Telephony services slow as telcos seek additional temporary spectrum
Subscribers to telephony services have decried the number of continuous downturn in service offerings by the Mobile Network Operator (MNOs) in Nigeria.
The rising cases of drop calls and very slow data services during this period of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, is pitching subscribers against the service providers.
The downturn in telephone service is not unconnected with the struggle by operators to keep up with the rise in voice and data traffic, subsequently leading to networks congestions.
To reduce the impact, the President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola told The Guardian that as much as the MNOs are managing the situation, “ATCON has engaged the Federal Government via the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, to request the provision of additional temporary spectrum to our members that require it to expand the capacity on their access networks.”
Teniola said the change in data traffic suggests that the stay-at-home directive has caused a ramp up in traffic originating from homes during the day time and sustained after normal working hours.
He noted that the reliance on various online tools and applications to perform different tasks from home means that networks will come under severe pressure. “Besides, this means data usage among consumers will increase due to change in behaviour and reduced face-to-face meetings, which are held online in addition to other entertainment and infotainment applications via Over-The-Top (OTT) applications. This will improve the industry’s revenue position for Q1 and Q2 2020.”
To further reduce pressure on the network, Teniola said MNOs are also ensuring that where there are RoW permits, additional optic fibre roll out work is prioritised.
According to him, telcos rely on all government entities to view the importance of telecom infrastructure as critical and hence a relaxation of red tape in acquiring site acquisition permits has become necessary, especially in the FCT, Lagos and Kano environs.
The ATCON president said operators need the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to allow them favourable access to foreign exchange so that capital expenditure can address the challenges of sourcing and paying for the additional equipment needed to keep the networks running.
While assuring Nigerians of improved services, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said operators are doing the best in ensuring that the networks are optimal.
Adebayo said telcos are also deploying more capacity to provide higher headroom to cope with demands. “By and large, so far so good and we thank the subscribers and we thank Government for their continuous support and understanding,” he stated.
In an interview, the Chairman, MTN Nigeria, Dr Ernest Ndukwe, confirmed that there has been pressure on the network as more and more people use data and voice services while at home.
“While we all operate a redundancy regime that allows us to ensure service during spikes in traffic, none of our networks are built to handle the type of surge that subsists over a long period of time. We can’t give you a specific percentage but demand has definitely increased,” he stated.
Ndukwe said MTN is investing more resources to try and ensure that more capacity is in place, while being circumspect and cautious about the level of traffic it accommodates on the network.
“I also think it is important to acknowledge that this challenge is not limited to Nigeria. It is universal across the globe. In parts of Europe for example, we have seen operators approach content providers like Netflix to reduce their volume of traffic to prevent network congestion issues and we are constantly looking at other markets, as well as Nigeria’s specific circumstances, to tailor our response,” Ndukwe stressed.