The rise and fall of MTN

IOL pic NIGERIA-MTN-GROUP-_1117_11 REUTERS File picture: Afolabi Sotunde

Durban - For years the MTN group dominated in South African homes pulling in the most subscribers annually. They were often ranked as the best mobile network in South Africa, providing exceptional service and low calling rates.

In recent years MTN has experienced a more turbulent ride with fines and service failures topping the list.

The MTN Group is a multi-billionaire company that provides cellular phone coverage to the largest parts of Africa and some parts of the Middle East. They have grown their market to 229.2 million in users in South Africa, just narrowly losing out the top spot to Vodacom.

In 2006, MTN enjoyed widespread success when it was recognised as the African Mobile Operator of the Year by the CommsMEA Awards in Dubai.

In 2008, they were also awarded Brand of the Year award by CBC-African Business Awards.

In 2009 again, they were ranked in second place in the annual Financial Mail Top Companies survey. They were then the only company to appear four times since its inception.

While MTN soaked up their successes they were arguably beginning to lose out on some of the essential elements that made them as respected as they were. Consumer relations.

In 2010 the Nigerian government's National Security Adviser initiated that all sim cards across all mobile networks be registered similar to the RICA system in South Africa citing safety and security measures as the reason.

In August 2015, the National Security Advisor and other security agencies conducted an independent audit. That audit revealed that 5.2 million MTN sim cards were unregistered and thus failed to be disabled. MTN had not deactivated those subscribers even after being warned repeatedly. Due to this the Nigerian Communications Commission announced that they would be fining MTN $1000 for each of the 5.2 million unregistered sim cards thus raising the fine to a mammoth $5.2 billion.

Scrambling, MTN arranged a meeting for President Jacob Zuma to meet with Nigerian President Muhammedu Buhari in aims to lower the cost of the fine.

This meeting resulted in the fine being lowered from $5.2 bn to $3.2 bn.

Most recently, on February 14, an estimated 1 million MTN users could not access their data for up to 24 hours. Thus resulting in a major outage that left users infuriated. MTN failed to communicate on what the status of the matter was, leaving users even angrier. They sent out the following press release:

"MTN sincerely apologises to its customers for the inconvenience caused. Our subscribers are free to engage with us on this matter through a range of our consumer touchpoints. We remain committed to providing you with a distinct customer experience which you have come to expect from MTN."

In a bid to regain and inspire trust in the network again, MTN announced on Thursday that they would be rewarding the 1 million users with 1 gigabyte of data to use.

While some could see this offer on the table as generous, it is also clear that MTN have degenerated hope in their subscribers over recent years and have also lost top spot status as a network provider.

Vodacom currently holds the top position with Telkom coming in second and MTN in third.

It has been the rise and fall of a telecommunications giant. However, as it has done before, MTN can once again reclaim the cellular throne with innovative thinking and customer relations that have been seemingly lost in the process of sponsoring sports teams and award shows.

lauren.daniels@inl.co.za

IOL

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