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Telecoms companies query slow implementation of broadband plan

By Adeyemi Adepetun
23 March 2016   |   2:06 am
The snail speed development that has greeted Nigeria’s broadband development in the last one year has become a source of worry to telecommunications companies in the country.
Source: Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu

Source: Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu

• Back downward review of MTN fine
The snail speed development that has greeted Nigeria’s broadband development in the last one year has become a source of worry to telecommunications companies in the country.

The companies, under the aegis of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), claimed that there have not been any activities in the last few months towards the realization of ubiquitous broadband in the country.

Speaking through its president, Lanre Ajayi, during a visit to the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, ATCON claimed that it noticed with regret the poor implementation of the National Broadband plan.

Ajayi said the plan, which aimed to increase broadband penetration in Nigeria from six per cent in 2013 to 30 per cent in 2018 has only been able to increase penetration to 10 per cent in 2016.

“We noticed that most of the timelines are not met and there is general poor supervision of the plan implementation. We call for the strengthening of the National Broadband Council and an accelerated action on the implementation of the plan”, he stated.

While appreciating NCC for the introduction of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos), Ajayi said the association believed that the process has the capability to address the issue of non-openness to backhaul access.

The association, however, said, “we are concerned that licensing of InfraCo operators are being unduely delayed. We are also particularly concerned that license is being limited to one operator per defined geographic zone. We believe having just one operator in a zone creates monopoly and it may inadvertently bring us back to the dreadful days of NITEL.

“We canvass for multiplicity of license per zone. This will not create options and competition but will also increase diversity on various routes where cables are to be laid thereby increasing reliability on our networks.”

Furthermore, ATCON is of the opinion that the Nigerian market is matured enough to have a secondary spectrum market.
According to Ajayi, currently, there is large number of idle spectrums in custody of some operators while numerous investors are yearning for spectrum to roll out services. He stressed that since it takes a lot of hurdles to retrieve such spectrum from the owners, it makes sense to allow such owners sell to new buyers who may have a need for the spectrum.

Ajayi believed these would benefit everyone concerned. “It benefits the seller, who may have challenges in rolling out after the acquisition of the spectrum. It benefits the buyer who now have spectrum to roll out services. It benefits the consumer who are now able to obtain services, it benefit government who can take in more taxes.”

However, he said participation at secondary market should be limited to those who obtained spectrum through competitive bidding, like auction, to avoid a scenario where people use their contact to obtain spectrum from government and sell in the secondary market.

ATCON also used the visit to express its concern about the handling of the fine given to MTN in respect of non-compliance to regulation on SIM card registration.

Ajayi, who reminded the commission that the idea of introducing SIM card registration emanated from ATCON and was resisted by many when it was suggested, said the campaign for the introduction of SIM card registration was not intended to be used to raise fund for government, nor the process becoming a tool to kill telecoms operators.

“Our singular intention was to protect the environment where we do business even if it means initial loss of business to telecoms operators as a result of its potential to slow down uptake of telephone services by customers. We have watched with regret the poor handling of the issue, the politicisation, remarks based on emotion and not on the objectives of the fine.

“While some see it as an opportunity to make quick money by offering all sorts of services, legal, lobbyist, among others, some politicians and public officers see it as an opportunity to show off the importance of their offices without an iota of consideration for the purpose of the fine and the impact its mishandling can have on the Telecoms industry and the Nigeria economy at large.”

According to him, the opinion of ATCON is that MTN has suffered sufficient losses: loss of reputation, loss of market value, loss of revenue and have learnt their lessons. “We are of the opinion that the fine should be reviewed downward to a figure not more than their profit for one year. This should be enough to serve as deterrent for future breaches while ensuring that they are kept in business to provide Nigerians services that we badly needed at this stage of our development.

“Our plea for leniency is based on our conviction that the breach was not done with a criminal intention to injure our national security but by share act of negligence. Our approach would have been different if otherwise proven.”