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‘States frustrating ICT expansion’

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Telecommunication


•Stakeholders seek FG intervention

Stakeholders in the telecommunications sector are worried about the negative attitude of some state governments toward the expansion of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure in their respective states.

They declared that states’ unfriendly policies are seriously hindering operators from either expanding existing infrastructure or rolling out of new ones.The stakeholders, made this known at the Telecom Executives and Regulator Forum, organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), with the theme: “Removing Barriers to Growth and Innovation”, jointly called for the urgent intervention of the Federal Government.

According to them, issue of multiple taxation; exorbitant Right of Way (RoW) levies; non-adherence to agreement; multiple regulations, vandalism, among others have posed serious hindrances to network expansion.

They feared that should these problems linger beyond 2017, meeting the 2018 broadband target of 30 per cent may be a mirage, though penetration is currently at 21 per cent.

Though, the Federal Government said it aimed accelerating the country’s industrialisation efforts by installing 18,000km of fibre optic cable across the country to improve broadband penetration, telecoms stakeholders, who appreciated this effort, however, stressed that until those identified bottlenecks are removed, the efforts may not really amount to anything substantive, especially looking at some states’ attitude towards telecoms operators.

The Vice President, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, 9mobile, Ibrahim Dikko, said government must see the National Broadband Plan (NBP) as something for the nation, not just for the operators. He revealed that operators are not expanding because state governments agencies see telecoms operators as ‘cash cows’.

Dikko lamented that there had been an agreement between the operators and state governments on the amount to be charged per meter for RoW, which was N145/m, “but as we speak, only five states adhered to that agreement. Majority of the states now charge as much as N5000 per meter. How will an operator cope, especially one, which had the intention of expanding services across a particular state.”

The 9mobile chief also hinted that currently some states want telecoms operators to pay land use charge, “operators should not be seen as a means to make money.”

From his perspective, the Director, External Affairs, nTel, Osondu Nwokoro, to meet the broadband target, all arms of government must synergise, saying the 18,000km fibre capacity can only complement what the operators had on ground.

Nwokoro said Federal Government needs to intervene in the challenges facing the ICT/Telecoms sector, saying the proposed 18,000km fibre cable cannot give Nigeria 30 per cent broadband target, “efforts of the operators must be considered and complimented.”

Corroborating earlier claims, Chief Executive Officer, Medallion Communications, Ikechukwu Nnamani, said states are not aware of the need to have a vibrant ICT infrastructure. “The state authorities don’t know what ICT can bequeath them,” he stated.

While appealing to the Federal Government to intervene, Nnamani stressed the fact that lack of finance has hindered so many operators from expanding and rolling out of new services.

“There is need for infrastructure bank. The economic situation in the country has made it difficult to race finance for infrastructure development in the telecoms sector. With adequate finance, the country can reach 50 per cent broadband penetration by next year.”Meeting the 2018 target requires so many things. According to Osondu, penetration is one, demand is another and infrastructure is another critical issue.

Osondu wants NCC toplay some major roles, which include expediting actions on National WiFi project (Hot spots), adding that frequency is critical, opening the WiFi sub-sector of the market should be a task that must be achieved.

On his part, the President of ATCON, Olusola Teniola, believed that government support has become so critical in moving the sector forward.As such, he stressed that government can support the sector in the area of spectrum management, saying that government agencies should not see telecoms operators as people they can just latch on the make quick money.


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