With Covid-19, our macro-economic system has gone upside down Engr. Abiodun Omoniyi, MD/CEO, VDT
Can you share your company’s journey with respect to 4G Long Term Evolution?
It’s been a very interesting journey. It’s very expensive. We have been in existence for about 20 years and the quest to go into the venture has taken a better part of us. The last year have been an interesting journey. We got a load of learning in operations, marketing and sales, but things are picking up. We are getting hands-on on how to do it and we are ready for more challenges.
What is the influence of Covid-19 on your network expansion?
The year has been very challenging. The challenge of Covid-19 is high on our business because our cost of doing business has increased. It wasn’t that the revenue was very huge. Although it called for different ways of doing things. There is no way to maintain a down site without our engineers visiting the site and it is not cheap to traverse state capitals or a cities. Those are the things that have brought about high cost. However, we are now at the expansion stage. This stage needs a lot of capital. We know with the Covid-19, our macro-economic system has gone upside down. Inflation has gone up.
The exchange rates and access to fund are major challenges. All these have made it quite challenging. Our plans for 2020 is to do a lot of things. But these have not materialized. Despite the opportunities, the challenges are still prevalent.We are entirely an indigenous company. We don’t get funding from any foreign donor body. We rely on our local transactions. Telecom does not qualified for FX for now and that has been quite challenging. We couldn’t expand but we have brought more sales. We have also tried to manage our network. We have continued to deploy quality services to our clients. We’ve not been investing in infrastructural expansion.
Would you consider co-location service as an option?
Co-locating is the way to go. Even to co-locate, you must take the active element up to the towers in order to get those active elements. You will need to import them with FX and this has been the challenge. We need the federal government to ease off on telecom equipment. The business environment is not encouraging for smaller players to expand now, if you don’t have access to FX. You know, our watchword is quality. We have subscribed to the ISO 9001, which is the quality management process. We have also subscribed to the ISO 2001, which is the IT service management standards. To protecting the quality of our service has been our watchword and to be able to do this, there are many other factors that come into play. We are also protecting the quality of our service.
What are the elements involved with regards to quality of service?
There are certain fundamental things that bring quality of service. You must have ubiquitous coverage. You must be able to manage the density – how many people are getting on to the base station at a time and you must ensure that you are able to watch congestion for each base station and ensure that it’s still within the threshold of the quality design. These are the things that we watch. From the user’s perspective, some of the things we sell are usually indoors and limited mobility, the WIFI and other things.
Due to coverage, we apply some of these things where there are needs to educate the users. Operators like us sell access. That is when you have sold access through your customer’s premises equipment. I have seen some very big homes – maybe three floors – they will buy one customer premises equipment (CPE) network. The tenant expects it to be accessed in every room. That’s not the quality of service for the operator. It happens to be the quality that WIFI can distribute within our work of service. Sometimes such customers need a bit of education to be able to do redistribution. They may need to reposition the WIFI access point to a certain spot. We watch the quality of service that we provide and pay attention to customers’ complaints to improve our services.
If the network penetration has increased, don’t you expect a vertical drop in the cost?
We should take it from the macro level. It’s not just about coverage. The coverage is at a cost and the cost has a huge FX component. The cost of broadband has come down between January and now. If you use a standard index, not just the Naira because the Naira itself is pitched against international currency. There is a drop value of up to 40 – 50% and the telcos have not increased their prices. All the components are dollarised. All businesses are there to make profit, not for consumption, but to make profit you must provide better services. Otherwise, the customers will complain about the cost of service because companies will not have fund to replace the equipment.
They must cover replacement cost. They need to cover their operations expenses also. Most of these things that are in the environment were imported. Even if the price comes down, the cost of submarine cable in the component of providing service is at the maximum of 15%. Even if the component drops, the equipment replacement cost has not dropped. The cost of broadband is low, but if you look at it from the providers’ point of view you will see that truly the value they got last year is not the same value this year. Another thing that cut down costs is competition. Different players want to outdo each other. Once the issue of quality is settled with time the price will come down. But there are certain levels we must not go below or else we will be injuring ourselves.
What is new with your CRM?
It’s about holding the customers as kings. We have a process that we have created to make customers happy. It is embedded in our vision and mission. From the lowest rank staff to the top, we are all working for the good of the customers. When I talk about ISO 2001, there are processes that are in alignments to check effective customer service. We have a lot of data that helps us to serve customers better. We also educate our staff on best practices. It’s more like it’s in our fabric and process.