9mobile:15 Years of Excellence and the 9ja Spirit of Resilience

The Nigerian telecommunications landscape today is vastly different from when the first set of global systems for mobile communications licenses were issued. Indeed, the country has witnessed a telecommunications evolution from those heady days when Nigeria became abuzz as the excitement of being able to make calls began to bud.

Since then, Nigeria has become one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world, accounting for over 17% of mobile subscriptions in Africa with a tele density of almost 91.4%. Today, the country has an active subscriber base of 220.7 million, with an industry Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) of N2,070 and industry revenue in 2023 of $9.1 billion which is projected to grow to $21.5 billion in 2030.

The telecommunications sector has also witnessed some evolutionary epochs since 2000 when the mobile revolution began with the first entrants rolling out per-minute billings. At that nascent stage, it was more of creating awareness and selling their brands, tariff plans, marketing, and competitive advantage positioning. Then came the first disruption to the market with the introduction of per-second billing (PSB), which was exciting for the subscribers as this competitive streak began to open up the telecoms space for investors and operators and ultimately the customers.

As the market began to grow, subscribers were spoilt for choice as mouthwatering offers by the operators were regularly dangled before them to further grow their market share. This was the era of selling value-added services like ring-back-tones, healthcare tips, etc., WASP connection and internet network spread. Emphasis began to be placed on voice and SMS propositions and tariff plans.

After the euphoria of per-second billing (PSB) had settled, it was the usual humdrum in the telecommunications sector until a new entrant disrupted the scene with a grand entry into the Nigerian market.

October 23, 2008, has become an indelible day in the annals of the Nigerian telecoms sector as 9mobile (then known as Etisalat) became the fourth entrant into the GSM space in Nigeria having acquired the unified access license, including a mobile license and spectrum in GSM 1800 and 900MHZ bands from the Nigeria Communications Commission in January 2007.

The brand hit the market with a bang with its disruptive ‘0809ja’ campaign, which it strategically used to connect with the youth market who saw as novel, the brand’s offer to subscribers to customize their phone numbers. This came to be known as the ‘0809UChoose’ which put the power in the hands of subscribers to determine their mobile numbers.

Soon after its launch, the brand became a major force in the industry due to its rising brand equity. The market entry was indeed revolutionary and within a few years, competitors were forced into brand re-engineering and re-adaptation due to the array of innovative services being rolled out by 9mobile (then Etisalat).

From the onset, the brand positioned itself as the quintessential Nigerian brand by speaking to Nigeria’s unique culture, aptly using the terms Naija and 9ja in its communications and branding to Nigerians. These terms evoke the true spirit of every Nigerian – a confident people, who are proud of their culture and identity; an industrious, hard-working, ingenious, and resilient people. The 9ja spirit can also be seen in the food, the flamboyant dressing, the mannerisms, and the boisterous attitude to strangers who on meeting a Nigerian immediately feel bonded by their “Naija-ness”.

The brand rode on these into the Nigerian youth market and showcased that it was not just another network but an attitude. These and its other attributes created brand love for the brand so much so that when its evolution and migratory process from Etisalat to 9mobile happened, no one seemed surprised that it stuck to its proudly 9ja-centricity, and its resolve to continuously provide innovative and value-adding propositions for which it has become from inception.

The unveiling of the new brand identity was a reflection of the bold and creative attributes which the company shares with its valued subscribers. The 9mobile logo represents resilience and continuity, and also expresses the brand’s thoughts about the future, particularly of digital technology and its continued impact on communication and human interactions.  It was clear that the choice of the new name and brand was a deliberate representation and confirmation of the 9mobile’s Nigerian heritage, its 9ja-centricity.

Over the past 15 years, 9mobile has affirmed its heritage as a truly Nigerian company renowned for youthfulness, innovation, reliability, and outstanding customer service. Throughout its journey, the company has continuously embraced technological advancements, ensuring that its services remain at the forefront of the industry. From the early days of voice services to today’s high-speed internet connectivity, cloud solutions, and digital communications, 9mobile has consistently adapted and evolved to meet the demands of the digital age.

The brand has recorded many firsts in the industry including its most daring Masterbrand campaign ‘0809UChoose’ which put power in the hands of subscribers to determine their mobile numbers. It was the first and only telco that was born 4G-ready, as all 9mobile SIM cards come 4G-ready and enabled. This meant that 9mobile customers did not need to get a SIM swap to upgrade their lines to enjoy 4G service. This is because, even though 9mobile joined the industry in 2008 when 3G was what was available, it already set up its network for LTE compatibility.  In other words, whether it is 4G today or 5G tomorrow, 9mobile is already set up from the start to evolve along with the prevalent broadband technology of the day.

The brand also deployed Moreblaze, its revolutionary data bundle that offers the fastest data, and Cloud 9, a music platform that offers the best of unique end-to-end experiential music performances.

The brand has also shown its 9ja spirit of giving back through its various CSR initiatives.  It recently launched The Hack, an SME initiative that serves as a growth enabler for small businesses, which has seen it traverse cities and campuses. It has also left significant footprints on education, arts, and culture with the 9mobile Telecommunications Engineering Postgraduate Program (9TEPP), its flagship Pan-Africa 9mobile Prize for Literature which promotes literacy and encourages writers to hone their craft across Africa and Photography Competition, among others.

Speaking on the network’s anniversary, Juergen Peschel, CEO of 9mobile said: “We are thrilled to celebrate our 15th anniversary, a significant milestone that showcases our dedication to providing top-notch telecommunications solutions. We owe our success to our loyal customers, partners, investors, regulators, and the hard work of our talented team. Some of our staff have been with the business since inception and this anniversary is a testament to their unwavering support and commitment.”

As we retrospect, we take great joy in our heritage as a truly Nigerian company that has revolutionized Nigeria’s telecommunications industry with an array of innovative products, services, and solutions that empower the youth, entrepreneurs, and indeed all segments across the country”, he said.

Looking towards the future, Peschel said 9mobile is on a transformation journey and is committed to continuing its legacy of excellence, innovation, and exceptional customer service. “With a dedicated team and a clear vision, we are poised to explore new horizons, push boundaries, and redefine the telecommunications landscape. We remain focused on our mission to connect people, empower businesses, and drive digital transformation in Nigeria”, he added.

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