In the aftermath of the recent fuel shortage in Nigeria, industry analysts believe telcos will begin to invest in alternative logistic services and a recent online survey showed that consumers would source fuel online if this service was legalised.
Last week, three of the four major telecoms companies operating in Nigeria issued official statements warning subscribers of the potential impact that a fuel shortage – particularly diesel, could have on the quality of service.
MTN warned the scarcity could shut down its operations if sufficient fuel did not become available before last Wednesday, while Airtel Nigeria told subscribers that its data services would first be hit.
However, subscribers living in various parts of the country told ITWeb Africa they did not record any uniquely poor quality of service directly as a result of the fuel shortage.
According to residents in areas where the various networks have their base stations and switches, the telecoms infrastructures continued to operate round-the-clock.
Bayo Akingbade lives adjacent to a base station. He said the base station in his compound has more than enough fuel to operate continuously for more than two weeks. "They only bring fuel once or twice in a month, each base station also has provision for emergency purpose during which they make use of the reserved fuel. It did not come as a surprise to me that the facilities continued to operate throughout the period the scarcity lasted," he said.
The situation was the same in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos. Ganiyu DanBaba, a fuel marketer, said he still supplied fuel to some base stations during the scarcity because of his existing contractual agreement with the telecos.
This, he said, made it possible for the facilities to remain operational even though no one else was getting diesel."It wouldn't have been possible for the networks to operate if they didn't have working relationships with us. Even though fuel was scarce, because we have agreement with them, they were the ones getting most of the fuel we have," he told ITWeb Africa.
He concluded the network service providers probably decided to release the statements in order to notify the subscribers and government of what could happen if their diesel reservoir was depleted. "Everyone was talking about it, so I guess they also decided to say something to move the government to do something. I guess it worked," he said.
Industry analysts believe telcos may begin to engage in ancillary logistics services to ensure smooth operations, even during scarcity. Such strategies are likened to the ones being deployed by ecommerce giants Konga and Jumia, who decided to launch their own delivery services instead of relying on the existing ones.
There is also growing interest in using the online forum to order fuel. According to an online survey conducted during the scarcity by virtual marketplace Kaymu Nigeria, about 73% of respondents said they would order fuel online if the service was made legal by the Nigerian government.
However, it is currently illegal in Nigeria for anyone to buy fuel outside the gas stations.