The use of BlackBerry technology in Nigeria has increased tremendously in the last 12 months, as recent reports reveal that there are now about 1.5 million BlackBerry smartphones in use in Africa’s most populous country.
Investigations, however, have revealed that about 40 percent of the BlackBerry smartphones in circulation are not directly from any of the four GSM operators in Nigeria, but are obtained from the grey market where the handsets are relatively cheaper.
The use of Blackberry smartphones is also said to have been influenced by various competitive strategies introduced by the GSM networks in Nigeria.
Airtel Nigeria, for instance, recently introduced a new dimension to the competition in the BlackBerry market. Tagged ‘BConnected’ Airtel’s bundle offers ‘BlackBerry Messenger’, a real time messaging and chat service, as well as access to social networks, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. It also offers access to monthly, weekly or daily plans on the expiration of a 30 day free trial period. The bundle is priced at N1, 580 (about $11) monthly but excludes e-mail services which most other BlackBerry services include.
MTN has also introduced a similar package that allows subscribers to use the BlackBerry service at a cost that is as low as N450 (approximately $3).
BlackBerry smartphones are primarily known for their ability to send and receive (push) e-mail via a mobile network or Wi-Fi.
BlackBerry commands a 14.8 percent share of worldwide smart phone sales, making it the fifth largest device manufacturer after Nokia, Samsung, LG and Apple.
The consumer BlackBerry Internet Service is available in 91 countries worldwide via more than 500 mobile operators.
Grey market operators tend to sell unauthorised products which come mostly from Asia, as well as second hand products which come from Europe and the US, the attraction being that their prices are significantly lower than the prices of the authorised channels.
The disadvantage of the grey market is that their products don’t come with warranties and are usually not as reliable or durable. Market watchers say though, that because Nigeria is a low income market, there is high demand for greymarket products, with all the problems they portend.