By Florence Onuegbu
Lagos – The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has called on regulators in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry to consider merging.
ATCON’s President, Mr Olusola Teniola, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Lagos that the absence of a converged regulatory environment was preventing convergence of services in the industry.
Teniola claimed that there had been the reluctance to embrace convergence by relevant government agencies and commissions in the ICT sector.
He said that bureaucratic bottleneck frustrated efforts of the immediate past Minister of Communications, Dr Omobola Johnson, to actualise the convergence.
According to him, the coming together of all the establishments will accelerate the process.
“Convergence refers to the integration or merging of previously separated services in telecommunications/telephony, media/broadcasting and internet technologies into a single technological unit.
“The practical consequence is interoperability and the ability to access and operate services through a single device, for example, accessing the internet or broadband through a mobile phone.
“However, convergence is not complete in most developing countries, such as Nigeria.
“The implication is that the benefits of a converged ICT environment have been limited by the absence of a converged regulatory environment as well as a binding legal framework,” he said.
Teniola told NAN that multiple regulation and taxation from federal, state and local governments also hindered convergence.
He said that this placed major obstacles, which slowed down network expansion needed for convergence.
The ATCON president said that the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission, had the exclusive right to regulate the telecommunications industry.
“It has become a common practice for any government agency; be it federal or state to solicit for one levy or the other from operators.
“Some demand that operators secure approval from them, which come with high fees, before they can build infrastructure.
“The list of taxes from states and local governments include planning permit fee, tenement rate, business premises registration fee, effluent discharge fee, environment impact assessment fee, advert rate, site analysis report fee, among others,” he noted.
NAN reports that the National Information Communication Technology Policy (ICT), 2012 states that the Nigerian ICT sector is guided by policies and enabling laws such as the National Telecommunications Policy, 2000, and the National Mass Communication Policy.
Others include the National Broadcasting Commission Act, 1992 (as amended), Nigerian Communications Act, 2003; Nigerian Postal Service Act, 2004.
The policies and laws also include the National Information Technology Policy, 2000; NITDA Act, 2007; and Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1990.
Section 6.5 of the National ICT Policy, 2012, recognises the need for a converged regulator.
The section provides that the converged regulator will consist of departments, including telecommunications, information technology, broadcasting and postal, each of which should be headed by an executive commissioner.
It adds that the roles of the converged regulator shall be to develop and administer a comprehensive regulatory regime for the ICT sector.