It’s not often that you meet the Chief Technical Officers of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). For one, they are not the type that you find competing for space in the open especially in the media. They are also usually very busy people whose preoccupation is to figure out how millions of customers on their network will continue to enjoy unhindered voice clarity, superfast Internet connectivity and excellent customer experience at all times.
Stephane Beuvelet, the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of 9mobile, Nigeria’s leading customer-centric and innovative telco, is like any of his colleagues; hardworking, focused and reserved. Nonetheless he made himself available to this writer, to talk about the company and the role he plays in its success.
His main focus was on how he ensures that quality service delivery to 9mobile customers is not only maintained, but improved continually to unfaultable limits.
Explaining his role this way, Beuvelet said: “In summary, the job of the CTO is to ensure that the company’s technology strategy and evolution align with the business objectives, which primarily is to deliver best in class services to our esteemed customers. This involves, among other things, putting in place the right technology platforms, skilled and dedicated team, and competent leadership.
“At the heart of 9mobile’s strategy is customer satisfaction. We are a customer-centric organisation and that is why for us there’s no end to innovation; we continue to explore and adopt new technologies and we have succeeded in consistently delivering on the promise of best in class services to our subscribers. We fully plan to continue with this trend.”
Assessing advances in technology and the Nigerian telecoms industry, the CTO said technology remains a key driver for innovation, growth and even disruption across multiple industries. According to him, “Over the years, the Nigerian technology landscape has recorded remarkable developments with an increase in the number of data-centric infrastructure rollouts (LTE, Wifi hot spots, and dedicated internet services). This has provided a platform for more robust communications services that have paved the way for a whole lot of new markets such as the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile payments/payment gateways, location-based tracking/advertising and an entire ecosystem of apps including social media.
“This growth in the technology landscape has been dramatic by virtually any measure, despite the prevailing challenges common to the Nigerian environment (power, security, vandalism etc.). The coming years would no doubt bring about more technology advancements to the benefit of the country.”
Asked what 9mobile is doing to bridge the gaps in the infrastructural expansion, Beuvelet had this to say, “Our approach focuses on modernisation, expansion, and new technologies. Through modernisation, we are presently enhancing our existing network and technologies to provide greater efficiency and deliver better user experience. Legacy nodes and old technologies are undergoing replacement and transformation.
“9mobile continues to build on new technology to enhance the quality of service and customer experience. We recently rolled out 4G technology and we are live in the five major cities of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Kaduna. The 4G (LTE) technology offers greater throughput and lower latency, which brings about better data experience for 9mobile subscribers. There are plans to further expand the LTE in the covered cities and to launch LTE in more Nigerian cities.”
Even as the telco continues on its path of enhancing QoS, the technology chief pointed out the challenges it has had to surmount in achieving excellent service delivery to its teeming subscribers.
“We have had to deal with vandalism and theft, fibre cuts during road construction work, illegal site shutdowns by state and local government authorities, refusal of government to grant Right of Way permits for laying of optic fibre, use of network jammers by private individuals, erosion of revenues through Over the Top (OTT) activities such as WhatsApp and Snapchat”.
He praised the regulator for the efforts to address some of the challenges through the ongoing process of introducing National Roaming and Active Network sharing, initiatives which will enable operators like 9mobile expand its coverage in a cost-effective manner.
“We have conducted several trials with other operators to prepare for the launch of these initiatives and 9mobile’s customers should expect even better voice and data quality when National Roaming and Active Network sharing commence” he assured.
Shortage of highly skilled local manpower remains one of the challenges slowing down the potential of the telecoms industry as a major contributor to national economic development.
In wondering what 9mobile is doing to bridge this gap, Beuvelet said, “In 9mobile we strongly believe in empowering our people and this is one of our key drivers. We have contributed immensely to this growth through capacity development programmes for 9mobile employees via local and international training. From 2016-2017, over 600 training was conducted to boost technical skills.
“At 9mobile, we believe in strengthening the foundation of the skill supply chain, which is our tertiary institutions. To this end, we have collaborated with Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Plymouth University in the UK for the establishment of a taught Master’s Programme in Telecommunications Engineering. Through it, 9mobile is innovatively developing local expertise with regards to telecommunications engineering skills.
The programme is available to all eligible persons, and since since inception in 2013, the school has recorded over twenty MSc and two PhD graduates from the programme. In addition, 9mobile welcomes students on the program for an internship during the course duration, as part of the overall skills enhancement goals for the industry, and by extension for the Nigerian economy.”
So, next time you make or receive that clear, crisp call or launch into the world of browsing the Internet or live streaming a video, please remember to say, ‘kudos to the guys in the technical room.’