In January 2016, MTN Nigeria acquired visafone, the only surviving Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network in Nigeria’s telecommunications industry.
The acquisition was approved by the Nigeria Communications Company (NCC) in December 2015 in what seemed like a buy into the expansion of broadband reach from an existing eight percent as of the time of acquisition to a target of 20 percent in 2018.
“We are committed to exploring avenues for meeting our customers’ increasing data needs in line with our vision ‘to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to our customers,” Amina Oyagbola, an MTN executive, had said in a statement.
Then in April, MTN began an intensive migration from the CDMA network to GSM, a deviation from the original plan to retain Visafone’s CDMA platform.
Visafone subscribers had to migrate — at their own inconvenience and, worse, expense.
The visafone devices, CDMA, would become obsolete, save for the very few that were compatible with GSM sim cards.
MTN did nothing to alleviate the inconvenience of its new customers who didn’t even choose to be their customers.
Here is how they explained the migration process, taking themselves off any liability, even though the acquisition move will, in coming years, prove profitable in ways already measurable, such s number of acquired customers:
In a series of questions and answers, MTN informed Visafone users that they “will be required to perform the migration because Visafone is now owned by MTN and all Visafone lines now be powered MTN”.
“You can visit any MTN or Visafone Retail shops nearest to you to perform the migration process,” it said.
Envisaging the challenges the customers will face but offering no reprieve whatsoever, MTN tells former Visafone customers that their devices will become obsolete — never to be used again — regardless of the money spent on it.
“MTN SIMs will only work with a GSM compatible device or handset. However, some CDMA devices or handset are compatible with GSM SIMs.”
In fact, MTN goes ahead to tell the consumers it will not provide a GSM compatible device. Then tokenism is presented: “However, MTN has made adequate provision for a substantial airtime bonus compensation into your line after migration,” the organisation stated in its advice.
But a CDMA device can cost more than N30,o00 depending on the model acquired.
A standard visafone modem, strictly CDMA, costs N15,000 and all you can do with this modem is throw in a trash can or keep them on a shelf to constantly remind you of the money you thought you invested in internet service that has now not yielded any return.
So, once you walk into any of the MTN service centres, and ask to renew your subscription as a Visafone modem owner, you will be forced to buy a new MTN device to replace your Visafone device.
And you will also not be offered any bonus data too.
Funso Aina, the public relations and protocol manager of MTN Nigeria, declined making comment on this.
TheCable called him several times and he refused to answer the calls. He asked that a message be sent to his official email address, but he refused to respond to enquiries in that mail.
He also refused to respond to text messages and still will not pick his calls after the email and text message enquiries.