Circa 2003, two years after the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) was rolled out in Nigeria, Waja, probably middle-aged, had to part with a whopping ?24,000 just to buy a SIM card!



“I bought my SIM at N24,000…,” Waja said as he shared his experience on the cost of his first phone and SIM card on Nairaland, a popular Nigerian-owned internet forum created in 2005.



Photo credit: Facebook/Glo World


Waja wasn’t alone. Many other Nairalanders (users of Nairaland) recalled the humongous amounts they bought their SIM cards, especially in the 2000s.


“I bought my MTN sim card for N17,500 and it was considered really cheap at that time in 2003,” another Nairalander said.


A public servant in his 60s even had to obtain a loan before he could buy a SIM card which cost ?25,000 in 2004.


That’s not all. Making phone calls was a luxury above the reach of millions of Nigerians at the time.


At the inception of GSM in Nigeria, only Per Minute Billing (PMB) was available – at N50 per minute. Even if you spoke for only two seconds, you would be billed ?50.


“I can remember making a minute call for 60 Naira back then in 2002/2003,” another Nairalander, Valuka said.


This was the experience of millions of Nigerians from 2001 when the GSM was launched until 2003 when a foremost, indigenous telecom company, Globacom Limited, stepped in.


Globacom’s game changer: SIM card acquisition and PSB revolution


Globacom’s entry into the Nigerian telecommunications in 2003 revolutionised the industry by empowering the Nigerian masses with what used to be the exclusive preserve of the elites.


At a time when SIM cards were not only expensive but also a big deal, the Mike Adenuga-owned telecom company crashed the price down to ?500 and eventually moved on to distribute them FREE OF CHARGE to customers.


Hold on, that’s not all! Before Globacom’s entry, the existing telecom firms claimed Per Second Billing (PSB) was impossible till after 5 years.


However, to the delight of millions of Nigerians groaning under the excruciating cost of per minute billing, Globacom made the “impossible” possible by pioneering the per second billing innovation.


The demystification of the SIM card acquisition and introduction of the per second billing did not only lead to the exponential growth of Globacom’s customer base, the innovative moves also ensured millions of Nigerians have access to telecommunication, a move which significantly boosted Nigeria’s economy.



Glo-1: How Globacom empowered Nigerians with reliable, affordable internet access


For internet access, Nigeria used to depend on the South Atlantic 3 (SAT-3) cable owned by a consortium of over 30 telecom companies across the world.


However, in 2009, Nigeria and other West African countries witnessed a damaging internet blackout when SAT-3 had a fault on one of its landing cables.


The banking industry and other sectors of the economy that relied heavily on internet connectivity for operations were destabilized. Nigeria’s economy and security were threatened.


Though the damaged SAT-3 submarine cable was eventually restored, a crucial lesson was learnt: there is the need for more submarine cables.


A year after, specifically in 2010, Globacom came to the rescue by launching a higher capacity submarine cable named Glo-1.


Glo-1 is a 9800km cable which came from Bude in UK and connects Nigeria to the rest of West Africa and the UK.


The exciting behind-the-scene story of how Glo-1 came to be is well documented by City People Magazine.


With Glo-1, Globacom did not only provide Nigeria with an alternative that guarantees high internet speeds and download rates, it also crashed costs of bandwidth and empowered Nigerians by facilitating more internet access.


It is also this futuristic investment in internet infrastructure by Globacom and other operators which made seamless Nigeria’s transition to remote working/learning when COVID-19 struck in 2020.


At the height of the pandemic, many businesses in Nigeria closed their offices and resorted to remote working. Schools shutdown and transitioned to online learning. Telemedicine became a familiar term because many Nigerians started consulting with medical doctors online and getting attended to. Ecommerce soared as markets were shut down.


Apart from its pioneering investments in internet infrastructure which played a huge role in this seamless transition and saved Nigeria’s economy from collapse, Globacom in 2020 launched a Stay at Home Data plan to make the new experiences easy and affordable for Nigerians.


Meanwhile, millions of Nigerian youths now seamlessly have fun, learn and earn through content creation on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, Instagram, and YouTube, among others.


The story of how this came to be can never be complete without talking about how Globacom introduced the 2.5G technology when other telecom companies were operating on the 2G technology.


The company also provided Nigerians with exceptionally brilliant and important innovations such as MMS, international SMS connectivity to over 804 networks in 174 countries, BlackBerry solutions, international prepaid roaming, voice SMS, personal ringback tunes, and Magic Plus.


Globacom also raised the bar of telecoms service in the country in 2008 when it launched the 3G Plus which has since been upgraded to the 4G technology.


With Glo, anybody who has an internet-enabled phone can afford data. The telco’s affordable data plans empower Nigerians to take on new job opportunities not only in the country but across the world.



From startups to sports: Globacom’s value-adding empowerment programmes


“Globacom has empowered me. I now have a brand new car for my cab business and would no longer need to rent and pay for a car to use on weekly basis,” Japhet Egbede said as he won a car in one of the numerous programmes by Globacom.


Egbede is just one of the millions of Nigerians who have been positively impacted by the company’s poverty alleviation programmes.


Beyond providing Nigerians with quality and affordable telecom services, Globacom consistently supports them to live their dreams.


With its innovative interventions since 2003, Globacom has empowered entrepreneurs, entertainers, sportsmen and women, cultural icons, among others.


Since its launch, the Adenuga-owned telco has launched series of promos and handed out different types of appealing empowerment prizes to Nigerians across the country.


Lives of millions of Nigerians have been positively transformed through various promos including Glo Overload, GloAllawee, Text 4 Millions, Made for Life, Recharge to Stardom, 180 cars in 180 days, Glo CAF Award promo, Everyday Bonanza and Recharge, Win Big to Joy Unlimited Extravaganza promo, etc.


Also, Globacom’s impact in the ever growing Nigerian music industry cannot be over-emphasised.


The company has over the years promoted leading Nigerian music talents through the sponsorship of music shows such as Rock ‘n’ Rule, GloNaija Sings, Laffta Fest and X Factor.


It has also been involved in shows such as Slide and Bounce concerts as well as Glo Mega Music. It equally sponsors the Glo Evergreen Series, a music concert designed to honour successful African music icons for their outstanding contributions to African music.


Similarly, Nollywood actors and other players in the industry will forever be grateful to Globacom as many of them have emerged as Glo Ambassadors with mouth-watering deals.


Globacom also recently brought the world’s biggest dance reality show, Battle of the Year, to Nigeria. The winners in seven different categories went home with mega millions in cash prizes, space wagon and opportunity to represent Nigeria in global competition.



Some winners of the Glo Battle of the Year Nigeria. Photo credit: Facebook/Glo Word


In the culture sector, Globacom plays a frontline role as it partners with several communities across the country to sponsor major festivals and promotion of culture and traditions.


These include Ojude Oba in Ijebu-Ode, Ofala in Onitsha, Lisabi in Abeokuta, Imeori in Abiriba, Oru – Owerri in Imo State, Afia- Orluin Nnewi and Abia –Ugwa in Isiala Ngwa in Abia State.



Globacom sponsors Ojude Oba festival in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state. Photo credit: Facebook/Glo World


In sports, Globacom’s impacts are visible to the blind and audible to the deaf. To mention a few of the interventions, the company in 2011 signed a ?2 billion sponsorship agreement with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), thus becoming the official telecommunications partner of NFF and major sponsor of the Nigerian national teams.


In addition, Globacom sponsored the Nigerian league from 2003 to 2010 seasons. It returned in 2013 when a new ?1.9 billion agreement was signed, lasting up to 2016.


The telecom company sponsored the annual Glo-CAF Awards which celebrates the best of African football for over a decade from 2005 to 2016.


Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr.splashed the sum of $1million on the victorious Super Eagles for winning the 29th African Cup of Nations tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2023. Photo credit: Facebook/Glo World


To further develop football and empower African youths, Globacom came up with the Glo Soccer Academy, a West African Soccer TV Reality show, was organised to discover and train talented young footballers in the sub-region.


At the end of the academy, 16 outstanding players emerged and were rewarded with mouth-watering prizes including N5million for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and N1m each for the remaining 15 finalists.


In 2009, Globacom extended its interventions to athletics as it splashed millions of naira on a sponsorship deal with the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) for the Lagos Int’l half marathon.




Participants collecting a certificate of participation and medals after the Glo Lagos International Half Marathon on February 21, 2009 in Lagos. Photo credit: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images


The education sector is not left out as Globacom has also continuously sponsored infrastructure development in secondary schools as well as tertiary institutions in different parts of the country.


As part of its support for literary works produced by African writers, Globacom took up the sponsorship of the prestigious Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. It is a biennial award for the best literary work produced by an African and rewards the winning author with $20,000.


As Globacom marks its 19th anniversary, it is important to reiterate that the brainchild of Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. (GCON), Chairman of Globacom and Africa’s businessman extraordinaire, has empowered Nigerians, and indeed Africans, by not just improving their telecommunications experience but also helping them to achieve their lofty dreams.


I join millions of empowered Nigerians to wish Globacom, a true Nigerian brand a future of limitless possibilities as they mark their 19th anniversary. Watch the video below:


Anthony Eshemokhai, a loyal friend of Globacom writes from Lagos.