DigitalNews Today: Smile Diversifies, Plans Voice Telephony Service Offering in October

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Smile Diversifies, Plans Voice Telephony Service Offering in October

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chairman of Smile Communications Nigeria Limited, Dr. Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi

Following the recent raising of $365 million (N87.6 billion) of debt and equity financing from local and foreign banks, and from its shareholders, for its network expansion across its three operations in Africa, which include Nigeria, Smile Communications, a broadband company, has announced its intention to begin voice telephony business in Nigeria next month.

Chairman of Smile Communications Nigeria Limited, Dr. Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi, who disclosed this during an interview session with THISDAY in Lagos recently, said 80 percent of the $365 million debt and equity financing, which amount to N70.08 billion, would be spent on Smile's operation in Nigeria for network and services product expansion, while the remaining 20 per cent, which amounts to N17.52 billion, would be spent on its other African operations, because of the large size of its business in Nigeria.

"With N70.08 billion investment in the Nigeria operations, we will be able to finance our new project of voice telephony and expand our existing data communication service offerings in Nigeria," Azudialu-Obiejesi said.

The funding would be used to expand Smile’s existing 4G LTE networks and services, such that, by the end of 2015, Smile will offer clear voice services, in addition to mobile broadband, and will have national coverage comparable to that of the largest 3G network in each of its current countries of operation, Azudialu-Obiejesi added.

According to him, "The 4G LTE technology, which we operate in the 800MHz frequency is very powerful and can penetrate buildings and walls with high speed connectivity, which guarantees the opportunity for Nigerians to enjoy clear voice telecommunication service that we will be offering from next month."

For us, this money is the key for the expansion of our existing data business and for the development of our new service offering in voice telephony. Nigerians will enjoy clearer voice quality with Smile voice telephony because the 4G LTE technology we are deploying in Nigeria, is superior to the 4G LTE technology in London and America, in terms of speed, voice clarity and connectivity, even though it is the same technology, Azudialu-Obiejesi,

Asked if Smile intends to compete with the likes of MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat in voice telephony, Azudialu-Obiejesi said "we are not rolling out voice telephony to compete market share with existing core telecoms operators, because voice is not our core business, but since we have the broadband capacity as a result of our 4G LTE technology, we decided to venture into voice, in addition to our core data communication service, to enable us provide total communications solution to our customers and allow them enjoy the benefits of 4G LTE technology deployment. What we are trying to do is to use some of our free network within the broadband space to provide voice over."

Last week, Smile Communications announced that its parent company, Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd (Smile), which owns and operates mobile wireless 4G LTE broadband networks in the 800MHz band in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, has raised $365 million (N87.6 billion) of debt and equity financing for its network expansion across its three operations in Africa, which includes Nigeria.

The funding is comprised of $50 million of equity, raised from the Public Investment Corporation on behalf of Government Employees Pension Fund (PIC), and a $315 million multi-tranche, multi-jurisdictional debt facility led by Africa Export-Import Bank with participation from the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Diamond Bank PLC, Ecobank Nigeria, the PIC, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa Limited and Standard Chartered Bank.

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