Given the weak operating environment affecting Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operations, the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) has said the operators must expand their coverage, if they must survive competition in the telecoms market.
NCS President, Mr. Demola Aladekomo, in a chat with THISDAY, said although the primary focus of CDMA operators was to provide services built around Wired and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) operations, there was need for the operators to explore mobile services, if their operational licences permit them to do so.
According to him, "landlines are gone, old technologies are dead and buried. CDMA can only survive through mobile. Landline is dead in Nigeria and we will never go through landline again. Nigerians are highly mobile and need mobile devices on the go. Subsequent development is mobile, and except CDMA migrates to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, they will go out of business soon," Aladekomo said, adding that "except there is convergence between CDMA and GSM, the CDMA operations will go into extinction in Nigeria."
In recent times, CDMA operators are faced with challenges of rolling out as fast as the GSM operators, as most Nigerians prefer using mobile phones, especially Smartphone's with services from GSM operators.
Most CDMA operators have gone underground as a result of low patronage and the few ones left are surviving on internet data service offerings.
Most of the CDMA operators who opted for merger and outright buyout as a bailout option, are finding it difficult to get buyers and partners to merge with. Intercellular, Multilinks, Zoom Mobile that fall under the category, are yet to get new buyers and merger partners, after several years of frantic search.
In 2008, the CDMA share of the mobile market increased to 10.9 percent, after sitting at below 1 percent in 2007. In 2009 CDMA operators experienced much slower growth, with the total number of CDMA customers growing by 25 percent during the year, and by the end of 2009, CDMA mobile customers numbered 7.565 million.
In 2010, a sharp decline in the number of CDMA subscribers was noticed and the operators recorded total net losses of 1.463 million subscribers to reach 6.102 million subscribers by December 2010.
In 2011, the operators recorded further net losses of 1.501 million subscribers to bring the total number of CDMA subscribers to 4.601 million as at December 2011. The drop in number of subscribers, according to telecoms analysts, was equivalent to a 4.8 percent share of the mobile market, the lowest level attained since 2008.
The trend, however, raises concerns about the future of CDMA services in Nigeria that is fast losing its grip in the telecoms market.
Although Nigerians are looking up to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for a possible bailout, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, said by 2015, when Nigeria must have achieved the digital migration from analogue, there would be more spectrum to offer CDMA operators to boost their operations in the country.
Ericsson, in its recent survey report, explained that the global combined 2G and 3G population coverage for CDMA was estimated to be above 50 percent, and that CDMA coverage would grow slightly, if the operators migrate to the LTE technology plan, as earlier announced.
The best option for CDMA operators is to either migrate to LTE technology, or go full mobile with other attractive and lucrative technologies, Aladekomo said.