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NCC, ALTON differ on InfraCos survivability

By on February 5, 2016

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has emphatically stated that the planned licensing of five additional Infrastructure Companies known as InfraCos, in addition to the two previously licensed for the North Central and Lagos zones, is not a solution to the myriad of challenges bedeviling the sector.
Chairman of ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, told the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), telecoms industry regulator that the only way to address fast telecoms infrastructure deployment was for it (NCC) to first remove all bottlenecks concerning telecoms service delivery, before licensing InfraCos.

Adebayo posited that even if NCC decided to licence 10  additional InfaCos, they will not be able to deploy broadband infrastructure across the country because of the teething problems bedeviling the telecoms sector for ages.

He reasoned that these challenges must be addressed by the NCC before any meaningful progress could be achieved in the industry.

The ALTON boss, who was responding to NCC’s planned licensing of additional five InfraCos for the remaining five zones in the country, said: “ALTON represents all telecoms operating companies in the country and our members are faced with myriad of challenges. These challenges must be addressed by the NCC before any meaningful and steady progress could be achieved in the industry.”

The NCC had insisted that licensing of InfraCos would hasten the deployment of broadband across the country.
Last week, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta disclosed that the Commission plans to licence five more InfraCos in addition to the two that were licensed in 2015. This, he said was aimed at providing broadband metro fibre network across towns and cities in their respective zones.

But Adebayo had argued that the purpose of licensing InfraCos in Nigeria would be defeated, if NCC did not first address the challenges facing telecoms operators in the country, especially the challenges of telecoms infrastructure vandalism and multiple taxes imposed on telecoms operations across the country.

According to Danbatta, “NCC had last year, licenced MainOne and Infrastructure Holding Service (IHS), to provide broadband metro fibre network across towns and cities for Lagos and North Central zones respectively. But for now, not much is going on in the deployment of broadband infrastructure in the two zones. This is why we are planning to licence InfraCos in five other zones namely, South West, South East, South South, North West and North East.” He added, “We have set in motion, processes for the licensing of five InfraCos for the five additional zones and the processes will soon be competed. We have also commenced quality engagement with the operators to find out their challenges.”
Faulting the plan for additional InfraCos, Adebayo said: “Quite a number of our base station sites, exchanges and other critical equipment were destroyed by insurgents in the North East of Nigeria, and it has remained increasingly difficult to restore services in those areas. There is need for restoration of damaged telecoms facilities to enable InfraCos operate at optimal level.”

He called on government and the NCC to protect telecoms facilities in the state, insisting that unless telecoms operators have first level of protection by government, it will be difficult to continue to provide uninterrupted services with the type of vulnerability of ALTON members and their infrastructure.

We hereby appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari for a presidential declaration of telecom Infrastructure as ‘Critical National Security and Economic Infrastructure’, as provided by the cybercrime law of 2015, Adebayo added.
We are also appealing for support from the government for secured access to those sites and concession by way of relieves to members who are rebuilding damaged infrastructure in those areas. We are asking for concession by waivers and relieves from government, Adebayo said.