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ICT: Sector in need of stability in 2021

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Nigerian telecommunications sector

*How NCC’s strategic plans will help

By Prince Osuagwu

The Nigerian telecommunications sector is in dire need of stability. Several incursions of the ministry of communications and Digital Economy, into the functions and activities of the otherwise independent regulator of the sector, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, have not only dimmed the vibrancy of the sector but have also put noticeable fear in the minds of foreign investors.

Valid as the objectives of some of the incursions appear, the act that set up the regulatory body appears to have been jettisoned in some of the directives cum policies coming from the sector in recent times.

From the directive to operators to slash call charges, data charges, stop the sale and activation of new SIMs to that of mandatory linking of National Identity Number, NIN to the SIM cards, the sector was always taken by surprise rather than the robust negotiations and deliberations that usually follow such developments.

However, the NCC says it is ready to kick-start the right engagements and build enduring relationships capable of creating that stability.

According to the Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, Prof Umar Danbatta, “the Commission has positioned itself in Government drive for a digital Nigeria, as contained in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025), the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020 – 2030) and the Strategic Management Plan (2020 – 2024) of the Commission.

“This is in recognition of the tremendous economic growth opportunities afforded by the deployment of broadband and its associated technologies. The Commission will continue to do its best in the discharge of its mandates, especially in facilitating the deployment of broadband, which is central to diversifying the Nigerian economy and national development”.

Challenged on how these projections could be met, considering that the regulator is generally described as being in captivity, Danbatta drew attention to several milestones the commission attained between 2014 and 2020 and stoutly claimed that a new strategic management plan, SMP which his administration will implement between 2020 to 2025 will leverage the existing growth parameters to give the industry stability.

“We developed a five-year Strategic Management Plan (SMP) which will enable the Commission to prioritize, focus energy and resources, and ensure all stakeholders are working towards the actualization of our mandate. Currently, the Commission has a new SMP 2020 -2024, which aims to consolidate on the achievements of the past two decades and more importantly, supports government’s policy thrust of diversifying the economy through deployment of digital technology.

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“Again, our licensing framework is central to the actualization of the Commission’s mandate of regulating and promoting private sector participation in the deregulated communications industry. Our licensing framework ensures all operators of telecommunications services must obtain a license before commencement of operations and must comply with the stipulated requirements.

The top five mandates of the NCC are to: Facilitate investment and entry into the market, encourage and guard competition in the market, protect the rights and interests of service providers and consumers, advise the Minister on formulation of policies and other matters and facilitate universal access. It formed the eight pillars upon which the commission benchmarked its successes and failures:

A peep into its activities last year showed a positive report card almost on all fronts, although there is room for more achievements. However, two major areas that caught the attention of Hi-Tech are on broadband penetration and quality of service.

Broadband Penetration: The commission deployed Long Term Evolution network, LTE,  Re-planned the 800MHz CDMA spectrum and  Re-farmed part of the 1800MHz spectrum.

It also auctioned 14 slots of the  2.6GHz spectrum, where MTN acquired six, Airtel acquired four and Open Sky got two.

Perhaps all these were instrumental to shooting broadband penetration up to 45.07 percent as at November 2020

The commission also issued guidelines on use of Television white space, TVWS for Broadband deployment and aggressively pushed Fibre Optic Transmission cables from 47,000 km to 54,725 km

It proactively issued guidelines on Commercial Satellite Communications and licensed 7 VSAT Gateway Earth Stations to provide Broadband capacity. Here too, MTN got three slots, Main One got two and Viasat got two.

All these are in addition to six Infrastructure companies, InfraCos licensed to provide at least 38,296 Km of Optic Fibre Cable to the transmission.

Quality of Service: Last year there were a lot of hues and cries over the depreciating quality of telecom services in the country. The commission was put on it toes but it proactively developed and commenced monitoring of 3G, 4G and QoS Key Performance Indicators, KPIs. Within the same period it announced the acquisition and deployment of new QoS monitoring tools.

Apparently, all these engendered massive investments in telecom facilities by operators and spiralled into the increment of 3G and 4G Base Transmission Services from about 30,000 to 53,460

Vanguard News Nigeria

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