ATCON pushes for more co-location operations
According to the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the umbrella body for telecommunications companies in the country, co-location has become highly essential if services must improve.
ATCON believes insufficient infrastructure built by telecoms operator is hindering the impressive adoption of infrastructure-sharing business model among telecoms companies in Nigeria.
For instance, infrastructure already deployed by the telecoms companies, especially in the area of base stations deployment, is still grossly inadequate for operators, which has informed the poor infrastructure-sharing adoption.
Co-location is moving or placing things together, and is used to mean the provision of space for a customer’s telecommunications equipment on the service provider’s premises. In the internet world for example, a web site or an internet service provider (ISP) could place its network routers on the premises of the company offering switching services with other ISPs while in the GSM/telephony world, operator could decide to share facilities/sites for cost savings reasons.
ATCON President, Olusola Teniola, who said this at the association’s yearly general meeting, (AGM) over the weekend, noted that following the realisation that telecoms is a highly capital-intensive sector.
He added that the regulator had developed the collocation or infrastructure-sharing framework to reduce operators’ capital expenditure (CAPEX).
“While the appetite is among operators to share infrastructure, it is unfortunate that the existing infrastructure is not even enough for each telecoms firm, thereby making operators reluctant to share their existing infrastructure with rivals.
“However, there is illusion that there is infrastructure sharing, especially of passive infrastructure among operators but this is very poor, even as I believe strongly that active infrastructure-sharing is the future whether we like it or not.
“I am happy that the NCC (Nigerian Communications Commission) has started developing a framework for infrastructure-sharing and that a working committee has been set up to work on this. But we all know that true infrastructure sharing is not yet in place in Nigeria right now,” Teniola said.
Already, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, disclosed last week that the industry needed 80,000 base stations to achieve better services.
“Nigeria needs at least 70,000 to 80,000 telecommunication base stations to actualise its dream of joining the club of countries working toward making Internet of Things (IoT) a reality by leveraging 4G and 5G networks,” Danbatta had said.
Other issues discussed at the AGM included the need for effective spectrum management, inability of telecoms firms to access the $20,000 per quarter recently introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the need for better collaboration among ATCON members.
Speaking on the challenge facing operators in accessing foreign exchange (forex), Teniola said: “Forex is a big issue; it is even our biggest problem now. A lot of us have to part for licences, pay for service contracts and so on.”
He noted that “some of ATCON members have had to even terminate certain services and put on hold certain expansion projects as a result of our inability to access forex.”
He said that ATCON has made a position paper on the problems facing its members, and how this could stifle the growth of the telecoms sector, which has become an enabler of the entire economy in Nigeria. “We are also planning again to get the audience of the CBN Governor to remove Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector from the list of 41 items denied direct access to forex from CBN.”
According to Teniola, inability to access forex will stunt telecoms growth, which has been contributing about nine per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He also noted the foreign direct investment (FID) into the telecoms sector has been put on hold, since operators fin difficult to access dollar to import equipment for expansion.
Meanwhile, the ATCON President, also challenged the NCC to ensure more efficient allocation of spectrum resources, which, according to him, are scarce resources to drive telecoms service delivery.
“On this, the issue of spectrum trading comes to mind. We are awaiting NCC’s directive on the Spectrum Trading proposal, which it is currently working on which we believe we revive redundant licences and help deepen access to telecoms services across the country,” he said.