Not too many things have gone right for Airtel ever since its first incarnation as Celtel around 2004. Incidentally, this is the time Michael Joseph, former CEO Safaricom, says he realized his company was headed for big things.
In recent times, and especially since Safaricom adjusted its calling rates upwards, Airtel has been receiving subscribers in droves. The only problem, it doesn't seem prepared.
For some time the company's subscribers have been having problems loading airtime and customer service which has been outsourced, is crap.
CCK reported Airtel adding about 550,000 subscribers from July to September just behind the 590K Safaricom did over the same period.
In October the company added about 520,0000, in November just about 500,000 and in December about 408,000.
The problem that Airtel is experiencing can be directly attributed to Ericsson.
Basically, the MINSAT (Mobile Intelligent Network Service Administration Tool) is full and the company is having issues with its SDP (Service Delivery Platform) most likely with Times Ten Database.
Ericsson normally deployes their MINSAT with Sybase 10 database although I'm told the folks at Airtel are using Oracle and DB2 for business services (currently handled by IBM).
Ericsson is likely not getting the funds it needs from Airtel as the company continues to assess whether to invest more in a market that has burnt holes into its budget.
These network problems are made all the more glaring by rival Nokia Siemens which has announced the launch of LiquidNet which is says will unleash frozen network capacity into a reservoir of resources. "This enables your broadband network to instantly adapt to unpredictable changes in end-user demand. We can help you release huge chunks of your unused network resources – up to 80%, in fact, of your baseband radio network capacity."
If Airtel want to put up a fight for this market, they need to put their network into shape. And that long promised 3G seems to be taking forever to deploy despite getting the license before Orange. The latter has already rolled out.