Mobile Telecommunication Providers in nigeria


With a population of over 120 million people, Nigeria represents a very viable business opportunity for investment into the telecommunication market. The market potential is huge with free entry for new investors in virtually all the undertakings of the sector. Moreover, business risks and investment hurdles are minimal.
Currently, the telecommunications industry is enjoying a prime focus in Nigeria. Facilitated by a wide range of factors such as the deregulation policy, information technology, potential of the Nigerian market and worldwide trend of rapid development in telecommunications; the industry promises to be the fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy (IBP, 2009).
Nigeria has overtaken South Africa to emerge as the continent’s largest mobile market with more than 85 million subscribers (Minges, 2004). The provision of telecommunication services in Nigeria has been the preserve of public sector monopolies such as NITEL (Nigeria telecommunication). In recent times, the Nigerian government has licensed private telecommunication industries the permission to provide telecommunication services, which brought about tremendous economic growth in Nigeria. The major mobile service and solution providers dominating in Nigeria’s fast paced growing mobile market include Etisalat, Airtel Nigeria, MTN Nigeria, Visafone Nigeria and Globacom Nigeria Limited (IBP, 2009).
Etisalat has been leading in telecommunication services in the United Arab Emirates since 1976, and has established itself as an innovative and reliable mobile service operator (Ndukwe, 2008). It was the first telecom operator to introduce Mobile phone serves in the Middle East in the year 1982. Since then, Etisalat has established itself as a regional pioneer in various products and services including the MMS and 3G (Ndukwe, 2008).
This comprehensive telecommunication provider offers fixed-line voice and data services to Individuals, Internet Service providers, enterprises, content providers and mobile operators (Ndukwe, 2008). It offers a variety of hi-tech complimentary services to the telecommunication industry including voice and data transit, SIM card manufacturing, managerial and technical training, clearing house services, payment solutions, and land cable and submarine services (Ndukwe, 2008).
Etisalat Nigeria was duly incorporated under the laws of Nigerian government in partnership with Etisalat of the UAE and Mubadala development company (Ndukwe, 2008). In January 2007, this telecommunication provider acquired the Unified Access Licence including the mobile license and spectrum in the GSM 900 and 1800 MHZ bands (Ndukwe, 2008). Its full commercial operations in Nigeria began in October 2008.
Ever since, Etisalat has taken a leadership position of innovation and reliability among the international and regional operators and has built an up state-of-the-art telecom infrastructure in its many years of operations in Nigeria (IBP, 2009). Etisalat has invested heavily in the economy of Nigeria and its human resources. Since its inception in Nigeria, the telecommunication provider has developed various skills acquisition and development programs to enable its staff to offer outstanding services to the people of Nigeria. It has a market value of approximately 23 billion dollars and annual revenue of over 8.5 billion (IBP, 2009).
Currently, it is on the verge of being listed among the top operators in the world, with operations in more than 18 countries across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Etisalat is widely known for its GSM products and serves an increasing subscriber base of over 110 million people in Africa, Asia and Middle East. Currently, this innovative provider has unique products and prepositions such as the Easy Net, Easy Starter, Easy life and Easy Cliq in the populous market of Nigeria (IBP, 2009).
Etisalat’s strength can be attributed to its core strategy of acknowledging and understanding its customers. Additionally, this telecom provider is committed to taking its place amongst leading corporate citizens in Nigeria by making a wide impact and sustainable social investments. Etisalat Nigeria believes that besides a solid platform of technological innovation, sustainable investment is vital for the growth and economic stability in Nigeria. The main vision of Etisalat Nigeria is to ensure a world in which technology extends people’s reach. This telecom service provider is able to realize its vision by actively developing advanced networks and nurturing the energy and dynamism needed to achieve this goal.
The Airtel Company is a limited liability company that provides telecommunication services to the emerging mobile market in Nigeria. Its core areas are focused on GSM mobile phones, SAGEM Dect & Fax products, Electronic Airtime distribution, and Network management (Ndukwe, 2008). Besides its global brand, Airtel is among the top three GSM providers in Nigeria and has one of the highest and most profitable telecom markets in Africa. Airtel Nigeria similarly values its customers, which is evident in its vision of becoming globally admired for telecom services that delight the customers. The company is able to realize its vision by meeting the needs of the customers based on its knowledge and a deeper understanding of the ambitions of its customers.
MTN is the leading mobile telephony company in Africa. It obtained a digital mobile license in Nigeria in 2001 (Ndukwe & Ernest, 2004). This telecom service and business solution provider operates in 9 African countries and conducts its mobile operations through 3 business units namely: MTN international, MTN South Africa and Strategic Investments (Ndukwe & Ernest, 2004). Currently, the company serves 35 cities and more than 80 villages, communities and towns, as well as a number of highways in Nigeria.
Its microwave radio transmission, though under construction, ps over 3000 kilometers and traverses more than 120 towns and villages in Nigeria (Ndukwe & Ernest, 2004). Once complete, the network will significantly improve MTN call coverage and quality. MTN focuses on increasing its operations to more African countries, and this is being accomplished by forming strong alliances with the local operators. The group has also adopted a customer-focused strategy in its market operations to improve its customer services.
This is the 4th largest mobile operator and Nokia pioneer in the mobile telecommunications (Tella, 2007). It is one of Nigeria’s CDMA operators and offers a wide variety of services and products including Visa Internet, Visa Chill, Visa Profit and Visa Call Hunting (Tella, 2007). Visafone successfully partnered with Nokia in 2009 to spur growth of the telecommunication industry in Nigeria. This partnership is expected to help Visafone extend its leadership in the CDMA subsector (IBP, 2009). The company continues to focus on its 3-pronged business model of increasing its network coverage; delivering world-class service and providing excellent voice clarity in its mobile operations.
Globacom Nigeria, an indigenous and private limited liability company is one of the largest providers of mobile telecommunication services in Nigeria. According to Minges (2004), Globacom Nigeria was launched in Nigeria in 2003, with over 25 million mobile subscribers, with the ability to realize the dream of being Nigeria’s leading service provider.
It is the first sole company that built an $800 million high capacity fibre optic cable referred to as the GLO-1 (IBP, 2009). Gobacom Nigeria Ltd is also the first successful submarine cable to Nigeria from the United Kingdom and has the potential to significantly reduce the costs of telecommunication and provide excess bandwidth to several other countries connected to the cable (IBP, 2009).
Globacom Limited was established to provide efficient telecommunication services to all part of the federation and to also link Nigeria with other countries in the world, especially those that maintained strong economic and political relations with Nigeria (Minges, 2004). The introduction and establishment of Globacom Nigeria Limited in Nigeria has led to a phenomenal improvement in the service delivery and mobile subscription and ultimately the overall penetration of mobile telecommunication to the remote sectors of the country.
Etisalat Nigeria is currently the largest provider of telecommunication services in Middle East and Africa, serving an ever-increasing subscriber base of 110 million people across Africa, Middle East and Asia and with over 7 million subscribers in Nigeria (Meadon, 2011). The company intends to leverage its network infrastructure to allow mobile service providers to offer services to their clients. Recently the company acquired a 3G license to boosts its mobile broadband experience in Nigeria. With 3G, Etisalat is able to develop its data and mobile broadband portfolio and offer its customers even higher levels of service.
Additionally, in a renewed two year contract with Alcatel Lucent, the company recently outsourced its day to day operations and maintenance in order to focus on the core business issues such as increasing average revenue per user (ARPU) and ensuring increased network quality and affordability (Meadon, 2011). These changes present with it a unique opportunity for examining the importance of project management in the delivery of infrastructure projects in the company. In managing Etisalat Nigeria’s network infrastructure in the delivery of connectivity solutions to clients, the importance of project management cannot be sidelined.
The telecommunication sector in Nigeria has experienced a major process of transformation in terms of its growth, market structure and technological content in the last decade due to the major policy reforms introduced by the government (Tella, 2007). It should be noted that the impetus of these changes is likely to continue and at a much faster pace. Such changes inform the imperative need for the rapid adoption of project management methodology in Nigeria as the telecommunication environments grow more complex and international.
Driven by unrelenting market and technological forces, the telecommunication sector of Nigeria has become one of the world’s most dynamic sectors (Noll & Roger, 2000). In response to the fast paced competitive business environment and the need to overcome persistent shortfalls in telecommunication investment and performance, mobile service providers and vendors have to stress on operational excellence where the procedures and processes support and boost the business decisions in the telecommunication sector.
Therefore, taking into account the above, the critical role played by project management in streamlining and enhancing business process and the overall efficiency of the mobile telecommunication sector in Nigeria cannot be sidelined. This dissertation thus seeks to examine the impact of project management in the mobile telecommunication industry in Nigeria. In particular, how project management methods and techniques can be used by the mobile companies to optimize on their mobile infrastructure and increase their overall efficiency. The study further proposes a framework that is beneficially adaptable to Etisalat Nigeria.
In the modern world, project management began in the early 1960’s, yet its roots are in the latter years of the 19th century (Adams, 2003). The imperative need for project management was driven by the realization of the benefits of organizing work and the critical need to communicate and co-ordinate tasks across various departments and professions (Adams, 2003).
The core values of project management have allowed businesses in all sectors especially in the mobile telecommunication sector to considerably enhance their competitiveness (Stratopolous, 2005). The use project management has enabled mobile telecommunication companies to advance in productivity, value and customer service and hence comparable benefits have been noted. Many companies in the mobile telecommunication sector are able to attain considerable savings through optimizing their basic infrastructure by use of Project management.
The best thing about introducing Project management is that it usually calls for improvement in management methods and systems, and leveraging the capital invested in tools that the organizations already owns. Once Project management gives a workable plan to optimize on infrastructure projects, managers can then focus on individual business units to understand their business requirements and use Project management as the tool to align these needs (Stratopolous, 2005).
The purpose of this research is twofold: firstly, to study the importance of project management in mobile telecommunication industry in Nigeria, an in-depth case study of Etisalat Nigeria. Secondly, to examine to what extent have Etisalat Nigeria Limited utilized project management in their delivery of infrastructure projects. The primary goal is to examine and analyse project management within the context of the mobile telecommunication industry in Nigeria. As a result, the following are the research objectives:
Define project management and describe the various benefits to Etisalat Nigeria.
Examine to what extent has project management been utilized in the delivery of mobile infrastructure projects in Etisalat Nigeria.
To infer the correlation between Project management and organizational performance.
This section gives a brief overview of Nigeria’s telecommunication industry and a precise description of the major players in Mobile telecommunication industry in Nigeria. They include: Globacom Nigeria Limited, Airtel Nigeria, Visafone Nigeria, Tisalat and MTN Nigeria. The chapter also provides the justification for the selecting Etisalat Nigeria as the case study. A brief history on project management, its importance in the mobile telecommunication industry and the research purpose and objectives has also been described in this section.
The chapter starts with an introduction to literature on project management within the mobile telecommunication industry. This section expatriates on existing literature by reviewing prior studies on project management in the mobile telecommunication industry. Aligning with review of early studies on project management, the section outlines a number of project management techniques which are central to all other constituents of actualization. They include the Critical Path Method (CPC), Grant Progress Chart (GPC), and Programme Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT).
Moreover, the chapter; examines the project management methodologies and their impact on effective project management within the mobile telecommunication sector, with reference to Etisalat Nigeria. Consequently, a summary of the major challenges facing the telecommunication industry in Nigeria and an example of project management of a typical telecommunication network has been described in this section. Finally, the chapter concludes by posing research questions with reference to Etisalat Nigeria.
This chapter of the report outlines the research methodology used in collecting the data including the research strategy adopted, justification for the particular research method employed, interviews, questionnaire development, data analysis, ethical considerations and a brief outline of the research limitations encountered during the study.
By way of broad overview, the collection of data was centered on the semi-structured interviewing of 3 project managers of Etisalat Nigeria and administration of 10 questionnaires tailored towards addressing the importance of project management in the delivery of infrastructure projects within the mobile telecommunication company. This section forms an important piece of this analysis as it describes the overall methodology used in gathering the relevant information necessary for the completion of this dissertation.
Further chapters would include the results chapter, wherein the results from the quantitative and qualitative interviews would be described and listed. The discussion chapter would seek to compare the findings from the quantitative and qualitative study to existing literature, in a bit to accomplish the research objectives. The conclusion chapter concludes.

A huge paradigm shift occurs in trying times as mobile service providers and vendors in Nigeria begin to acknowledge the necessity of what project management incorporation can play in their businesses. Project management is noted through research that nearly 40% business managers assume that project management is capable of bringing dynamic changes in their operational capacity (Hatchuel, Masson & Weill, 2002). One of the most vital applications of project management in the mobile telecommunication sector is that project management enables efficient use of resources and this according to most managers is the one of the main reasons for operational excellence.
The phenomenal increase in the mobile telecommunication companies in Nigeria has generated a lot of research interest in the last decade. However, the bulk of research has focused on the growth and development sector. A vast majority of these studies examines the implementation of reforms and also addresses why government has opted for such reforms. Whilst these studies may be useful guides to policy makers, they are deficient as they fail to address the issues of project planning and management within the industry. Very few studies have explored on the importance of project management in the telecommunication sector, in particular, Nigeria’s telecommunication industry.
Current scientific literature identifies the importance of project portfolio management in evaluating, selecting and prioritizing projects in line with the corporate strategies. According to Schwalbe (2009) Project portfolio management can be defined as a way to which organizations can analyze and collectively manage in a coordinated way a group of projects. The primary goal is usually to find the best combination of projects to ensure attainment of the corporate strategies and goals. Project portfolio management provides organizations with a structured approach to selecting, evaluating and prioritizing of projects.
A review of existing studies on project management, especially, studies by Englund & Graham, (1999) and Gardiner (2005) show projects under implementation by most organizations having little or no apparent link to the corporate strategies and goals. Thus the selection of the right mix of projects for the portfolio is considered crucial in achieving the corporate strategy within limited capabilities and resources of the organizations.
Most of previous studies reveal that the right sets of projects for implementation of the corporate goals and strategies can be achieved through successful selection of the project portfolio. Additionally, existing literature show that there are several tools and techniques which guide organizations in the selection and management of projects. These studies have cited potential advantages and disadvantages for each tool and technique. Normally, organizations rarely apply one tool but rather a set of tools and techniques.
A study by Dye, Lowell & Pennypacker (2000) claimed that the importance of project management is widely recognized, but cited the lack of a clear and formal project selection and prioritization process as a hindrance to successful implementation of projects in the mobile telecommunication industry. Many researchers and practitioners have raised their concerns with regard to this issue, and went further to search and develop a selection framework integrated with tools and techniques. Our initial research and observation of the mobile telecommunication industry in Nigeria indicate that the sector is also faced with this huge challenge of the lack of a project selection framework.
There is generally wide divergence of opinions with regard to what constitutes project management and project success. Project success can be viewed and classified from different perspectives. Shenhar et al (1997) measured project success in four dimensions: execution, completion of project, delivery and assessment after completion. Sadeh, Dvir & Shenhar (2000) defined project success as when a project meets the design goals, and benefits the company and the end user.
A study by Verma (1996) posits that teamwork, communication and leadership are the vital components of effective project management. Crawford (2002) described project success as a perception that project meets the technical performance specifications hence resulting in a high level of satisfaction with regard to the project outcomes. According to Crawford (2002), project success forms an essential component of the project management. It is a frequently debated topic within the telecommunication sector and there generally is a lack of agreement with regard to the criteria by which success is judged.
A study by Cleland (1986) suggests that project success is only meaningful if considered from two vantage points: firstly, the degree to which the project’s technical performance objective has been attained on time and within the budget, and secondly, the contribution of the project on the strategic mission of the organization.
According to the Project Management Institute (2004), project management involves the application of skills, knowledge, tools and techniques to the project activities in order to meet the requirements of the project. PMI went further to characterize high quality projects as those that ensure the delivery of the require product or service within the time frame, scope and within the budget.
Whereas a study by Tinnirello (1999) posited that project management comprises of the knowledge, tools and techniques for setting a realistic scope, controlling requirements, defining responsibilities, creating feasible schedules and managing expectations. Similarly, a study on project management by Kerzner (2001) described project success to be the completion of an activity to the satisfaction of the client within the budget and allocated time frame. Critiquing these definitions as focusing too strongly on the implementation process, Morris (2003) argued for an expanded definition that emphasizes on the broader business context and strategy as well as leadership management.
From the strategy perspective, Lehtonen & Dietrich (2005) suggested that the success of a project is ultimately judged through the achievement of sustainable competitive advantage. Nonetheless, it is difficult to achieve the right project portfolio in reality. Studies have identified the following problems in the selection of a project portfolio:
Conflicting objectives
Uncertainties associated with project parameters, costs and risks.
Some projects are highly inter-dependent hence organizations cannot compare one project to another but rather comparison is drawn between a set of projects to another set.
It is thus challenging to identify the appropriate project which will contribute immensely in the successful implementation of the corporate strategy. Sharing the same view, Wheelwright & Clark (1992b) stated the importance of a right set of projects in the portfolio of a company. It is however extremely difficult to evaluate the rightness of project portfolio in contributing to the corporate strategy because strategies are dynamic and they change over time.
Turner & Muller (2010) studied the impact of project management leadership on the successful implementation of a project. The study identified the following key skills and competence necessary for the successful project management: flexibility, adaptability, confidence, aggressiveness, persuasiveness, forcefulness, verbal fluency, imagination, enthusiasm, willingness to devote most of his/her time, spontaneity and preference for significant initiative among others. They concluded that the management of persons drives success more than the technical issues.
Despite this finding, it is striking to note that there exists only a small body of research that examines project management leadership. On a study of project leadership, Cleland (1995) defined ‘project success’ as the success of a project due to effective project leadership. He further pointed out that research on leadership had been limited despite calls for more leadership research in the field of project management. The study concluded that leadership was the most critical project management resource. Huemann et al (2007) defined project management from the perspective of effective leadership as a social system focused on organizational behaviour, communication, human resource management and team building.
With regard to the above, it was observed that within the mobile telecommunication sector in Nigeria, project management is fragmented throughout various divisions in the business industry. This call for strong and staunch Project management leadership so that the investments made may have a considerable impact.
A study by Murray (2001) contributed immensely in this field. He described several factors contributing to the successful implementation of projects. They include:
adequate project funding,
level of commitment of senior management to the project,
objective assessment of the ability and willingness of an organisation to stay within the project course,
a carefully developed comprehensive project plan that incorporates sufficient time and flexibility to deal with unforeseen difficulties that may arise
a candid and accurate reporting of the project status,
development of appropriate contingency plans that may be employed when the project runs into problems,
Lastly, a critical assessment of the risks inherent in the project, potential harm associated with such risks and the ability to manage them.
It is important to note that the telecommunication industry is subject to many risks and uncertainty. The process of commissioning a project to completion is complex, generally bespoke and entails time-consuming design. It thus requires a multitude of people with diverse skills and experience and also the co-ordination of a wide range of disparate, yet interrelated activities. Such complexity is further compounded by several uncontrollable external factors. The implications of not delivering a project within the time frame and according to the predetermined specifications can be disastrous to parties involved. Thus, risk management becomes critical for successful implementation of projects.
In this regard, Kerzner (2001) extensively explored on the concepts and application of risk management in the construction projects. He defined risk management as the reaffirmation of the existence of risk in order to ensure confinement of that particular risk within the existing location. One precept that needs to be recognized is the fact that all risks are rightfully owner’s unless assumed or transferred to another party. In order to transfer a risk, the receiving party ought to have both the competence and expertise to access the risk fairly.
In a study of project management in the telecommunication industry, Snowdon (1979) enumerated the salient qualities that must be possessed by a site agent. They include:
Well-developed leadership skills
A good working knowledge on the management principles and flexibility to new ideas
Sufficient experience relating to broad based mobile telecommunication technology
Ability to understand and evaluate different aspects of the problem
Having a logical and systematic orderly approach to work
Ability to communicate effectively
Project management is central to all other constituents of the actualization apparatus. For any project, regardless of the type of project, it is expected that contractors follow certain project management techniques. These include the Critical Path Method (CPC), Grant Progress Chart (GPC), and Programme Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). The Grant Progress Chart is useful in consideration projects as the constituent activities are normally broken down into manageable parts. The activities and events are scheduled within a time matrix that permits for relationships and comparisons to be worked out.
The CPM, on the other hand, involves the scheduling, systematic planning, and control of projects. In this regard, Ndiomu (1994), contended, that for the CPM to be useful in the implementation of projects in the mobile telecommunication sector; the nature of the project activities need to be specific having definite terminal points. Ndiomu (1994) argued that the activities ought to be identified in an orderly sequence right from the onset to completion of the project. This condition is particularly useful in fields introducing new products, engineering designs or fields setting up new corporate structures.
The use of the CPM is however subject to limitations. The method is often too complex to be updated and experts contend that, often, any network drawn up is superseded by changing circumstances. In addressing the deterministic dimension, analysts employ the Programme Evaluation and Review Technique, which is stochastic. The main difference between PERT and the CPM is in the procedure for determining the activities duration.
The PERT technique uses the following formula:
te = (to+4tm + tp)/ 6
where te= Expected completion time
to= Optimistic completion time
tp= Pessimistic completion time and
tm=Most Likely completion time
These management techniques have been developed to facilitate timely completion of projects. As Thompson & Perry (1992) asserted, the longer the duration of completion of a project, the more it is influenced by inflation. Additional capital needed to finance such projects may represent a large proportion of the original outlay. This is even worse in Nigeria where inflation is so upwardly erratic.
With the above taken into account, it can be argued that proper investment in project management is the only way to ensure timely operations, delivery of infrastructure projects and project success in the mobile telecommunication industry in Nigeria. If infrastructure is optimized, then there exists a chance to invest in resources that move from sustaining to established strategic improvements.
Project management can be used to enhance flexibility. Some basic factors that contribute towards service flexibility are better customer care, flexible plans to suit requirements of different segments of the society. This thus influence and enhance performance in general. Being a part of the global world also requires some level of international skills and knowledge of the organization.
Taking any business to the international level requires drastic and steady change. This change means identifying risks, opening up new avenues for the organization’s culture and offering great chances for growth and learning through project management. All this calls for a lot of planning and appropriate leadership. The role of a project manager is crucial in such a scenario. Nonetheless, globally the attention, while selecting a project manager, is not based on mere work experience, but also on the exposure and academic abilities of the person in a given domain.
Given the current economic atmosphere and dynamic changes in the business market environment, mobile service providers and vendors are compelled to re-examine their business methods, functions and decisions through project management. Changes in business strategies is inevitable in the present world, hence for mobile service providers and vendors to successfully thrive in the competitive world, they have to strive for operational excellence. This is where project management steps in, in order to optimize the functioning and assure better performance of organizations in the telecommunication sector.
Needless to say, project management has become more of a necessity than a choice in ensuring long term business survival in the present global world. The proper use of project management practices, tools and techniques for planning, organizing, controlling, leading and motivating will enhance project success within the mobile telecommunication industries in the Nigeria and improve the business processes.
Companies within the telecommunication industry in Nigeria are faced with a number challenges including:
Slow uptake of new services
Market saturation
Economic downturn
Industry deregulation which has resulted into intense competition and rising customer expectations
Technologies such as the advent of the internet and broadband have transformed the way telecommunication companies conduct their processes. While these technologies offer new opportunities for growth, they require significant investments in terms of infrastructure and licensing
To succeed in vast growing business environment, these telecommunication companies require solutions that can help them increase efficiency and improve on their quality, navigate the deregulation process, enhance their relationships with clients and partners, and automate and streamline their business processes. Through implementation of project management, companies within the telecommunication industry in Nigeria, they are able to optimize their functioning and improve on the delivery of their infrastructure projects. Also, through the use of risk analysis and management, mobile vendors in Nigeria are able to identify and exploit new revenue opportunities.
The profitability of the mobile vendors and telecommunications companies in Nigeria hinges on their ability to improve on operational efficiencies. Successful project management would lead to better execution and resource optimization. As defined above, project management involves systematic planning, scheduling and organizing so as to accomplish a specific goal. Specifically project management seeks to:
Define the objectives, goals and scope
Identify and specify tasks
Estimate the project requirements
Preparation of a project plan
Implementation of the plan
Managing critical paths on the plan
Completion of the project within the time frame and under the budget.

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