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Why telecom services in Abuja may get worse

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By Prince Osuagwu

THE Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has identified several factors that may subject telecom subscribers in Abuja, the federal capital territory, perpetually under poor quality of service than their counterparts in other parts of the country.

These challenges, according to the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, will not only affect Abuja telecom subscribers alone, but will also reduce the rating of the country as the fastest growing economy, considering that Abuja as the capital of the country reflects the image of the country in the reckoning of outsiders.

Technical specifications

Worried by the discovery, Danbatta raised a delegation recently to visit the FCT minister, Mallam Musa Bello, with a view to discussing ways of forestalling the impending doom the country will experience if the conditions persist. Pointing out part of the challenges to the minister, Danbatta said they include:

  • Inability of operators to co-locate: The sites offered for co-location are inadequate and do not suit the technical specifications of the Service Providers. We advise that service providers be involved in determining allocation of sites to ensure that the identified sites meet network and radio frequency standards of all stakeholders.
  • Obsolete FCTA fee regime: It is surprising that the 2006 fee regime of the FCTA still exists with exorbitant fees for building permits imposed on operators by the FCTA.

Retrospective FCTA laws: These laws do not allow operators to invest as much as they would have loved to do in FCT and that inability affects telecom facilities.

  • Activities of Road Construction companies in the FCT: Road construction companies indiscriminately cut pipes and network facilities of operators and these, to a very great extent, contribute to poor quality of service.

He also listed delayed approval for installation of base stations and fibre deployments, implementation of National Economic Council (NEC) resolution on multiple taxation, levies and charges on ICT infrastructure in Nigeria as part of the challenges faced by telecom operators in the FCT.

Danbatta added that some time ago, there was a joint meeting between the FCTA, NCC and operators where it was agreed the Federal Capital Administration would meet and harmonise positions on the astronomical increase in fees for building permits imposed by FCTA, but to his surprise, up till date, operators have continued to receive bills from the Administration based on the 2006 rates.

“Therefore, we request your approval to establish a committee made up of officers of the FCT and the NCC to resolve issues relating to charges to ensure rates agreed are cost based and comparable to what FCTA charges are, for other users of properties.”  Danbatta appealed.

On the retrospective FCT laws, the NCC boss said any law or policy by the FCTA that affects telecom facilities should not be made retroactive. “We have observed that the fact that telecom services in the FCT were not envisaged during its initial planning has resulted in administrators approaching telecom facilities as a normal property and visiting them with regulations that should not be applicable. We, therefore, request that approval be given to all existing BTS in the FCTA except those that clearly pose a danger to its surrounding.”

Danbatta also told the Minister that the operators had complained to FCDA engineering department about frequent cuts of their fibre lines by road construction companies in the FCT. “These frequent cuts of fibres have resulted in total loss of services by subscribers and have added to the problem of poor quality of service in the FCT.”

Reacting, Bello promised that the capital city’s administration would collaborate with the NCC to overcome those challenges. “Part of our job is to ease businesses and increase investment in the city and the country at large. We would support you in ensuring there is always increase in broadband penetration across the country,” the FCT Minister added.

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