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Government’s 127,000km fibre deployment target, others face challenges



• Minister, NCC, ALTON meet on way forward 
Some developmental strides expected to birth in Nigeria’s telecoms sector currently face some serious and peculiar challenges, and may not be realised if help fails to come to the way of the industry.
Some of these developments include Federal Government’s planned 127,000km fibre expected to be spread across the country; broadband infrastructure roll out, rural telephony, and a host of others. Challenges identified as major limitations include the problem of denial or exorbitant cost of Right of Way (RoW) by state governments, vandalism of telecoms infrastructure, poor or lack of access to public electricity to run telecoms operations, and multiple taxes and regulations. There is also a need for an Executive Order to protect telecoms infrastructure, and the need for a national digital policy.
These came to the fore when the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, led a delegation of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), to the Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami, to discuss critical industry issues affecting telecommunications operations in the country.
The meeting, which held Monday, in Abuja, was the first industry stakeholders meeting with the Minister, where ALTON President, Gbenga Adebayo, said urgent interventions are required in view of the significance of telecoms as a central and pivotal infrastructure shaping the economy.
Adebayo also acknowledged the leadership of the NCC, stressing that the current upbeat status of the industry is largely traceable to the good regulatory regime instituted by the leadership of the Commission.Earlier, Danbatta said while the Federal Government, through the Ministry and the NCC, is committed to deepening digital access, the RoW issue, among others, remain the biggest issues standing in the way of the accelerated telecoms infrastructure, and by extension, broadband development.  
“We also believe that achieving Federal Government’s target of 127,000 kilometres of fibre across the country, which is critical to our broadband and digital economy drive, depends on how these industry issues are addressed,” he maintained.Danbatta further commended the Minister “for the way and manner he had hit the ground running upon assumption of office,” adding that the Commission facilitated the meeting with the operators to ventilate their views on various challenges in the industry. This is sequel to the report the Commission already presented to the Minister upon assumption of office.
Responding, Pantami acknowledged that he was fully aware of 90 per cent of the challenges confronting the operators through the NCC, and that the Ministry had started making efforts to address them.He disclosed that the Ministry is on the verge of developing a National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, which will be ready shortly, adding that efforts are ongoing to address all the concerns raised by the operators.
While assuring ALTON delegation of his unflinching support, Pantami said: “We are already working on some of the issues raised by ALTON. I have had continuous engagements with the President on some of the issues; we would study your submission and begin to address the various issues you have raised. Accordingly, we will also explore better alternatives besides and beyond what ALTON has recommended in its submission to us towards ensuring that the issues are dealt with in the interest of all Nigerians.”

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