Smile beats all telcos to most pocket-friendly data prices

By Anthony Nwachukwu

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine how you can fare in today’s world without being “mobile”, not just on the move but living without your telephone or allied tablets.

Invariably, modernity has predisposed most people to be largely dependent on telephony and data transmission. Today, the average Nigerian could be said to need four essentials – food, shelter, clothing and telephony.

More than most things, the Nigerian has embraced telephony with utmost gusto, with Nigeria clinching the highest teledensity in Africa. Not even the recent disclosure by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) that almost 25 million lines are dormant could detract from the country’s high teledensity, neither is it indicative of a dwindling appreciation of telephonic services by Nigerians.

If anything, the appetite for telephony and data transmission remains huge among Nigerians who embrace the major network operators largely for their reliability, network integrity and value-adding services.

Recently, there has been a noticeable upsurge in the deployment of broadband networks and extension of broadband services by Telcos. This has led to an increase in the number of users and consumers of broadband services. Other ancillary factors also contributed to the growth.

For instance, the growth recorded in January 2022 is on the back of the NCC’s lifting of the ban on new SIM card sales and activation after a temporary halt on sales to allow for the National Identification Number (NIN) and SIM card integration exercise. 

Also, the imperative of the Covid-19 pandemic compelled more individuals and organisations to resort to working remotely. The trend for virtual operations still subsists among workers who have embraced the virtual option and sundry users who rely on the internet to get things done.

To function effectively, these individuals and organisations require fast and reliable internet connectivity. Telecoms operators, including core Internet Service Providers (ISP), have continued to offer different data plans.

The recent countrywide survey conducted by Factsmill Consulting Limited shows that Nigerians’ love for broadband services is on the increase. The survey showed, among others, that their favorites are voice and data.

Leaders in the voice segment of the market are MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9mobile – all four voice leaders in the Tier 1 category. Also making a strong showing in voice are some Tier 2 category players like Smile Communications, Spectranet and nTel, which offer voice over LTE (VoLTE).

However, the reverse seems the case as it pertains to data. Here, the major frontrunner is Smile Communications, a pioneer 4G LTE operator renowned for its innovative and value-adding broadband services.

In a clime where the cost of living, least of them broadband services, is skyrocketing by the day no thanks to inflation, Smile is the only operator that often increases its data volumes for the same price. However, the major telcos continue to make a strong showing.

Collectively, they dominate the turf of data services, each strengthened in its data coverage by the depth and breadth of its national reach. Other operators making a strong showing in the provision of data are core broadband service providers, notably Spectranet, Swift Networks and nTel. Bringing up the rear are the likes of Tizeti and FibreOne.

The survey focused mainly on the current data plans offerings by notable Telcos with emphasis on core data providers. It reviewed some specific data plans on offer, utilising the questionnaire method and oral interview technique, while using the sample population technique with emphasis on focused groups.

These focused groups comprised more small and medium-scale organisations. The mapping territories were four major Nigerian towns – Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Abuja.

Comparatively among the major broadband service providers, most of respondents were unanimous that currently, the data plans from Smile, especially the revamped Bigga and UnLimited packages, along with the new 400GB Jumbo plan, are the most preferable as they offer more value for money.

For instance, the 10GB data bundle with a validity of 30 days is a common offer from most Internet service providers. Tizeti Communications, one of the new entrants in the broadband market, offers its 10GB at N2,000. Smile Communications, which pioneered 4G LTE service, offers its 10GB Bigga data bundle at N3,000 as against that of Spectranet, one of the older internet service providers which 10GB doMORE plan is N3,750.

On the 15GB data plan with a validity of 30 days, more respondents thought that the new Smile 15GB Bigga is the favourite as it costs the lowest at N4,000. Spectranet’s 15GB doMORE Value Plan costs N5,300. On the other hand, nTel’s 4K data plan and Swift Economy offer only 12GB, 3GB lesser for the same N4,000 costs.

It is also more rewarding for subscribers to go for the 20GB Bigga plan, valid for 30 days, from Smile Communications at just N5,000, compared to Spectranet’s 18GB doMORE Value Plan, though for the same 30 days validity but N1,500 more expensive at N6,500.

It was further observed that for a 30-day validity period, where Spectranet’s 25GB doMORE mega value plan costs N7,500, Smile also has the corresponding 25GB Bigga data plan offer at a lower price of N6,000 only. The Swift Essential Mini option from Swift Networks at N6,000 comes with only 20GB, a 5GB shortfall.

Smile, at N12,000, provides customers with an UnLimited Lite data plan of 40GB. However, Swift Networks offers the same 40GB data bundle but at N12,790. The closest plan from Spectranet is the doMORE Mega Value Plan of 35GB, which goes for N10,500. Discerning subscribers, therefore, tilt towards the 40GB UnLimited Lite data plan from Smile.

For the 100GB data bundle, the analysis revealed that the UnLimited Essential plan from Smile cost the lowest. It goes for N18,000 only as against the doMORE Mega Value Plan from Spectranet at N21,500 and Swift Elite Plus Special at N27,640 respectively. This translates to a higher corresponding cost of N3,500, and 9,640 from Spectranet and Swift Networks respectively.

For the high-end users, feedback from our research indicated that no other broadband service provider offers the 400GB Jumbo data plan option with up to 180-day validity aside from Smile. Smile offers the 400GB Jumbo for N50,000 only.

Conversely, Spectranet’s Smart Value, valid for 180 days, with only a 108GB data bundle costs N38,600. Relatively, the Swift quarterly data plan of 200GB valid for 90 days costs N32,000 – double the price, and the bundle will make N62,000 for 400GB with 180 days validity.

In summary, respondents highlighted the issue of data depletion. The perceived high data depletion rate has continued to be a major source of worry to subscribers. The NCC has confirmed this across all networks and had promised to institute a forensic audit to find out the reason for the fast data depletion across the network providers. Data depletion, however, is believed to be largely dependent on data usage and consumption by the subscriber.

In conclusion, with a margin of error of 4 per cent on a scale of 100, the survey is adjudged very reliable, and yielded the following results:

All the major telcos have a variety of the unlimited and revamped data plans that inevitably compete among themselves. A majority of the customers utilise data plans and deem the plans very useful for their official and private chores. Urban-based young adults rank highest among active users, and are mostly influenced by price and product.

The audience favorite, as far as the revamped data plan is concerned, is from the Smile stable, with a 43 per cent rating, then Spectranet (27 per cent), Swift Network (20 per cent), nTel (8 per cent) and Tizeti (2 per cent).Smile’s innovative streak remains largely unrivaled. Smile Communications is the only operator that increased its data volumes for the same price despite the challenging operating environment.

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