‘High-speed Internet key to improved medical services, global access’
Executive Vice Chairman, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, has said that a reliable, and high-speed Internet is key to ensuring that hospitals and medical institutions have access to global information and resources necessary to fight Covid-19.
According to him, broadband connectivity is also absolutely crucial for educational institutions and businesses to continue to provide essential services.
Speaking at the first virtual edition of the telecoms consumer parliament (VTCP), in Abuja, Danbatta said the Commission is hopeful that the reduction in Right of Way (ROW) charges to N145 per linear meter, will automatically result in reduction in capital expenditure (CAPEX) by the network operators.
Also, telecom companies will sooner or later reciprocate the gesture by making their services especially data services more affordable to Nigerians.
He attributed this to the intervention of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, and state governors now aligning their RoW charges to N145 as approved by the Federal Economic Council (FEC).
Danbatta observed that other state governors pegged their RoW charges below the N145 set by the FEC, while some state governors have totally waived RoW charges in their state. He added that all these are aimed at encouraging network operators to deploy telecoms/broadband infrastructure faster in their states with a view to deepening digital access.
He said: “As Covid-19 evolves a new world order where more activities are conducted online and robust broadband access that is central is emerging. In effect, most of the state governors have appreciated the centrality of robust broadband infrastructure as work-from-home measures by the government persists.”
Quoting an International Telecommunications Union (ITU) report on the impact of the pandemic on the telecoms sector, Danbatta said: “Covid-19 virus has presented a stress test for governments worldwide, with the Internet playing a crucial role in keeping critical infrastructure and resources connected and available.”
According to him, the report showed that “the unprecedented global health emergency is tasking mobile networks and digital platforms to the limit, with some telecom operators and platforms reporting demand spikes as high as 800 per cent since the outbreak of the pandemic in their respective countries.
He continued, “The virtual meeting we are holding in place of our customary face-to-face engagement in previous parliaments in the past, is a testament to rapid change to our lifestyle occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is making telecommunications and indeed ICT the major driver of growth in every sector now. The focus of this parliament also provides us with an opportunity as industry stakeholders, to have a quick look at how the pandemic is impacting our service delivery in the telecommunication industry, which currently provides the digital platform for the economy to remain afloat.
“In the wake of the outbreak of the pandemic in Nigeria, the Federal Government announced different categories of lockdown, which hindered the mobility and social life of citizens; necessitating the need for individuals, businesses and public institutions to rely more on telecommunications to constantly keep in touch with their relatives, friends and more importantly, for running their daily economic activities.
“Educational activities are also increasingly taking place online, following the closing down of schools, while shopping and other activities have migrated online. With all these activities carried out through the Internet, network usage is skyrocketing, with many network operators reporting large increases in data usage.
Likewise, the volume of voice calls is also increasing by the day. Despite the pandemic and the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 virus, we on our part have also not relented to ensure that the quality of telecom services is sustained during and post-Covid-19 period.”
Danbatta said the Commission has developed e-platforms where all licensing requests, consumer complaints and base transceiver station (BTS) investigation requests are channelled, and also provided designated e-mail addresses to be used for such requests throughout the pandemic period.
He said that NCC has also approved and encouraged resource sharing among network operators, and the shared resources include fibre optics cables and ancillary resources, the aim is to ensure that there is no destruction to service provision in the event of fibre cut and related incidence.
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