Airtel Nigeria has been in the news for some developments consumers should be proud of. However, an independent report by Enext Wireless tends to depict the opposite.
The telco’s fierce battle for more market share and the deployment of advanced technology became intense since it secured 5G license from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). Run-up to that, in March Airtel announced the milestone of upgrading its entire footprint of cell sites to 4G.
The operator said its 50 million+ customers in the country can now tap into flawless voice call experiences, as all 2G and 3G sites have been upgraded to the advanced network standard.
Surendran Chemmenkotil, (now former) Chief Executive and Managing Director, said that the operator ‘is committed to delivering mobile broadband to the whole country including remote locations as connectivity has a direct correlation with boosting the nation’s GDP”.
“Our commitment is to our customers and we are focused on ensuring that they continue to get the right and best experience on our network. This exercise is inspired by the fact that we want to serve our customers better and we also want to contribute significantly to deepening broadband expansion in Nigeria as this has a direct correlation to GDP and economic productivity of a country, ” Chemmenkotil said.
A team at Enext Wireless, an engineering company that focuses on improving user experience in Mobile Broadband Wireless Communications, carried out survey on the ‘Airtel upgraded 3G cell sites to 4G LTE’, and came up with report:
“Our survey of Airtel service from Lagos to Ekiti shows many sites with 3G coverage but no 4G LTE coverage”, Remi Adeyeye, the President of Enext Wireless Inc. said.
“In other words, Airtel does not offer LTE service on all of its 3G cell sites”, he claimed.
The report also counters Airtel’s claim of offering VoLTE nationwide:
“Voice calls from our VoLTE-enabled UEs in Lagos and Ibadan are assigned to CSFB, not VoLTE. In other words, Airtel does not offer VoLTE nationwide in Nigeria”.
On June 17 2023, TechEconomy reported that Airtel Nigeria’s readiness to launch 5G Network and on Monday June 19, 2023, Airtel organized its media launch of the service with mouth-watering offers to the consumers.
Femi Oshinlaja, Chief Commercial Officer at Airtel Nigeria, said 5G services will be available in four major cities of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos, Ogun and Rivers States, adding that services would be extended to other parts of the country subsequently.
Shockingly, the researchers at Enext Wireless revealed that Airtel has been assigning their 5G UEs (user equipment) to 5G in some areas in Lagos since May 19, 2023.
“In other words, Airtel has already ‘launched’ 5G network, since we have not changed our SIMs or specifically requested 5G service from Airtel”.
So, why is this a problem?
“5G network should not have been offered to the public before it is launched”, the report said adding reasons ‘”Airtel’s announcement of June 19th 5G launch is a farce”.
“Airtel has been assigning our 5G-capable UEs to 5G since May 19, 2023. This suggests that
“Airtel was assigning us to a network we did not know existed, that had not been ‘launched’.
Airtel could simply have barred our 5G UEs from accessing its 5G network until that network was ready to be launched.
“Why collect money from us for a network that was not ready (launched)?
Why this could be debated as a test-phase before the launch, it was not clear if the telco notified its customers about the 5G launch as at May 19, which was exactly a month before the official media launch.