This month, Nigeria joins other countries like the US, Germany, Spain and South Africa in issuing MVNO ( Mobile Virtual Network Operator) licenses. Twenty-five licenses were issued at different tiers of service offerings. I see this as a start of a new and innovative phase in telecommunications industry in Nigeria. This will likely open the market way beyond previous focus on access and competition if done right. Over the past twenty years the four national operators: MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9Mobile have done their fair share to create network infrastructure, coverage and communications service. With this next phase and influences of Market , consumer and technological trends such as 4th Industrial revolution, Artificial intelligence, Savvy Customers, Urbanization and desire for sustainability . I would dare to say that competitive advantage and value lies in service offerings and innovative connections. So if I had an MVNO license in Nigeria this is what i would do;
I would shy away from competing with the incumbent operators. It might seem contrary to consumer expectation, but we know the principles of strategy: differentiation, cost, and focus. Business strategy is about scoring more points with your customers than competitors does. You do not give longterm value to consumers by getting into a price war, apart from eroding value from the sector, ultimately, it is not sustainable. As a new entrant, you do not stand a chance to match these incumbents who have an upper hand over you with their nationwide coverage, access, capacity and customer base. Topped with large balance sheets to fight.
Disrupt by Differentiation
Strategic leadership requires choice making. The reality of limited resources and making trade offs demands that you make choices. What would you give up? Where will you compete? What will be your key priorities. How would you differentiate yourself? I would seek to differentiate myself in the market cause there is still room for massive opportunities. With a population of over 200 million and just less than 60% mobile internet penetration. In a country with the highest number of multi-sim phones in the world (subscribers have more than one sim), there are still gaps and opportunities.
The rural population is still untapped even with investments from the government and incentives for operators. If you can unlock the lower end of the pyramid like the FMCG folks did, you might strike gold. Only in few places like Nigeria you can buy condiments like powered milk, detergent or even airtime and mobile data packaged and priced for single use or daily use. Unlocking the lower end of the market, I saw that happen first hand with mobile money in Ghana. I could also decide to stake my claim by going niche with sectors; Fintech remains the fastest growing sector in Africa and Nigeria holds over 30% of that market in Africa.
You can also go for niche markets segments like the youths. The young and tech-savvy population in Nigeria is still is grappling for a brand that can “get them”. The Mobile operator Etisalat now 9Mobile had made some in roads there. Maybe I could also target specific industries like transportation, healthcare, or education, providing mobile solutions designed for those sectors.
Disrupt by Innovating
Strategy creates intense focus on the vital few that matter for success. I will choose innovation as one of them. There is considerable scope for innovation for MVNOs. With an MVNO, I could chose to differentiate myself by offering value services on top of the basic voice and data connectivity. Multiplay bundles are very common in Europe and US markets. My Virgin Media service here in Ireland delivers voice, unlimited fixed broadband and IPTV, and I just pay a flat fee. Apart from the convenience, I believe it is cost effective for the service. I am getting unlimited data, sim cards for mobile data and voice for every member of my family, fixed wireless voice and IPTV with over a 100 TV channels.
In Nigeria you can also bundle, consider including services like mobile banking, content subscriptions, mobile advertising, or even partnering with third-party service providers to bundle their services with mobile plans. Also The market is large enough to consider only offering value added services as an MVNO similar to 1NCE of Germany, Arkessa in the UK or KORE Wireless.
In conclusion, the Journey has started, we are rooting for this move by NCC the Nigerian Communication Regulator, hoping that this time we ride the wave and service the population once again with value.