What it’s like owning a BlackBerry in Nigeria

85 Comments

Nigeria mobile carriers

[The following is a letter from a BlackBerry Cool reader in Nigeria, writing about what it's like to own a BlackBerry in that part of the world.]

I couldn’t have written about BB in Nigeria without writing about the history of telecommunications in the country.

About 8 years ago, we only had about one hundred thousand wired lines for all of us. When I say “all of us”, I mean about one hundred and forty million people. In order to use a phone, we often had to wait in lines that could be as long as one thousand people.

Only one service provider, MTEL, which is a subsidiary of the national carrier NITEL, was offering mobile analogue (etac) in about four cities.

In 1999, licenses were given to three GSM operators: MTN Nigeria, V-Mobile and MTEL.The nation was about to witness a phenomenal change in telecommunications. A change in the way we communicate, a permanent change for the rest of our lives.

Around five years after, in 2003, another license was given this time to the second national carrier GLO Mobile.

Two years after that, GLO Mobile became the fastest growing telecommunication company not only here in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole. The company began to introduce new technologies into the industry.

First they came up with the GPRS, then MMS and the mobile internet just to name a few. Additionally, after all these possibilities (I say possibilities because some of the innovations they brought were thought to be impossible), the direction has now changed and others have to follow suit. At this point the industry has grown tremendously and we have twenty million subscribers and still counting.

Three years after, in 2006, BlackBerry was introduced to the Nigerian market. There were lot of issues in India when BlackBerry was introduced, as well as Russia. But here in Nigeria, a lack of access to information as well as a preoccupation with other aspects of life, meant BlackBerry landed here without making much of a scene.

All the carriers started with old BlackBerry devices such as the 7290 which was a shame because the 8xxx series was already out. The BlackBerry was a great mobile device to introduce because like one provider’s slogan, it was “the power to do much more.”

When BlackBerry was introduced into the market by Glo Mobile, it was only for the post paid customers. However, till this very day that has not really changed and they are yet to include prepaid customers.

Then came the V-Mobile that has now been changed to Zain. The company began offering the service to their postpaid customers only but that has recently changed. As I was putting this together, I received a text message from Zain saying that they have included prepaid customers into their BlackBerry service.

In 2006 however,  MTN,  my network, began to offer BlackBErry to its customers this time to both prepaid and postpaid customers at $34 a month. Here in Nigeria, not many people can afford a BlackBerry. And in situations where people just want to talk, most of the people here just forget their cell phones inside their hand bags until the phone rings and they remember they own a mobile phone.

The majority of mobile phone users here in Nigeria just want to talk. That is all they use their device for. I met a lady few days ago when I was trying to gather information concerning this write up inside one of the carrier’s offices. She uses a BlackBerry but she has never used the phone for anything other than making calls.

Unlike the advanced countries where the carriers take charge of providing both the cell phones and services to the customers, here the customers get the phone elsewhere and buy the SIM from the carrier. All the cell phones coming into the country are already unlocked.

You hardly see people with BlackBerry and when you are seen with one, you often get: “WOW! He uses BlackBerry, he must be big or something.” That is what it feels like having a BlackBerry in Nigeria. The other day, a guy walked up to me and said, “this guy uses BlackBerry, I saw this stuff on a billboard, it’s a powerful machine!”

I remember once a rumor that BlackBerry can scan for pregnancy when placed on the stomach of a pregnant woman. I think it calls for an investigation. For now, there are still so many issues with having one and using it. One couldn’t have purchased a phone like this without it fully functional. Most of the technologies we use here are obsolete.

Fortunately, all the carriers are now bringing in the latest BlackBerry models.

Most of the cities here are still on GPRS. EDGE and 3G are still trying to spring up. The majority of the messengers will not work because the network does not have the service books for the applications. Only the BlackBerry messenger works. Since Zain has joined the queue I will have to check it out if they have better service than my network.

But till then, I remain my loyal self.

God bless,

-Temitope O.

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN

[ED NOTE: Can you believe he wrote all this on his BlackBerry? Amazing.]

  • ozoro

    Tochie, you’ve answered most of your questions. You can get BB Bold & BB Curve (make sure to ask for 8900 and/or Javelin or you’ll be presented with the older version Curve), try Computer Village, Otigba, Ikeja.

    Bold will cost no more than N90k, Curve N85K. Look carefully, inspect your handset as I understand there are Chinese models available that look suspicioulsy like a BB but are much cheaper.

    9500 Storm has lost much of it’s intial lustre, it used to retail for as much N165k but now you should pay less than N80k.

    Many people including me, have a problem with touch phones, real emailers, texters, etc will probably want a real QWERTY keyboard – hence we prefer BB Bold or Curve as opposed to the ‘iphone or ‘storm’.

    However the ‘iphone’ is better if most of what you do is browsing the net and/or media playback or downloads.

    But for real business use, especially email nothing beats the BB and for inputing information, such as cut & paste, etc then a BB everytime. Although ‘iphone’ purports to have an ‘app’ for cut & paste and other things now.

    Your specfic question BB Storm, probably not………..

    BB Curve, smaller, better camera, no 3G but wifi for the few wifi areas in Nigeria.
    BB Bold, perhaps slightly easier to use keyboard, 3G (but where is there 3G in Nigeria), BB Bold also has ‘wifi’ so you’re covered on both fronts.
    BB Storm, virtual keyboard, takes getting used to, 3G no ‘wifi’ see above comments
    All three fones you download apps from BB app store although might be a bit clumsy as app store only supports USA & UK and may require paypal account. Apps can be downloaded via a PC and uploaded to your device.

    Hope I’ve been of some help.

    you can reach me on ozoro99@gmail.com.

    By the way I supply BB fones.

  • ozoro

    Tochie, you’ve answered most of your questions. You can get BB Bold & BB Curve (make sure to ask for 8900 and/or Javelin or you’ll be presented with the older version Curve), try Computer Village, Otigba, Ikeja.

    Bold will cost no more than N90k, Curve N85K. Look carefully, inspect your handset as I understand there are Chinese models available that look suspicioulsy like a BB but are much cheaper.

    9500 Storm has lost much of it’s intial lustre, it used to retail for as much N165k but now you should pay less than N80k.

    Many people including me, have a problem with touch phones, real emailers, texters, etc will probably want a real QWERTY keyboard – hence we prefer BB Bold or Curve as opposed to the ‘iphone or ‘storm’.

    However the ‘iphone’ is better if most of what you do is browsing the net and/or media playback or downloads.

    But for real business use, especially email nothing beats the BB and for inputing information, such as cut & paste, etc then a BB everytime. Although ‘iphone’ purports to have an ‘app’ for cut & paste and other things now.

    Your specfic question BB Storm, probably not………..

    BB Curve, smaller, better camera, no 3G but wifi for the few wifi areas in Nigeria.
    BB Bold, perhaps slightly easier to use keyboard, 3G (but where is there 3G in Nigeria), BB Bold also has ‘wifi’ so you’re covered on both fronts.
    BB Storm, virtual keyboard, takes getting used to, 3G no ‘wifi’ see above comments
    All three fones you download apps from BB app store although might be a bit clumsy as app store only supports USA & UK and may require paypal account. Apps can be downloaded via a PC and uploaded to your device.

    Hope I’ve been of some help.

    you can reach me on ozoro99@gmail.com.

    By the way I supply BB fones.

  • julia

    Ozoro the bb chinese version, does it function as a bb?? As in those it have the same qualities? Another question directed at both you and taipan lee is, how do you get the yahoo messenger working on a bb? I haven’t been able to use mine since I got it. It keeps saying ‘service not enabled on this handheld’.

  • julia

    Ozoro the bb chinese version, does it function as a bb?? As in those it have the same qualities? Another question directed at both you and taipan lee is, how do you get the yahoo messenger working on a bb? I haven’t been able to use mine since I got it. It keeps saying ‘service not enabled on this handheld’.

  • julia

    Ozoro the bb chinese version, does it function as a bb?? As in those it have the same qualities? Another question directed at both you and taipan lee is, how do you get the yahoo messenger working on a bb? I haven’t been able to use mine since I got it. It keeps saying ‘service not enabled on this handheld’.

  • julia

    Ozoro the bb chinese version, does it function as a bb?? As in those it have the same qualities? Another question directed at both you and taipan lee is, how do you get the yahoo messenger working on a bb? I haven’t been able to use mine since I got it. It keeps saying ‘service not enabled on this handheld’.

  • julia

    ??

  • julia

    ??

  • asktemi

    Tochie, I think Ozoro has answeered you question rightly, he got it all right. BB is the answer if you mail, text and do document a lot. Apart from that, Nokia E71 for intance is also a nice phone, but the keys are just too small to do real typing and in the night light key pad lighting is just too poor.

    BB has the best screen, I mean in the sun I think is one of the phone that you don’t have to cover the screen with your hand in the sun.

    I just love this phone. it is one of the best phone you can play around with.

    Something big about this phone is coming up soon.

    BB is all about productivity.

  • asktemi

    Tochie, I think Ozoro has answeered you question rightly, he got it all right. BB is the answer if you mail, text and do document a lot. Apart from that, Nokia E71 for intance is also a nice phone, but the keys are just too small to do real typing and in the night light key pad lighting is just too poor.

    BB has the best screen, I mean in the sun I think is one of the phone that you don’t have to cover the screen with your hand in the sun.

    I just love this phone. it is one of the best phone you can play around with.

    Something big about this phone is coming up soon.

    BB is all about productivity.

  • Pressthoms

    Hellow to you all, i have t mobile sidekick lx to unlock in nigeria here .and i have take it to cupter vilage to unlock it but the unlockcode did not found.pls help .pressthoms@yahoo.com

  • http://Pressthoms@yahoo.com Pressthoms

    Hellow to you all, i have t mobile sidekick lx to unlock in nigeria here .and i have take it to cupter vilage to unlock it but the unlockcode did not found.pls help .pressthoms@yahoo.com

  • Pressthoms

    And i want know if sidekick lx can work like bb?in nigeria

  • http://Pressthoms@yahoo.com Pressthoms

    And i want know if sidekick lx can work like bb?in nigeria

  • http://henroblog.blogspot.com/ Henry O

    Well, that is very interesting.
    Tope do you have any relevant data as per the total no of blackberry users in Nigeria for 2008 and Q3 2009?

  • http://henroblog.blogspot.com Henry O

    Well, that is very interesting.
    Tope do you have any relevant data as per the total no of blackberry users in Nigeria for 2008 and Q3 2009?

  • Asktemi

    @Henry O, I want to say here loud and clear that things have changed since the last time I wrote about BB here in Nigeria. I was about writing another article to that effect but time and other issues would not permit me to do so.

    However, as I said there has being a serious in the way BB is used in Nigeria.
    To answer your question first. When I was preparing to write that article I did not just want to put down information that I do not know and as such I have to visit various network providers if they could furnish me with such information such as the numbers of BB users on their networks, I was turn down. With that I could not get the numbers of BB users here in Nigeria.

    I hope that answers your question.

    Now Talking about the change. In the past weeks Etisalat, has joined the class of MTN GLO and ZAIN to provide BB in Nigeria.

    I said about the slow internet connection that time and now I am proud to announce that 3.5G or HSDPA is here that has change things.

    Finally, as GLO is about completing their fiber optic cable from the USA down to Nigeria, they have promised about 3.5mb/s soon, this is a good news.

    Right now in the community where I live, we are talking 800kb/s this is a good news to us.

    Soon BB is going to be government tool to monitor project and budget performance here. We want to see if we could take BB to the next level.

    Till then keep posting.

  • Asktemi

    @Henry O, I want to say here loud and clear that things have changed since the last time I wrote about BB here in Nigeria. I was about writing another article to that effect but time and other issues would not permit me to do so.

    However, as I said there has being a serious in the way BB is used in Nigeria.
    To answer your question first. When I was preparing to write that article I did not just want to put down information that I do not know and as such I have to visit various network providers if they could furnish me with such information such as the numbers of BB users on their networks, I was turn down. With that I could not get the numbers of BB users here in Nigeria.

    I hope that answers your question.

    Now Talking about the change. In the past weeks Etisalat, has joined the class of MTN GLO and ZAIN to provide BB in Nigeria.

    I said about the slow internet connection that time and now I am proud to announce that 3.5G or HSDPA is here that has change things.

    Finally, as GLO is about completing their fiber optic cable from the USA down to Nigeria, they have promised about 3.5mb/s soon, this is a good news.

    Right now in the community where I live, we are talking 800kb/s this is a good news to us.

    Soon BB is going to be government tool to monitor project and budget performance here. We want to see if we could take BB to the next level.

    Till then keep posting.

  • Gbolahan

    The piece written by Tope is accurate (from an historical perspective) but his/her idea of how people use the functions that come with a blackberry is completely erroneous.
    Let me start by saying RIM introducing the BB into Nigerian market without much fanfare was probably a strategy used to target the elite class of our soceity but the exponetial growth of these tools must really be making them scratch their heads. This is because BBs have an occultic following in this part of the world. It was pretty unimagnable a year or two ago that you could check your emails and get the latest news effortlessly on your mobile devices. It was either a problems with manufacturers or wireless carriers not having the marketing drive to push these services into the market.
    Enter BB with all the cool applications that come with it and I sit and wonder where Tope got his info about BB being used onlyto make calls. There are thousands of users in Nigeria who use their BBs for a lot of things.
    If you look at Nigerians on facebook and their check their threads you’ll find out most posts are sent over their BBs.
    Tweeting is gaining groud also and this is as a result of more power to more with mobile devices such as the BB.
    I am one of the early adopters of these technology in the country and I have applications on my device that I could never dream of in this part of world a year ago. Google maps that shows you your position real time and even allows you view the locations of your friends real time.
    The next phase of the BB following in Nigeria is developing applications and content for the naija people and when this is done the competitive landscape would shift as businesses strive to get a share of the mind of their consumers. Nigerians might not be there yet in terms of technology solutions deployment but we are abreast of what is happening around the world and looking for ways to stay a touching distance of being there.
    And YES we’re into iPhones and iPods…….

  • Gbolahan

    The piece written by Tope is accurate (from an historical perspective) but his/her idea of how people use the functions that come with a blackberry is completely erroneous.
    Let me start by saying RIM introducing the BB into Nigerian market without much fanfare was probably a strategy used to target the elite class of our soceity but the exponetial growth of these tools must really be making them scratch their heads. This is because BBs have an occultic following in this part of the world. It was pretty unimagnable a year or two ago that you could check your emails and get the latest news effortlessly on your mobile devices. It was either a problems with manufacturers or wireless carriers not having the marketing drive to push these services into the market.
    Enter BB with all the cool applications that come with it and I sit and wonder where Tope got his info about BB being used onlyto make calls. There are thousands of users in Nigeria who use their BBs for a lot of things.
    If you look at Nigerians on facebook and their check their threads you’ll find out most posts are sent over their BBs.
    Tweeting is gaining groud also and this is as a result of more power to more with mobile devices such as the BB.
    I am one of the early adopters of these technology in the country and I have applications on my device that I could never dream of in this part of world a year ago. Google maps that shows you your position real time and even allows you view the locations of your friends real time.
    The next phase of the BB following in Nigeria is developing applications and content for the naija people and when this is done the competitive landscape would shift as businesses strive to get a share of the mind of their consumers. Nigerians might not be there yet in terms of technology solutions deployment but we are abreast of what is happening around the world and looking for ways to stay a touching distance of being there.
    And YES we’re into iPhones and iPods…….

  • Olukunle alabetutu

    Blackberry is great. But i still cannot figure it our why i cannot open Word, excel, Pdf document on my Blackberry Bold. This i do with Sony Ericsson P990i without much ado.

  • Olukunle alabetutu

    Blackberry is great. But i still cannot figure it our why i cannot open Word, excel, Pdf document on my Blackberry Bold. This i do with Sony Ericsson P990i without much ado.

  • damilola ayeni

    ok blackberry is really a great device. but what i have noticed is that most people buy this device not for its functionality of web browsing but to join the league of friends who use them. some go as far as buying the phone and it becomes difficult to subscibe monthly. one thing the mobile phone network can do for us is to reduce the BIS fees to a minimum level. it is quite too extravagant. oluwadamilola Ayeni.mass communication student. Babcock University.

  • Almu34

    e first paragraph is a lie… a thousand in line to use a phone..?? what part of Nigeria were you living in??

  • Chelseadon78

    why is it that Nigerians are so crazy about this phone call blackberry?here in Britain where i live ten years old kid use it as a toy for game.naija wahala de

  • Sweetdoct247

    I’m very sure you know the story has changed now. BB service is better and owing one aint no big deal again. Infact it’s what we now refer to as “pure water”. And of course there are lots of phones now in Nigeria that can do something similare to bb instant messaging. I was suprised someone was amazed that much could be typed from a phone rotflmao, I’ve typed more than thrice of that on my N97. There’s really no big deal about using expensive smartphones in Naija again………well maybe if BB empathy finally makes it to the market. Even then if it get’s shipped to this place people will by it…….

  • Meetnengi

    i love black berry and i will make it my choice of phone.

  • Prospects4u

    Blackberry 7100. What does this mean in Nigeria? How much? You may get one free.
    prospects4u@aol.com

  • tripplechief

    Thank you o my bross/sis there is no longer any big deal owning a BB in Naija. I just bought Bold 2 9700 this monday but the wahala i have faced calling gloworld blackberry tech support services almost everyday has made me to be tired. Some of the basic functions are not just responding i am even regretting why i did not just go for any of these high end 3G Nokia phones jeje and battle with ovi to get most of my applications. However, BB prices have come down seriously i got my for 66k, some Nokia and samsung adroid os phones are even more expensive than that, so BB is no longer mearnt for the big boys/girls alone o!

  • Regido2000

    Please does anyone have an idea how many BB subscribers there are in Nigeria?

  • Lexzealous

    BlackBerry is cool on its own. But we are still far from enjoying the internet speed that makes it interesting in Nigeria. No mobile network can boast of 1MB/SEC in Nigeria. I hope that we get to the level when our 3G service can boast of about 4MB per sec. Then, BB will make serious sense.
    lexzealous

  • Dbbobbo

    .@chelseadon, yeye,just hoping u know what that means in naija 

  • Dbbobbo

    .@chelseadon, yeye,just hoping u know what that means in naija 

  • Ellejaymedia

    I like Temitope.His/her writing style is wonderful. Choice of words? Simple, straight to the point and em… archaic. I’m writing from 2012 where Blackberry in Nigeria is like pure water (forgive the Nigerian metaphor). Everyone has a blackberry in Nigeria, well a major percentage of people, and they ping more than they talk!

  • Monblaze

    loool, i read this post and had to check the date it was written… funny how between 2009 and 2012 things have chaanged greatly… now the Blackberry  is just one among many gadgets that have caught on, now ‘everybody’ has a BB… the question now is which blackberry do they have??