Floods, insecurity slow USD1.3bn MTN project


Image: Flooding in Kogi state. By Nigerian Government
Flooding in Kogi state

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The massive network modernisation and swap-out exercise being implemented by MTN Nigeria, the country's largest mobile operator, as a part of its USD1.3bn 2012 total capital expenditure (capex), is being challenged by the flood disaster and the increasing wave of insecurity in some parts of the country.

Akinwale Goodluck, the telco's Corporate Services Executive, disclosed this during a media interaction in Lagos to update its subscribers on the ongoing project

Goodluck, who appealed for patience on the part of the over 44 million MTN subscribers and other stakeholders, who have been experiencing service hitches on the MTN network, said the various activities related to MTN network moderrnisation were progressing steadily.

"We regret, however, that the pace of work has been considerably challenged by the spate of insecurity coupled with the unprecedented flooding being experienced in many parts of the country," he said.

The network optimisation exercise will affect over 4, 000 base stations of over 10, 000 across the country.

According to Goodluck: "The task that we are undertaking is tantamount to building a new network. We are seeking to replicate what we achieved over a six period in nine months."

Goodluck explained that considerable progress has been recorded with regard to the ongoing network improvement plans, stressing that several swap-outs have reached very advanced stages of completion.

"The entire network modernisation process is a very logistic-intensive one and the problem of insincerity has seriously affected the pace of work in some parts of the country," he said.

Goodluck noted that in at least 13 states, flooding has created additional logistic impediments, resulting in the slowing down of the pace of the ongoing network modernisation efforts.

While acknowledging that MTN's customers had been experiencing some disruptions over the last few weeks, Goodluck said: "We sincerely express our thanks to our customers for their patience," pledging that as much as possible, MTN would stick to its original plan of carrying out the network procedures only at night, with a view to minimising disruptions to services.

He also assured that MTN was doing everything possible, including doubling its work teams, to finalise the project as quickly as possible, even as he pointed out that, because of the current challenges the exercise may have to conclude by first quarter of 2013.

The project, which began in July, 2012, was expected to cover the entire country and was originally expected to span a period of nine months.

"It is a massive investment we are making to boost not only the quality of telephone services, but also to enhance the back-end information and communication technology support which we provide for banking and financial services, the oil industry and several other industries across Nigeria," Goodluck said.

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