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‘Nigeria is better off with new technologies’




Richard Edet is the Managing Director, Customer Operations, Middle East, Africa, Nokia Systems. In this interview with ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, he spoke on how Nokia is coping in the market, strategies to remain afloat, Nigeria’s technology ecosystem and other germane industry issues.

Since Microsoft acquired the mobile devices, how is Nokia playing now, especially in Nigeria?
Nokia Networks customer base has been growing in Nigeria. If you take the new Nokia: Alcatel and Nokia combined, we are working with all the operators; be it MTN customers, Glo, Airtel. On government and enterprise segments we are also expanding our footprints. With the calibre of Nokia officials we now have on ground, it is a testament to what we are trying to do in Nigeria. We are 400-man workforce in Nigeria with offices in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt. We are pretty much entrenched in the system. However, we are now embarking on enlightening customers and make the market become more aware of what we are offering.

How is Nokia relating with other technology hubs in the Nigerian ecosystem?
We actually have programmes ongoing with universities in Nigeria. They are part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but more of skills and capacity development plans. We partnered two universities to extend the Nokia value to students and potentially expose them to the global corporation that has robust internship programme.

In terms of aligning with government’s IT agenda, where is Nokia playing?
We are creating awareness on smart city and public safety. As I mentioned earlier, we are expanding to government and enterprises to share ideas like we have done in other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and Europe. The challenges in Nigeria speak to the opportunities and solutions we can help government with. To the operators, we are already working with them, helping to improve quality of service and operations.

What are Nokia’s other plans to boosting skills development in Nigeria with emphasis on new technologies like the 5G?
You are right with regards the realities on ground and the technology of the future. That is why we organise events like road shows where we explain to people about technologies coming tomorrow and the challenges on ground. For us, we have a young team on ground, who are competent and skilled to even transfer the knowledge to others. We are here to develop and support, especially, our customers. There are different ways we engage with them: some would prefer to have just skill development through trainings, while others would prefer network upgrade experience for them. It is important for any emerging ecosystem like Nigeria to be very serious with skills set development. As a corporation, Nokia is ready to work with other OEMs and operators to achieve this goal.

4G technology development has commenced in Nigeria, do you see the uptake keeping at par with other ecosystems? What is the sustenance level, especially for an emerging economy such as ours?
Generally, 4G is definitely changing the lifestyle of people. In other climates where 4G has been introduced, the uptake doesn’t happen over-night. In some countries, the uptake is over estimated; but the delays are usually due to constraints. One of such is the spectrum.

Of course, the regulator knows how best to handle it. Sometimes, it is question of whether spectrum is available or not, while in some climates it is the pricing issue. It is usually a cumbersome exercise looking at the development of industries. But, we always leverage on previous investments in other environments. For instance, a lot of operators have spent huge amount of money on 3G licenses and now they want to expand to 4G. Therefore, they hope to recoup the investments on 3G license through 4G operations. Of course, it also lies with the individual business case for the operator. While 4G is changing lifestyle with more demands for data, for instance, prices are coming down to bring people en mass to 4G. I have no doubt, the demand is there and prices will keep coming down. So, operators have different approaches to this. With new players like Smile and Ntel, the competition will get stiffer, but the customers will experience better quality of service.

The biggest challenge for the operators is not to introduce 4G; which is actually a super 3G rather to migrate people from 2G to 3G. Once people start choosing data on 3G, definitely they will migrate to 4G with ease. Through 4G they get the best out of their customers. But 2G to data services is troublesome. People in the street actually want this data; they want the service. That is why we say do not promote the technology rather the service. Now, it is important to understand that companies are now talking about shared infrastructure (co-location) to make sure the investments feasible to everybody. Specifically, Nokia in UK tried putting together a model for one of the operators, which is something we can try replicating in Nigeria. The operators have a lot to do, the regulators have their bits, and we at Nokia are ready, leveraging our best practices, globally.

Should recession persist till around first quarter 2017, some companies would be adversely affected. What is Nokia’s plan for this period?
I thought you would say if we will move out of Nigeria. We have no such plan. But, in like all challenging times, every company does responsible things to ensure as much as possible you continue to serve the customers it does not harm your operations. Beyond recession, globally, we have a target on how to synergise because of the acquisitions that were made. We need to create synergies with clear targets on how to achieve that.

Recession is not a long time thing; it is just like mountains and valleys to be descended and ascend. The bigger question is: are we here to stay? The answer is, yes.

What we see now, in spite of the recession, people are serious about doing business in Nigeria. We have signed new business and expanding the team to handle that segment too.

Why was Mobile World Congress Revisited in Lagos?
Normally, the global Mobile World Congress (MWC) happens in Barcelona, Spain, every year where we showcase our technologies and portfolio to the global stage. But, we realised that most Nigerian customers do not attend to have the feel of what we have to showcase at the Barcelona event. Therefore, we decided to always have a localised session where the same globalised and best in class technologies and solutions for enterprises and operators within the local settings. So, it is more of our customers having the opportunity to come and feel the demo themselves, ask questions and really understand the strength and portfolio that Nokia has to offer.

What are the technologies showcased?
Nokia, before now, acquired Alcatel, Motorola, and Siemens. So it is the fusion of many good companies that have now been become strong global brand. Our portfolio cut across IP optics, fine broad portfolios and analytics applications. Obviously, we also have the radio side of our business and fixed networks; layered below it are the services, the key strength of Nokia. Across the five broad areas, we rank one or two globally. Even the Gartner reports back the facts from planning base, how the market is thriving. It is something we are also planning to offer here in Nigeria. In addition, we are talking about new technologies like the Internet of Things (IoTs), the cloud revolution, 5G; we are leaders in those areas. The brand is notable for handset business, but we are now working more on the network side. With certain acquisitions we are making too, we are going to play in digital health space and others. So, the end-to-end portfolio is very compelling.

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