reaches 100mb, the rate drops further to 0.2kobo/kb and he is given 100mb free,” Anand explained.
Free facebook access
In what looks like a way to get more Nigerians connected to internet, the network provider recently struck a deal with facebook to help Airtel subscribers access all the services that are available on the combined platform, through ‘Free Basics’ without paying extra for data charges or rental.
The Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria, Mr. SegunOgunsanya, said with the free internet access, Airtel subscribers could dial *141# to start using the free and basic services.
According to him, “The collaboration marks a significant milestone in our nation’s drive towards deepening digital connectivity and enhancing mobile broadband access for millions of Nigerians in line with the key objective of Nigeria’s National Broadband Plan. It is our belief that this partnership, the first of its kind in Nigeria, will create a plethora of opportunities for millions of Nigerians, empowering them to connect to their dreams, realise their full potentials, and succeed in their professional and personal endeavours.”
Free Basics platform provides basic mobile websites and services for free to people around the world and demonstrating the value the internet can provide.
According to him, the free basics will launch in Nigeria with more than 85 free services dedicated to health, education, jobs, and finance. To date, Facebook estimates that its connectivity efforts, which include Free Basics, have brought more than 25 million people online who would not be otherwise.
He also pointed out that Airtel Africa will also be offering Facebook Flex in Nigeria, which allows people to access a version of Facebook without data charges. This initiative, according to Ogunsanya, is part of Facebook’s commitment to bringing people online and reducing affordability barriers.
Airtel Africa was said to have worked with Facebook since 2014 in enhancing accessibility to the internet in an affordable manner through the launch of Free Basics in Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Seychelles and Rwanda. With the launch of offering in Nigeria, millions more people will have the ability to access basic services, Airtel and Facebook said in a joint statement.
The Vice President of Internet.org at Facebook, Chris Daniels, said: “Bharti Airtel Africa has been an important partner in bringing connectivity and access to people across Africa. Our partnership has played a key role in helping bring digital content and services to people and communities in growing countries.”
The Director of Global Product Partnerships at Facebook, ImeArchibong, added that the global company has spent time with the developer community in Nigeria to understand how it can help people in the country build and create for their communities, and by bringing Free Basics to the country.