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NCC moves to resuscitate CDMA operations

By on January 8, 2016

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) may have hearkened to persistent calls to revitalise the country’s Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operations, as the agency’s Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta has promised attractive incentives that will encourage GSM operators and other licensed CDMA operators, to roll out fixed telecoms services across the country.

Industry players had appealed to the telecoms industry regulator, to consider a bailout option in order to revive the dying CDMA sector.

However, the pronouncement by the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta has rekindled the hope that the CDMA sector would be revitalised this year.
CDMA operations focus on fixed and wired telecommunications service offerings, using a different technology from that of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). Owing to serious setbacks, the operators have lost market shares and customers to GSM operators in the past five years.

Out of the initial 13 registered CDMA operators in the country, only two were operational as at last year, with few loyal customers to service. The other 11 operators had since gone under, following their inabilities to cope with market realities.

Worried about the situation, industry players had been calling on the telecoms industry regulator, to consider a bailout option in order to fortify the CDMA sector.  Danbatta said: “If we can deliberately introduce incentives to any operator to come in and roll out fixed telecoms services we can do it. The Commission is open to negotiations on how this could be done.

“We intend to convince the government to key into this important initiative of the Commission. I am therefore calling on operators who will be willing to buy into this important idea of availing themselves the opportunity to get the incentives that we intend to put in place in order to revive fixed telephony services.”

The CDMA sub-Sector in Nigeria can be said to be left with nothing, though the only living operators, Visafone and MultiLinks are left with less than two million subscribers. The sector has continued to maintain downward profile in the last five years.

In a recent statement, Danbatta admitted that fixed networks have been neglected, stressing that nobody was interested in them despite the promises they hold.

According to him, GSM operators are more interested in providing mobile services, even though they also have the fixed line licences and the subscriber base by operator attests to this, with MTN having over 62 million subscribers, Glo and Airtel having over 30 million subscribers each, while Etisalat has over 20 million subscribers, yet the combined subscriber number of the two surviving CDMA operators is 2.13 million, according to industry statistics released by the NCC in October 2015.

Industry stakeholders who commended the renewed efforts by the NCC to revive the CDMA sector, insisted that that extra funds and network expansion were necessary for the survival of CDMA operations in Nigeria.

Stakeholders are of the view that insufficient fund, actually led to the collapse of the merger plans of Starcomms, MultiLinks and MTS Wireless by Capcom in 2012, while calling on NCC to consider financial incentives for operators who are willing to take opportunity of the incentive, to roll out fixed telecoms services across the country.