By Prince Osuagwu
The Senate Committee on Communications last week listened to appeals on why it should consider an Act that makes telecommunication infrastructure strategic critical national infrastructure.
The committee listened to a 24-page paper presentation by a media group, the ICT publishers Alliance at its hearing in Abuja, on problems associated with quality of service in mobile phone operations in Nigeria and co-location.
The Committee chaired by Gilbert Nnaji held for two days and took both oral and paper presentations from stakeholders in the telecom industry.
In a paper presented by its Chairman, Mr Aaron Ukodie, the Alliance said that telecom services should be considered as Strategic National Services so as to free it from the debilitating effect of multiple taxation and regulation from various government agencies at the three tiers of government.
According to the Alliance perception today among different strata of government is that telecom operators are cash-cows that should be milked to no end such that taxations at even council levels are notoriously and arbitrarily imposed in such a way that continuous or seamless service delivery becomes impossible.
This year alone, the NCC has had to intervene in several locations where telecom infrastructures have been shut down by council officials enforcing compliance with imposed taxes by local councils, the Alliance said.
“Although cases of multiple regulation and taxation may not be limited to Nigeria alone; our position is that Nigeria can eliminate such cases and become an example to other countries and regions.
“It is the responsibility of lawmakers, as the repository of the people’s destinies, to ensure that laws made do not run counter to the needs, desires and social wellbeing of the people they represent”, the Alliance noted.
The Alliance said further that a situation where every agency of government taxes telecom just because they see the industry as the cash-cow, does not and will not augur well for the country’s fledgling telecom industry.
“All of a sudden, for instance, every state government, every local government, and every community has become a law maker unto themselves, churning out one law after another nearly every month or quarter of the year, all targeted at milking telecom operators”, according to the Alliance.
It said the National Assembly needs to put all these in check – if the telecom industry, especially mobile operators – is to continue to grow and deliver quality services to the people.
The Alliance said that the gazetting of the Quality of Service Regulations by the Federal Ministry of Justice is a right step in the right direction to strengthen the NCC to take some severe measures when service providers are found wanting and that the NCC must also sustain its efforts in the engagement of Drive-Test contractors to carry out continuous quality of service drive-testing in the six geo-political zones and Lagos.
The Alliance said however that while it agrees that the challenges the operators face in delivering good quality service are huge, it believes however that the operators themselves still have a role to play to stem the increasing poor state of telecom services in the country by infusing more resources into expanding the capacity and optimization of their networks.
While aligning itself with the view of the NCC and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) the Alliance said network optimisation is feasible so as to reduce frequent glitches in operators’ networks.
“We are inclined to accept the viewpoint of the regulatory authority that “current mobile network in Nigeria is not fully optimized as the nation can derive more value from an enhanced and optimized mobile network, especially in the area of improved Quality of Service”, the Alliance noted.
Operators can and should invest more in Network Optimisation as this would reasonably address three key components of good quality of service: network coverage, service accessibility and service retain ability.
The Alliance also referred to an ITU position which states that poor quality of service in developing countries, including Nigeria is adduced to increased supply of poor quality equipment;Difficulties in the selection of interoperable equipment from a wide range of vendors;Lack of testing centers, facilities and trained professionals.
Poor quality of service is also largely traceable to poor transport capacity (poor switching nodes) in their networks; these switching nodes are too far in between in several cities. The more the number of switching nodes the better performance in communication between base stations and hand set receivers. Let them bring the switching centers close to the base stations.
The Alliance said the NCC should meet with Environmental Protection Agencies, the Civil Aviation Authority National Energy Regulatory Commission (NERC), and other government related agencies to develop a set of guidelines for the institution of a one-stop-shop permitting scheme for the deployment of communication towers.