Alright! Yes I said it. Good and reliable internet service in Nigeria is almost as difficult to get as stable electricity is.
Over the past 3 years, I have had the privilege (not really) of using several of the available internet service providers in Nigeria. The main disappointments with these relate to quality, reliability and price.
First, with regard to quality and reliability, it is difficult to get a reliable ISP with very minimal downtime. Anecdotal evidence shows a high level of dissatisfaction among high-speed internet users in Nigeria. The dissatisfaction is even more apparent to users who have had prolonged use of fast internet speeds elsewhere. See quote below from Dutch blogger Femke Van Zeijl (saharareporters.com March 21st, 2013):
Since I came here, I have been on a futile search for a stable internet connection that does what it promises. I started with an MTN FastLink modem (I consider the name a cruel joke), and then I moved on to an Etisalat MiFi connection (I regularly had to keep myself from throwing the bloody thing against the wall), and now I am trying out Cobranet’s U-Go. I shouldn’t have bothered: equally crap. And everyone knows this. They groan and mutter and tweet about it. But still, to my surprise, no one calls for a class-action suit against those deceitful providers.
With regard to price, what a consumer has to pay to achieve a decent internet package sometimes seems rather steep. As a vivid illustration, take “Unlimited Data” internet that is “always on” as a benchmark. To be clear, here we are referring to internet service that is always on, 24 hours a day, with no download limits (subject to fair use policies). In the UK, as at 2009, you would pay about £10 a month (about 2500 Naira) for an 8 Megabyte (8MB) speed unlimited broadband internet package from a well-known UK-based internet service provider (ISP). A popular ISP in Nigeria provides a WiMAX based service with up to 2 Megabyte (2MB) speed, unlimited for a month. To scale the UK price down to what you would pay for the Nigerian ISP’s 2MB package, let us divide by 4. Thus, very arbitrarily I am correlating the £10 to scale down to £2.50 (about 600 Naira) for 2MB unlimited internet for a month. Here’s the punchline – the equivalent WiMAX package mentioned earlier from the Nigerian ISP would set you back a whopping 53500 Naira (about £215). This is almost a factor of a 100. Also bear in mind Nigeria is supposed to be a Third World country where you would expect things to be cheaper to procure.
The main reason for the great disparity here is infrastructure. Internet in many developed countries is wired. Thus, there exist networks of either old landlines or new fibre-optic cable to provide super-fast access to the worldwide web. What obtains in Nigeria is that most internet is wireless; by means of either satellite or mobile telecommunications networks.
Additionally, the cost of production and service is totally incomparable in Nigeria. For instance, the cost of ensuring uninterrupted power via diesel generators and other means such as inverters can be prohibitive to ISPs.
A few years ago, when news of the Main One and Glo-1 fibre optic cables being linked to Nigeria filtered through, many thought they heralded a new era of super-fast internet access for all at low prices. The reality on ground is that not much has changed since then.
What has been your experience to date?