THE vision of Qualcomm of USA in 1985, when it first invented the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology, was for the technology to transform the face of global telecommunications, which it actually achieved. But the revolution brought by the Global System for Mobile Telecommunications (GSM) impacted on its fortunes and gradually the CDMA technology started losing growing steam and roll into extinction.
Indeed, CDMA actually made waves in the early 20th century, even in Nigeria, to the extent that the country had over 16 big players competing effectively, having close to 15 million subscribers. But its failure to reposition for growth, mismanagement, and lack of funds actually saw the GSM technology overtaking it and since then, it has been moving in fits and darts.
Currently, while the GSM technology controls about 98 per cent of the Nigerian market. The CDMA, on the other hand, controls 1.58 per cent market share, according to statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Besides, while CDMA technology, through the only surviving operator-Visafone Communications, which was acquired recently by MTN, can only boast of about two million customers, the quartet of MTN Nigeria, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat, as at September 2015, enjoy the services of about 150 million connected subscribers.
While so many challenges, including mismanagement, paucity of funds and outdated technologies were identified as part of the challenges that negatively impacted on the fortunes of the CDMA players, industry watchers further traced the chief challenge to the doorstep of the NCC.
The CDMA operators alleged that the regulator over pampered the GSM service providers, whereas they were not protected.
They equally blamed government for its inability to provide the necessary infrastructure for the rollout of CDMA services, after collecting so much money from them as license fees.
In one of his interviews with journalists, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said that CDMA fortunes could be revived if driven by new policies, stressing that while the technology is very expensive, “telecoms business has become a volume business. The CDMA tries to compete with big players, which should not be.
Today, all our telecoms operators operate on a national basis, which to some extent shouldn’t be. If our policy encourages regional, state and local operations, there will be room for all players. Players will be more focused on their area of strength rather than concentrating totally on a national basis,” he stated.
While blames continued, in 2012, a special purpose vehicle, by an American investor-CAPCOM, came with the hope of reviving the CDMA segment.