Abuja shuts infrastructure expansion door against telcos

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Over the past seven years, the Federal Capital Authority (FCDA) approved any telecom operator to expand infrastructure by way of building base transceiver stations (BTS) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to make the network in the city and its adjoining communities more resilient.

This is despite the presence in the city of the Presidency, Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), NationalInformation Technology Agency (NITDA), Ministry of Science and Technology and other strategic Federal Government agencies, including the headquarters of the Armed Forces.

According to sources, the denial of service providers the requisite approval by way of Right of Way (RoW) and others amounted to sabotage considering the security situation of the country and the need to strengthen telecoms infrastructure to facilitate the deployment of such infrastructure to fight the many ‘wars’ confronting the country ranging kidnap-for-ransom, banditry, Boko Haram insurgency and herders butchery.

Though the NCC said the number of BTS deployment in the country has risen 30,000 to 54,460, this figure is still a far cry from the 80,000 BTS required for effective coverage of the country’s huge land mass.

This huge infrastructure deficit is partly for the service quality issues that have continued to plague the industry.

Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta said the BTS consist of third generation (3G) and fourth generation (4G) while optic fibre cables (OFCs) expanded 47,000km to 54,725km in the last five years, resulting in improved broadband/telecoms service delivery in the country.

He said the BTS, fibre optic cables and other related infrastructure are central to the provision of improved service experience for Nigerians by their respective telecoms service providers adding that the licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) are also expected to add 38,296km to optic fibre cables when they commence full operations.

Infrastructure is central if Digital Nigeria, as contained in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025), National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020 – 2030) and the Strategic Management Plan (2020 – 2024) will not remain wishful thinking in the limbo of time.

But stakeholders in the information communications technology (ICT) ecosystem including the former EVC of the NCC who is currently board chairman, MTN Nigeria, Dr Ernest Ndukwe, believe the refusal of FCDA to grant approval for infrastructure expansion constituted a great threat to the ambition of the Federal Government.

Ndukwe said if the 70 per cent target of the NBP will be achieved, there should be early approval for infrastructure expansion, addressing of the regime of punitive RoW fees, timely spectrum release, empowerment of schools, content creation for broadband and ensuring that the contents created are moved to the internet.

Director-General, National Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Abdullahi, stressed the need for pervasive broadband infrastructure deployment, arguing that customers spend $1million every minute on the internet.

He said aside infrastructure, human capital development, and demand remained the tripod upon which the agency is pursuing the 70 per cent broadband target of the Federal Government.

“The Commission will continue to put in its best in the discharge of its mandates, especially in facilitating the deployment of broadband, which is central to diversifying the Nigerian economy and national development. Also, is our belief that the communications industry, under the leadership of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, will experience more quantum leaps and retain its current leadership role in the telecommunications space,” Dambatta said.

Efforts to speak with the Executive Secretary, Federal Capital Authority (FCDA), Umar Jibrin, were futile as he did not pick his call or respond to text messages.