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According to the Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, Dr Eugene Juwah, the data harmonisation process is almost completed, clearing the way for the much talked about number portability regime that many Nigerians have been waiting for.
As at the end of Q1, the number of active lines in the country stood above 90 million though it cannot be established that up to 70 million Nigerians by that implication have access to telephone service. The regime in which one person owns two, three or more phone lines still subsists.
The last quarter also saw the Ministry of Communications Technology continue its current project of a unified policy statement for all the sectors in the Nigerian ICT and broadcast sectors.
Though some stakeholders have kicked against the way the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson, is handling the matter, they agree that the convergence of policies based on the convergence of technology is necessary and that Mrs Johnson is on the right path. All stakeholders in the industry willingly participated in a forum that came early in the year to gather more positions.
During the quarter under review, NigComSat 1R that was launched a few days to the end of 2011, safely got to its orbit and the Nigeria Communication Satellite Ltd (NIGCOMSAT) swung into harvest business.
Telecom operators certainly have raked in some revenues, but their customers are yet to have sufficient cause to smile. The reason is that the quality of service has generally nose-dived. There is no gainsaying the fact that the situation has not appreciably improved.
Giving reasons why the situation has been a difficult one for the operators, Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) at a forum organised by NCC lately said:“Telecommunications base transceiver stations are critical infrastructure without which communications services will be non- existent. We note that there are currently about 20,000 base station sites in Nigeria serving a population of over 150 million people. In comparism, there were approximately 53,300 base station sites in the UK at the end of 2010 serving a population of just over 60 million people.
“The latter figure could rise in years to come. For Nigerian networks to provide best in class services compared to the UK, Europe and other countries, it is expected that the industry will need to roll out additional base station sites in excess of 50,000 nationwide.
“It is particularly noteworthy that the process for securing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certification under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Environment (FME) is significantly protracted. The entire EIA process takes an average of about two years.”
According to him, “the siting of telecommunications infrastructure is also the subject of certain controversy as the Nigerian Environmental Standards Regulatory Enforcement Agency (NESREA) has sought to impose and enforce new standards which significantly depart from the NCC’s standards (The Guidelines on the Installation of Masts and towers).
“NESREA seeks to impose a restraint on the current NCC standards and continues to insist that telecommunications masts should not be sited within 10 metres from the proximity of schools and residential areas, which is a clear departure from the 5 metres recommended set-back stipulated and enforced by the NCC.
“NESREA’s new requirements pose a challenge to the timeline for completion of site acquisition processes. This is because the availability of suitable plots of land in high population density/ urban areas is even more limited.
“In another vein, NESREA’s attempt to regulate the operations of telecommunications operators continues to create uncertainty in the industry and affects the ability of the industry to effectively plan its infrastructural development initiatives. We have continued to encourage effective collaboration between the NCC, NESREA, the Federal Ministry of Environment and other key stakeholders as a means of ensuring all issues are addressed holistically to provide the much needed certainty required for the industry to sustain the current growth and development.”
Other sources of worry listed by operators are insecurity and militancy in some parts of the country, multiple taxation and poor power supply, among others.
On the issue of power, Titi Omo-Ettu, the outgoing president of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), threatened that the body will take the Federal Government to court if the issue of power is not adequately addressed in less than two years.Share