…NATCOM acquires 5 satellite companies to boost rural telephony
…Plans to pip existing mobile operators with 4G launch
…Rolls out nTel services before year end
By Prince Osuagwu
ARMED with a whopping $1.2 billion specifically mapped out to turn around the fortunes of first National carrier, NITEL and its assets, new owners, NATCOM may be planning to pip existing operators to market leadership at launch. This is as the operator which plans to roll out services before the end of the year, under the brand name nTel, revealed that it was going to launch services on the fourth Generation, 4G platform. Existing operators are either on 2G or 3G platforms.
However, the telecommunications company also said it was ready to share infrastructure with existing operators to reduce its Capital expenditure, CAPEX.
Rural telephony: Meanwhile, in a unique fashion, the operator revealed exclusively to Hi-Tech, that it has made an unprecedented investment towards rural inclusion, acquiring no fewer than five satellite companies which it intended to strategically deploy to complement other infrastructure that will carry services to the rural areas.the local satellites companies according to the operators would be deployed across the country to strengthen backbone network infrastructure.
Although, it is not particularly cost effective to use satellite to propagate services, the company said that why it was not bothered was that the satellites now belonged to them and would help reduce the bottlenecks around right of way when deploying services with fibre optic.
However, the company warned that it was not a plan that would take off with the snap of the fingers as its DNA supports consistency and strategic planning before services are dished out to Nigerians. In a press conference last week in Lagos, to herald its launch, Managing Director of the company, Mr Kamar Abass, told Hi-Tech specifically, that in relation to rural telecom opportunities, his company had two option: “one of the strategies is to build ultra low base stations.
These are base stations that cost between $15,000 and $20,000 to make and to equip. These compare to $200,000 to $250,000 for urban base stations. The ultra low cost base stations have a cost of operation of around $1000 a month or less compared to the $4000 to $5000 or more for the urban set up.
The other option is to use satellite coverage; and I know that social Organisations like Facebook and others, are sponsoring satellites to deliver broadband to rural communities. We are talking to companies in both domains to explore the opportunity of gaining access to the 40 million Nigerians who are living far away from traditional macro network sounds”. Abass also revealed a lot of other plans the company has to make triumphant re-entry to the juicy Nigerian market.
Real 4G is here: “NTEL will launch a pure play 4G LTE mobile service, the service will offer high speed data, high definition voice and video, the first phase of network roll out will begin with 800 sites, increasing to 2000 sites as we move on.
Data centre: We are also building tier 111 data centre which gives us opportunity to have double layer redundancy because with the capacity of this Data centre we are only allowed to have not more than 24 minutes down time in a year. However, we are ready to collocate with existing infrastructure by other operators and that helps to reduce our capital expenditure, CAPEX”.
The operator which legally acquired NITEL, its mobile arm MTEL and other assets last year, says it was aware of the massive investments existing operators have made and their strong holds in the market but promised to give a fight that would make it difficult for anybody to dismiss it in the history of Nigerian telecom development”.
Fixed network service
Abbas also said the company would roll out successful fixed network services because it has the right platform to make it thrive. According to him,the problem with others who have the license but have not been able to roll out the service was because they operate on 2G platform with a lot of subscribers squeezed into the small pipe the spectrum provides.
He promised to make a total turn around of the case because nTel was going to operate on the 4G platform which is spacious since it has no subscriber at the moment.
For him, “research findings of respected institutions like Pyramid and OVUM have stated that there is still space in the Nigerian market. According to these agencies, between 200 to 230 million SIMs will be added to the market by 2019. This is an over 100 million increase from today’s figures as published by the NCC.
Innovative andmodern service
NATCOM will position itself smartly to harness the market by providing Innovative and modern service offerings as yet not seen in Nigeria. Roll out plans have been concluded and network equipment are currently being built for NATCOM by Ericsson and Huawei with a view to rolling out mobile services before the end of the year”.
The last statistics recorded by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said that mobile operators in the country added 2.1 million new subscribers in June 2015.
According to the report, the total number of mobile subscribers had risen from 144 million in May 2015 to 146 million in June 2015. The stats revealed that GSM networks remained the key drivers of the Nigerian telecommunications industry as other operators contributed minimally to the surging growth of the subscriber base.
According to the report, subscriptions to fixed networks increased from 181,625 in May 2015 to 182,643 in June 2015; however, this is lower than the 187,028 subscribers recorded in June 2014. The total number of subscriptions to all telecommunications network in the country had risen from 146.56 million in the month of May to 148.8 million in June. This compares with 132.19 million in July 2014.
Meanwhile all telecommunications networks added 16.59 million lines or 12.54 per cent within the one-year period even as CDMA subscriptions increased marginally from 2.02 million in July 2014 to 2.11 million lines by the end of June 2015.