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NCC wants states to abide by FG’s broadband recommendations


[FILE PHOTO] Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta. Photo/NgComCommission

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has beckoned on states governments in the country to adhere to the agreed Federal Government’s recommendations, especially as related to Right of Way (RoW) charges in the enthronement of a broadband regime.

NCC said this has become highly essential if broadband must become pervasive and ubiquitous in Nigeria.

The Federal Government had recommended N145/meter for RoW, but painfully, the states, which also agreed to the charges at previous meetings, deviated from the plan. They now charge as much as between N1, 500 and N6, 000 per meter.

Investigations by The Guardian showed that this has made it difficult for operators, especially the Infrastructure Companies (InfraCo) to roll out services.

For instance, MainOne and IHS, which both got their licensees as far back as 2015, are having serious difficulties in rolling out.

While MainOne is facing roll out challenges in Lagos, IHS, which got the North Central InfraCo license has returned it to the NCC as a result of the several challenges it encountered from states in the region.

As such, NCC said if these roll-out challenges persist, enthroning a knowledge-base economy in Nigeria may be difficult.

Speaking in Lagos, yesterday at a broadband stakeholders’ workshop organized by NCC, the Commission’s Head, Technical Standards and Network Integrity, Bako Wakil, said broadband is critical to each economy, saying “it has become necessary to make it available and accessible in Nigeria if we must be competitive.”

At the forum, which had representatives from states, Wakil noted that NCC had to bring the stakeholders, especially the state authorities to the meeting because of their importance to broadband deployment in the country.

According to him, operators need the support and understanding of the various states governments to deploy broadband efficiently in the country.

Listing the challenges facing deployment to include high RoW; multiple taxation/regulation; delays in obtaining site acquisition permits; vandalism, among others, the NCC Chief, revealed that a new National Broadband Plan (NBP) is on the way, which is being handled by the Ministry of Communication.

According to him, the new plan would need all stakeholders’ efforts towards making it a reality, “saying that it has become obvious that Nigeria may not be able to meet the 2018 target of 30 per cent because of some identified challenges.

We are currently at 22 per cent.”

From his perspective, Head, Regulatory Service, MainOne Cables, Ifeloju Alakija, said Nigeria needed the development of infrastructure and the digital ecosystem to thrive.

Alakija, who lamented the pending government permit in Lagos for MainOne’s roll out as an InfraCo, explained that on the average, an operator may require about N12 billion to get RoW permit. “States charge between N1, 500 and N6, 000, so the average we pay is N4, 000 per meter to roll out. For a 3000km space like Lagos, with about three million meters in the kilometers, If you multiple that by N4, 000 by three million meters, we arrive at N12 billion. This simply shows that the least a state can pay for RoW is around N12 billion. States that have between 9000km to 12000km space would be paying more.”

According to him, there must be a working plan and agreement between the states and the operators if broadband must be pervasive in Nigeria. He recommended harmonisation of the various taxes states are charging operators.

Alakija said broadband infrastructure is an enabler for economic and social growth in the digital economy, adding: “The broadband vision for Nigeria is one of a society of connected communities with high speed Internet and broadband access that facilitates faster socioeconomic advancement of the nation and its people.”

From his perspectives, Head, Fixed Network and Converge Services, Tony Ikemefuna, said if allowed to thrive in the country, broadband would among others help to create jobs, enhance productivity, bridge digital divide, improve the country’s GDP and allow the growth of SMEs.

According to him, if Nigeria must deploy new technologies including Artificial Intelligence; Internet of Things; Machine Learning; Cloud Computing; Mobile solutions; Cognitive computing, “we must allow broadband to thrive in the country.”

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