Tigo, Airtel customers anxious over merger

The recent announcement of a merger between Tigo and Airtel in Ghana has left workers and customers of both telecoms companies anxious and apprehensive.

Some workers of both companies have been telling Adom News they are now living in uncertainty because they know such mergers come with job cuts and they don’t know their fate so they are sitting on edge.

Meanwhile some customers are glad about the move, while others are also worried that the merger will create network problems over a long time.

Owners of Tigo Ghana, Millicom International Cellular SA and Airtel Ghana owners, Bharti Airtel last week announced the consolidation of their operations in Ghana, but stated the merger is yet to get government and regulators approval before it could take effect.

The two companies are therefore readying themselves to present details of the deal to telecoms regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA) for approval.

Till then, it still remains unclear what the new company will be called, what network prefix they will be using (026/056 or 027/057), and where their head office will be, whether in the Tigo Ghana building or Airtel Ghana rented offices.

In such mergers, synergies do happen, and one of that is the workforce synergy, which means some workers of both companies would be cut off to prevent duplication of roles and save cost, and that is part of the reasons workers are now anxious.

Adom News has been finding out how workers of the two companies are receiving the announcement and some of them said in plain language they are very “anxious and apprehensive right now”.

“There is apprehension among workers generally” one Airtel worker said, adding “our anxiety stems from the fact that earlier when rumors went viral about the merger and subsequent takeover by another company there were denials but now it is obvious this is happening”.

“Now I believe what the media has been reporting more than what our employers have been saying all this while,” another Airtel worker said.

A Tigo customer service worker said he could understand that owners of the two companies needed to manage information flow about the merger and alleged subsequent takeover because of its implications for shareholders, investors, clients and workers, “but now the whole thing has put us on edge and that is not a good feeling at all.”

Two other female workers of Tigo asked; “please can you offer me a job – because now I don’t know my fate – you know that in such mergers people’s jobs and lives are always at stake because some will definitely lose their jobs and that feeling scares us.”

Meanwhile, the owners of the two companies have said the merger will help them leverage on each other’s strengths to boost their market position and better serve customers.

Currently Tigo is number three on the market with 5.4 million customers, and Airtel is number four with 4.7 million subscribers. But together their customer base will reach 10 million plus and that will shoot straight to number two and drop Vodafone to number three on the market.

They also talk of revenue synergies, network synergies – sharing infrastructure and spectrum to enable wider coverage and a more effective and efficient network investment in 3G and possibly in 4G; and commercial synergies in terms of advertising spend among others.

Customer mixed-reactions

The two providers believe consolidation will help them deliver wide coverage, better quality of service and quality of experience to customers, as well as competitive prices and more innovative services for customer benefits.

With the combined fibre footprint and increased Data Centres, Enterprise customers including both large corporations and SMEs, would also have access to a diverse portfolio of world-class solutions.

But some customers are concerned that the infrastructure synergy might create lingering networks problems that customers might have to endure.

Others say they are happy about the merger because it will mean they belong to a bigger network and wider coverage with the best of combined services from the two.

One customer, who said he uses both Airtel and Tigo, noted that Tigo is the best network and Airtel has the most affordable rates so the combination of the two could only deliver the best in terms of quality of service and affordability.

Two customers of Tigo think Tigo is far better than Airtel so they don’t understand why the two are coming to create problems for customers.

One asked “why are they coming together without seeking the consent of the customers – what if they mess up the network for us?”

Another gentleman said he used Tigo for a long time and left for Airtel and now he is enjoying better service at Airtel so he is not happy that Tigo is coming back into his life.

Some customers are also wondering what would happen to those who already use both Airtel and Tigo – would they have to give up one SIM card?

With regards to the name of the company that emerges from the consolidation, some mentioned names like Tigotel, Airtigo, Nkabom, and Orange,

Meanwhile, some industry watchers believe the perceived benefits of the new company on the basis of economies of scale is only theoretical because in reality that will take some time to achieve.

“Even if it reduces their costs a bit, there is still loads of taxes and fees to deal with,” they noted.

By Samuel Dowouna

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