MTN Calls for Calm As Callers Jam Network in Uganda

Telecoms

Ugandan MTN’s 50% airtime bonus promo proved what has been obvious to those who track rates for a long time. If prices comes down, use goes up enormously. Indeed so enormously did it go up that the network quickly became jammed.

In the wake of the outage, MTN Uganda said its customers should exercise "self-discipline," and spread their calls so the company's network could function. Nothing about how the marketing department should have checked whether demand should be met or whether the company was upgrading its network.

Since a 50 per cent bonus airtime promo started on August 13, there has been a vast surge in traffic on the network just after 10 pm when customers can utilise their extra airtime.

At a press briefing last week, MTN's Chief Commercial Officer, Eric Van Veen said they expected customers to be more responsible in placing calls around that time.

"If you make a call and it's dropped, don't place again and again. Just be patient and call a little later and that helps everybody," he said. In other words, be prepared to expect less than the service you’ve paid for.

To illustrate the depth of the traffic strain on the network stemming from extra airtime, Mr Van Veen said the company's network is designed to accommodate 24,000 voice calls at any single second. But when the clock hits 10 pm every weekday, almost a million of MTN's two million customers place calls simultaneously, prompting a snarl up. "No network in the world can have capacity to carry that level of traffic at a time," Eric said.

According to traffic flow graphic models displayed at the briefing, interruptions are almost non-existent in the traditional peak hours - day time - but instantly shoot up at 10 o'clock and then drop again shortly there after.

Said Francis Kazinduki, MTN's Chief Technical Officer, "It's just a 30-minute craziness. People just can't wait for even a few minutes." It’s hard to see why MTN management are so surprised by this. If you make people a good offer, they want to use it.

It's unclear whether customers will heed the company's advice and spread out their calling time but Eric said they're also weighing an array of options that could be used to cutback on network jams. One of them, he said, is to get more off-peak hours in which customers can use their bonus airtime. Currently, Saturdays and Sundays, considered off-peak periods, are still excluded from the promo but Mr Van Veen suggested they might be considered for use of the extra airtime.

The Monitor