Google unveiled a new vision for Nigerian tech sector yesterday with the launch of Google Station. In my practice, we now think that our 2022 target year of immersive connectivity may even come earlier. Many things are connected to this BOLD initiative by Google.
This is a catalytic industry-defining project in Nigeria: our web sector is ON. If Google follows through [there is no reason why it should not, it has the cash], Nigeria will have free high speed Wi-FI in 200 locations. This would affect 10 million people – think of a nation in a country.
Google Station will be rolling out in 200 locations in five cities across Nigeria by the end of 2019, bringing Wi-Fi to millions of people. Sites will include markets, transport hubs, shopping malls, universities and more. Nigeria is the fifth country in which we’re launching Google Station, after India, Indonesia, Thailand and Mexico. (Source: Google newsletter)
It is looking increasingly challenging for telecom operators in Africa. I can predict that African telcos have past their best moments. Yes, MTN, Glo, Airtel Nigeria and 9Mobile will struggle as Nigerians are provided with these new options to connect to the web. It is not just Google; SpaceX is coming along with amalgam of satellite players. Add the pains from OTT solutions like WhatsApp, you would understand why the telcos will have sleepless nights.
Simply, the future will look increasingly challenging for terrestrial operators. Because from internet balloons to satellites, telcos will be under-serve competition and many of them will die. By 2025, I do expect the top four telcos in Nigeria to merge to become two. The four telcos are now more than necessary with all the evolving options. If they do not merge, they will lose value and that will hurt investors. The world is changing rapidly and the competition will be extremely ferocious that telcos as we have them will continue to see massive loss in ARPU. These GSM players disrupted CDMA players. Now, they need to find ways to survive.
The web sector in Nigeria is here. This is a new era. Do not wait any longer. The time has come because internet connectivity is going to become ubiquitous, unlocking new business models. Nigeria needs to get in touch with Amazon to help with logistics. I do not care who does it; we need to have these infrastructures. I am very confident Amazon can help.
As we explore support from ICT utilities like Facebook and Google, I do think we need to find ways to get Bezos to show interest. He is among the few that can invest in hard infrastructure to unlock more values in the continent. Think of establishing a solid logistical system that will help in the economic integration of Africa. He has done it before and he can do it here. African Union should explore that opportunity with him.
Meanwhile, well done Google – this is brilliance at best. But it would be painful season for Nigerian telcos because if 10 million people connect to free Google internet, I do not know who the profitable customers would be. Call it a double whammy: OTT like WhatsApp on one side depressing revenue, Google Loon, etc on the other side pivoting new paths. Simply, for most telcos, the best days are past. I am not sure how they could get over this, unless they decide to become Google, SpaceX, etc vendors.