The green network, Smile Communications is apparently closing its business in Uganda. According to insider information, it is not all rosy at the once promising ISP best known for its unlimited internet bundles and a good quality of service.
Our recent poll saw it take home the best unlimited internet service provider award but this doesn’t seem to reflect in its books of accounts according to the same source.
Where is the trouble coming from?
Apparently smile is in a dire financial situation amid a competitive industry with old guards like MTN and Airtel giving no room to smaller players like it to grow. This could be traced back to Smile laying off over 50 of its workforce back in 2016 after bleeding a tonne of money immediately after rolling out a true unlimited offering that they’ve since revised, revised and revised over again.
Smile has also struggled to go beyond the Kampala metropolis where it maintains most of its clientele and also build capacity as its reception is also somewhat sketchy in some parts of the city, though praised at the same time for its consistency where the signal is live, it being one of the things that has kept it afloat.
It tried to reinvent itself with the launch of its Voice over LTE (VoLTE) but the market just wasn’t ready as this came ahead of its time. This put it in direct competition with OTT services like Whatsapp, Messenger or Viber that could do the job even better and for free for that matter while also competing with well established players like MTN and Airtel that maintained conventional circuit switched 2G and 3G calls that the masses are well accustomed to, and whose networks require not expensive gear/phones for the end users.
All the above and the current price wars at all fronts of the telecom sector like voice and data relegate Smiles ability to compete favorably. It also lacks mobile money as an auxiliary service where telcos are ripping big since it couldn’t compete in voice while its data prices remain somewhat prohibitive and the big guys have since encroached on this territory by launching not only 4G services but also their own Unlimited Internet offerings bolstered by their large footprint across the country.
What is UCC saying?
UCC has kept mum about this but normally issues fore-warnings about troubled telecoms as was the case with Smart Telecom so take these allegations with a grain of salt, not until the regulator comes out with an official notice about Smile’s situation, that we shall declare Armageddon over it.
What does Smile Say?
Smile has come out to refuse these allegations of its imminent exit of the Ugandan market through communication from one of their officials who prefers anonymity.
Editors Note: This article was updated to reflect the official communication from Smile regarding the allegations above.