As Data Comes, Quality Must Come With It

Communications Commission (NCC) to telecommunications service providers. The warning, over the years, has also been followed with sanctions, penalties and fines to buttress the seriousness with which the regulator holds Quality of Service (QoS).

In telecommunication, quality service did not come with voice service to Nigeria, but we can’t afford to have quality service travel in a separate bus from data service.

Of course, there has been progressive improvement in service quality from the operators on voice. However, the recent warning on QoS by the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta was not totally geared at improving the call connection rate or billing inaccuracies; it was, to a great extent, directed at ensuring that data services, which is the next market in Nigeria, do not go through the same process of trial-and-error that voice services went through.

The recent promise to release the 38GHz and 42GHz Spectrum, as well as re-plan the 23GHz microwave spectrum band to facilitate broadband penetration and improve the quality of telecom services as part of his 8-point agenda, is a step in the right direction.

However, what should be at the crest of our minds is that the margin of error with voice cannot be tolerated with data services, every break in transmission could be hazardous. Consistent speed is key.

When GSM communication kicked off in Nigeria in 2001, there was a general feeling of excitement and expectation. As services progressed and spread among Nigerians, overriding social class with pricing and cost, expectations started to shift to quality.

Since then the quality of service had progressively improved, albeit at a rather slow pace. While some may argue that challenges being faced with Nigerian telecommunication services are same as other countries of the world, services such as drop calls are only experienced in areas with known limited coverage. While that can be accommodated, billing drop calls and inaccessible Customer Care (and most times non-resolution of issues) are totally mischievous practice or service to render to consumers.

Also, unfortunately, Nigerians have been made to endure periodic epileptic service from telecommunication operators. Reasons for these are most times never explained to the consumer; rather it leaves consumers dissatisfied after speaking into a phone for several minutes without communication; and the operators smiling to the banks with billings that were never serviced.

Quality of Service (QoS) is an issue that has pervaded in the voice segment of telecommunication. 

However, as the focus turns on data services and broadband as the next thing to happen, quality cannot be compromised. The Voice segment guaranteed communication, but Data is expected to have a broad shoulder to drive socio-economic growth and global competitiveness.

Like voice, we expect exponential growth in data traffic, a transition from information to knowledge society, and as we do this we would not want truncated knowledge. We can bear truncated calls, but not truncated data flow. Imagine a situation where one is receiving data information flow from an important source, or a download, and there is a network cut, entailing a fresh start. Frustrating, isn’t it?

It was obvious that telecommunication service providers were not prepared for the exponential growth in subscription, and therefore had to play catch-up, thereby encountering service challenges. Already, there has been enough warning on the relevance and volume of data to be generated in coming years and the need to be prepared for excellent data services.

A study titled: “The Information Generation: Transforming The Future Today”, conducted by the Institute for the Future and Vanson Bourne indicates that by 2020 more than 7 billion people on at least 30 billion devices will have created 44 zettabytes of data (or 44 trillion gigabytes). 

In Nigeria, operators of data services need to be prepared for the impending data explosion that will come as Broadband grows broader; and fathom innovative ways of ensuring that there is seamless data transmission and storage. They also need to carry only what they can bear. One of the ways, is infrastructure development. It doesn’t need to start now, now is late. 

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