Technology

December 25, 2019

2019 IN REVIEW: Telecom activities that spurred economic prosperity

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By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor

There’s no gainsaying that had other sectors of the economy performed like the telecom sector in 2019, the Nigerian economy would have become better than it is. Going by the statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, the sector contributed 10.11 percent to Gross Domestic Product, GDP in the first quarter of the year, 11.39 percent in the second quarter and 11.34 percent in the third quarter.

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Although the third quarter contribution dropped marginally, it still buoyed the economy to a great extent considering some other sectors that didn’t post half of that contribution to GDP. In fact, general ICT contribution to GDP increased from about 10 percent last year to 13.8 percent currently.

Yet, the sector has shown this consistent progression, despite several challenges, including disputes, fines, double taxation, difficult Forex policy and quality of service issues that dotted it in the year under review.

Leader of the sector, MTN Nigeria which was scathing from series of fines, labour picketing and other savages, managed to shake off the burdens by paying, in May, the last tranche of  the N330 billion fine imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC and also listed in the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The company also closed the year with a massive 5G trial, making Nigeria the first West African country to do so.

Airtel Nigeria which has survived different name change and acquisition stories also joined MTN in the Stock market. Globacom has been consistent in making investments. Also, the 9mobile seems to be back with its acquisition by Teleology holdings, and with a $230m loan recently raised for stability and growth, the company appears to be in a very strong footing.

Their combined efforts moved active mobile voice subscribers from 174,012,136 to 180,386,316, Teledensity, to 94.50 percent in October and increased internet subscribers from 114,306,598 to 123,559,596.

However, all these would not have been possible but for some regulatory foresight shown by the NCC in the year under review.

In 2019, the commission carried out a number of regulatory activities towards ensuring increased access to telecoms services, ensuring increased consumer education and protection, boosting security of life and property, sanitising the industry while also supporting other initiatives that are aimed at boosting innovation in the telecoms sector.

It has also promised to continue galvanizing the country’s overall economic growth.

Quality of Service

As part of its moves to improve Quality of Service, the commission promoted availability of reliable, interoperable and restorable critical ICT infrastructure to support required services. It reviewed 2G Key Performance Indicators, KPIs and developed 3G/4G QoS KPIs for collocation service providers as well as Internet Service providers, ISPs.

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During the year, the NCC also developed the New National Numbering Plan. The plan was based on recent developments in the global telecom industry such as machine to machine (M2M) communications, the Internet of Things (IoT), Over-the-Top (OTT) and others.

Consumer education, protection

Apparently in line with its 8-point agenda, the commission also carried out several activities geared towards protection and empowerment of telecom consumers.

From January to October, 2019 the Commission said it received a total of 19,841 complaints from consumers out of which 17,851 were successfully resolved to the satisfaction of telecom consumers. The number of complaints resolved represents approximately 90 percent of the total complaints received through the various channels of lodging complaints.

Broadband penetration

In advancing broadband penetration, the Commission issued licenses to six Infrastructure companies, InfraCos to drive the deployment of broadband infrastructure across the nation’s six geo-political zones. The licensees include Raeana Nigeria Limited for the South-South Zone; O’dua Infraco Resources Limited for South-West Zone; Fleek Networks Limited for North-West Zone; Brinks Integrated Solutions for North-East Zone; MainOne Limited for Lagos Zone and Zinox Technologies Limited for the South-East Zone.

The remaining licence for North Central Zone is being processed, according to the Commission. This is also as the commission seeks Federal Government’s approval of a counterpart funding to be disbursed to the InfraCo to facilitate faster and easier deployment of services mainly in un-served and underserved areas of the country.

ICT Innovations

The commission also made efforts in driving technology innovations through funding relevant researches in tertiary institutions. In May 2019, the commission announced a N40 million endowment fund for Bayero University, Kano and the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, for that purpose.

The regulator also awarded Value Added Services Aggregator licenses to 10 companies to provide VAS services, as a way of boosting investment and revenue generation from that segment of the telecom sector.

Security

Besides all that, the industry also witnessed increase in the number of operational Emergency Commission Centres, ECC to 17 states of the federation, including that of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja which makes it 18  in all.

Yet in the same year under review, over 24 million registered subscriber records which were duplicated were scrubbed by the Commission via Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). That established a credible database of telephone subscribers.

There was also regularisation of the activities of all satellite operators including Space station operators as well as Earth Station operators. Landing permits were also issued to Space Stations beaming signals over Nigerian territory, all in a bid to increase security monitoring.

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Besides strong postings to the GDP, increment of relevant industry numbers necessary for global competition, other effects of these activities is boosting the confidence of existing investors in the sector and reassuring the potential ones that the year 2020 and beyond, can only be better.

Vanguard