There are some highly successful African mobile stories. MTN goes from strength-to-strength in many African nations, and even Econet, which has failed to find real traction outside Zimbabwe, has done very well in its domestic market. Vodafone's influence can been seen in Vodacom and Safaricom, but nonetheless, they are very much African operations.
So what of Glomobile? In many ways it too is an African success story and has made some bold steps, such as providing its own submarine cable connecting West Africa to Europe (Glo 1).
Yet somehow it doesn't quite seem able to power itself to a dominant position in any of the markets it currently operates in. In Nigeria, the market it first launched in, it has some 23.83 million subscribers at the end of March 2013, but was down from the 24.12 million it had at the end of 2012.
In terms of Quarter-on-Quarter % change, Glo has only 'beaten' a basket of its competitors in four out of the last 10 quarterly periods.
Benin is another market where it should have a strong level of support, but again it has only beaten the basket of its competitors in 2 out of 10 quarters.
In Ghana it seemed to have much in its favour when it launched last year, with a strong emphasis on data, and looking as if it would be able to leverage its Glo 1 submarine cable. Yet at the end of the March quarter it had rallied but was still not able to beat the competitor basket, despite being a new network and a low subscriber base (so better able to achieve greater growth with a lower number of net additions).
Admittedly Glo competes directly with MTN in all three markets, and the latter has greater resources and experience to draw on. One suspects that Glo's senior echelons are very aware of this, and have been trying to close the experience gap.
Investment is certainly an issue, and Glo belatedly announced in April this year that as part of its tenth anniversary celebration it was 'investing heavily' in network expansion and a technical network upgrade. The 12-month upgrade is to see the installation of new switches, increasing the number of mobile switching centres to ease congestion and construction of an additional 4,000 km of fibre optic cable which will complement the existing fibre optic facility - already claimed to be the most extensive fibre network in Nigeria.
But Glo's other problem is finding the executive staff capable of driving its strategy in its three markets. Steve Bailey resigned his post as Chief Commercial Officer at Glo Nigeria only a month into the job. Bailey left Virgin South Africa at the end of May 2012 to take on the role of Chief Commercial Officer at Glo, and was reported as having returned to South Africa after just weeks in the job following delays and underpayments in salary.
In Ghana Glo is targeting a problem with dealerships. Through to June, Glo is offering prizes 'running into millions of Ghana cedis' for its 'outstanding dealers'. Glo claimed the incentives were the 'best in the industry', but perhaps more tellingly in the same release Glo said it was in the process of upgrading the network by April 2013 to offer the most extensive 3G coverage in Ghana.
So maybe this is the root of the Glo's problems: the product in its present form is simply not sufficiently compelling given the presence of some well-known and well-established majors. Still, Glo is not the only group to blame the retailers - on Sunday Virgin Mobile was claiming that it too had been driven out of retail outlets in South Africa by two large local operators.
There could be a pattern here as it was MTN and Vodacom that are apparently been using their market collateral again to good effect. It's a tough job being a major group but someone's got to do it.
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telecoms news briefs week ending 12 July 2013.