Mobile Internet good enough to banish Lagos’ early morning cold buckets of water

Mobile Internet good enough to banish Lagos’ early morning cold buckets of water

Once upon a time, while Lagos was still capital, Nigerians came from far and wide in the nation and set up shop. This hasn’t stopped. Lagos is still the ‘commercial’ capital of the country. In those days though, the business district had pivoted from Ikeja to Marina. The new growth of business hub and premium residential was happening in Victoria Island and Ikoyi, but prices were still affordable to the middle income earner.

Comfortable (not necessarily rich) entrepreneurs and sole traders from the four corners… be they Igbo, Ibibio.. Uhrobo.. Benin.. Esan.. or even Tiv.. Idoma.. Agede… rented business apartments which they operated from for the most time, and went ‘home’ two or three weekends a month.

Things have changed. Business for some has become more challenging.  Accommodation at premium Lagos  business districts has skyrocketed… and parallel.. the advent of internet, improvement in smartphones, and both software and hardware tools for the ‘connected office’ has gradually increased the feasibility of remote working.

The business case is pivoting in favour of working from home supplemented by business trips, while relinquishing a second point of presence in Lagos.

The problem is fit-for-purpose affordable overnight stay in Lagos for the SME business traveller is elusive. Federal Palace, Eko, Radisson or Sheraton are completely beyond reach. Even stays at Southern Sun, Golden Tulip, Blowfish or Ibis are not regularly sustainable.

Instead modest income business travellers have to opt for a ‘local’ hotel or guest house. You pay for what you get (or perhaps, save on what you don’t get!).

If you have to walk through an outside bar to get to reception the first thing that will strike you is the number of individuals in (scruffy) casual wear loitering about not buying anything. If there is a popular football match on, then as a guest, you can forget about getting a good vantage point for the screen. These will usually be taken up by a groups of  ‘area boys’ all sharing one large bottle of water as a token effort at patronage.

Unless a family member of ownership, the employees are probably very poorly paid and have no enthusiasm for improving the service or removing any undesirables. Lifting the pen to sign a new guest seems so much effort, it appears as the pen must weigh several tons.

Hallways will be the hottest part of the building due to lack of A.C. or ceiling fans, and maybe poor ventilation. Bulbs only occupy some of the fittings, because staff have been told not to replace all, or because repeat guests have learned from past experience, if a bulb goes in their room, it’s just less assignment to remove one from the hall rather than embark on an expedition to secure staff assistance. Bulbs are always naked, and never have a shade or cosmetic surround.

Hallways frequently have this pungent odour, like it has just been fumigated (‘fleeted’) or they deliberately pick the most nasally offensive floor cleaner in all Nigeria because for sure, they want you to be in no doubt they clean regularly… because on the balance of everything else, you would be excused for thinking they don’t!

Rooms are basic, and damaged or defaced fittings will be neglected. If the AC works, there is still too many unmanageable openings that allow localized pockets of warm air. Insist on one with a good standing fan if you don’t want to be eaten alive by mosquitoes.

Forget plumbed hot water. If there is a shower head in the bathroom, understand this is for decorative purposes only! The (cold) water pressure in the building is rarely sufficient to drive water to the shower head, particularly at times of peak use. There will always be one or more buckets in the bath tub intended to assist bathing. Sometimes they have enjoyed a former life as a container for chemicals, building materials or dry goods. Those that need to rise and leave early know from experience it is best to fill these buckets the night before, to ensure they leave in the morning fresh

I’m not even going to get started about delays and other dramas linked to ‘NEPA taking light’ and ‘onning the gen’. I could get a whole article out of that topic, just on its own!

Immediately outside a Nigerian ‘local’ Hotel. Building can’t be shown for legal reasons.

Seasoned budget travellers however know all the bargain basement venues in town, and over a period have made notes on which rooms in specific establishments on balance offer the best chance of a good night’s sleep and the promise of leaving the next morning fresh. Over time, staff have warmed to them. So they just phone around in advance and book the best available room.

Finally, we come to the issue of internet access. Many of the budget establishments have a wifi service. Having one, and making any meaningful use of it though, are two very different things. Forget scheduling your time to do work (dependant on the wifi) during your stay. No hope.

The hotel is invariably trying to shoe horn a service intended to support home or small office use, to serve a much larger user group than intended. This is then exasperated by the same ‘area boys’ that block the display screen view at popular times, hogging the bandwidth with their smartphones. They may disperse discretely when an owner shows up, but will be aware of spots off the premises which still offers signal.

Management have an amateur approach to network management, and either don’t change the password regularly, or have it set as an unsecured network, with no password at all.

Don Rancadin, a self proclaimed guru for analysing Internet access for the traveller, and a ‘gadget accumulator’ just says ‘Hotel Wifi Sucks’… ‘even 5-star resorts seem like digital slums’. This was in 2016, and up to now, the best protocol available has been largely the same. This is the 5 star landscape in the US, not Nigeria.

Discussions on ‘Nairland’ berate the quality of internet even in the flagship hotels of Lagos compared to those of a similar standard abroad. Bargain basement options is a load of hurt that brings things to a whole new low for internet service.

If the traveller has any ideas about logging into a remote corporate CRM for instance, better to set the alarm clock for 3:30am when user levels have dropped so the connection can achieve anything meaningful.

While there are various disruptive accommodation options in the marketplace, like ‘RENT SMALL SMALL’ there is still nothing that compares to the very local hotel/guest house on price. These are tough times when travelling sole traders need to be frugal.

Meet RentSmallSmall, the Lagos Based Startup Making Rent Payments Flexible for Lagosians

While I can’t offer a solution to the comfort maladies for the budget business traveller, there may however, be something new on the horizon that sometime soon shall improve their business connectivity on the move.

Invariably, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in Nigeria will begin to roll out 5g and Lagos is probably the prime location of demand, and is likely the be the first, possibly accompanied by Abuja, to get the service.

The Nighthawk M5 5G WiFi 6 Mobile is a new mobile router by Netgear that combines the superior bandwidth and connection quality of the anticipated 5G mobile protocol with the connectivity distribution potential of the new WiFi protocol – WiFi 6E.

The device runs on the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ X55 5G Modem-RF system which offers a Peak Download Speed of 7.5 Gbps and a Peak Upload Speed of 3 Gbps

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ X55 chip is manufactured on an ultra small 7nm die process

The bandwidth coupled with  WiFi 6E is capable of supporting up to 32 simultaneously connected devices operating at a similar performance level to what is common for FTTH right now.

‘The 6 GHz spectrum should work similarly to WiFi 6 over 5 GHz but offers additional non-overlapping channels. As the Wi-Fi Alliance puts it, Wi-Fi 6E allows for “14 additional 80 MHz channels and 7 additional 160 MHz channels.” These channels wouldn’t overlap with each other, which will help reduce congestion, particularly in areas where lots of networks are operating.

All the devices communicating on the 6 GHz spectrum would also be Wi-Fi 6 devices. There wouldn’t be any older devices using standards like Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). All devices on the 6 GHz channels will be speaking the same language and can use Wi-Fi 6’s new congestion-busting features.’ – How to Geek

With a standard 5G sim card running with ‘best in market’ Nigeria MNO 5g service inside this Netgear router, Nigerias weary budget business traveller can have solid high speed access anywhere he or she goes, independent of what the budget accommodation can provide.

If the router comes locked to a network, the same techies that unlock smartphones can handle that. It’s the same job. Even if the service from the MNO is marketed with the intention to serve in a 5G smartphone, it doesn’t matter. The 5G sim card can’t tell the difference between a smartphone and a 5G router device.

This is not intended to be a plug for Netgear but simply an indicator of things to come for Nigerias weary budget business traveller. Comparable products are in the market by other manufacturers and more will come.

Human productivity increases over time, even by modest increments, have the capacity to improve income.

It will not be all plain sailing. Initially at least, the weary traveller may come to enjoy the full potential of the device while in Lagos, but 5G may take longer to roll out to his or her regional home.

But perhaps eventually, it will enable them when in Lagos, to move past paying for accommodation which will inflict cold buckets of water on them in the depths of dark early mornings.

Referenced content/acknowledgements :

https://www.howtogeek.com/519823/wi-fi-6e-what-is-it-and-how-is-it-different-from-wi-fi-6/

https://www.xda-developers.com/qualcomm-snapdragon-x55-5g-modem-2019-android-smartphones/s been announced ahead of MWC

https://www.netgear.com/home/mobile-wifi/hotspots/mr5200/

https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/23/21231623/6ghz-wifi-6e-explained-speed-availability-fcc-approval

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