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Rajan Swaroop

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Airtel Nigeria says it has achieved more than 20 million active subscribers in the country, a giant leap from the 14.5 million it was before it was acquired from Zain about two years ago.

Rajan Swaroop, managing director of the telco, who disclosed this today in Lagos, said Airtel had also spent some USD1.2 billion in upgrading and expanding the network capacity, which had resulted in improved network quality.

According to him, this high level of investment has resulted in this exponential growth in subscriber numbers.

Specifically, Swaroop said the launch of the 3.75 G in the country had revolutionised data and other services to the customers. He said the 3.75G service, initially to 74 towns, is now available in more than 150 communities in the country with more than 3000 3G base transmission stations (BTS). This, he said, is the largest on the continent.

“We are supporting the efforts of the Federal Government at expanding data broadband, data 3G to rural areas. We have services that are pocket friendly to our customers,” he said.

He said the telco now has the capacity to double its subscriber base without any fear of congestion, because it has redundant capacity.

“We have commissioned a world class data centre, deployed over 535 km fibre last year with another ongoing 2,070 km, our traffic has increased by 124% since acquisition, sub base by 31%,” he said.

He lamented the numerous challenges confronting the industry which he said is responsible for occasional hitches on the network.

“We experience an average of between 50-60 cases of lock-up sites monthly and experience an average of 70-80 fibre cuts monthly. Our operating cost (opex) shows over 80% as power generation in Nigeria remains erratic. We spend over N5 billion every month on power generation because some parts of the country are still not on the national power grid while on multiple taxation, there are more than 15 different taxes and levies paid to the three tiers of government,” he said.

He lamented that operators are currently saddled with several demand notices from all manner of agencies working for the various states, with threats of closure and arrest appended to them, adding that no single approval has been given for the installation of a BTS in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, since 2005.

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