Network congestion and operator apathy has become the norm in the Telecoms service delivery market in Nigeria. Supercomafrica discovered that partiality and a huge leadership gap are major factors behind them. For over 6 months circumstances surrounding the industry have continued to deteriorate, and there seem to be a gradual shutdown among telecoms operations within the country; these was the insight deduced from network operators at the recent gathering of government, lawmakers, regulators and other stakeholders from the sector, on the theme, “enabling broadband for economic growth” organized by Businessday at the Wheatbaker hotel Victoria Island recently.
In recent times communicating either by voice or data is, well, growing despite pains in high cost of connectivity and quality of services, which is why Spectranet’s CEO David Venn called for the telecoms regulator NCC to “just do your job”, at the backdrop of conducts seem to be of anticompetitive practice and calls for an urgent assessment of network operations in the country in order to save recent gains in the industry from imminent wipeout; and protect consumers from poor service delivery and high access charges.
At a recent chat with Mr. Venn, where my research begins, I discovered that the country’s voice tariff should have become “unlimited voice”, free, which would have been realized if the priority of government and regulatory agency’s have been shifting to working towards building data networks rather than telephony networks in Nigeria,. At the Spectranet limited head office at Alahusa Ikeja, David express his fears about the worsened conditions smaller network and ISP operators face in the industry – anticompetitive behaviors, poor performance in Internet connectivity with the continued use of GSM telephony retrofitted 3G networks to deliver data; and a lack of consumer focus, as some factors killing-off competition in the industry.
During the summit a maturing telecoms and ICT stakeholder and consumer body confronted the authorities with myriads of problems, but very few answers were given. The real reason for this case study is not simply to demand for freer competition of ideas in the telecoms markets, but also to call for the protection of consumers from poor quality of service by conducting an urgent assessment of working conditions and network performance among telecoms sector operators and as a concerned citizen and stakeholder, so that don’t lose-out on all recent gains in the sector.
The NCC is saddled with the responsibility of facilitating freer and fair competition and increased investments in the sector as set out in Section 4 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (the “Act”). Dr. Omobola Johnson the predecessor communications technology minister reiterated the importance the Nigeria Broadband Plan 2013-2018 tenets holds, which if ambitiously implemented can drive economic growth for Nigeria and ensure globalization. As stated by the Nigeria Communications Commission NCC, Nigeria’s FDI continues to grow, currently at $68Bn dollars, the organizers asked “where are we?”
This chat with David unearthed the rut in the industry, which includes the lack of consumer focus and anticompetitive practices to GSM network performance, reliability and stalled National Fiber Backbone Network buildups by Infracos, for lack of ROW powers. In 2007, the NCC, as empowered by the Act, published its Regulations on Competition Practices (CPR (2)) which assessed levels of competition in the industry, but was unable to ascertain anomalies in the fixed and mobile data markets.
Today’s applications and development environment are data sensitive which was indicative of presentations made by telephone network executives at the broadband summit. An MTN executive spoke about their music streaming initiative for consumers currently in operations in South Africa; but admitted that “pipes (bandwidth) are not large enough to chime it”, the Airtel representative also stated the need for more investments in better connectivity options, we also heard from Mr. Kamar who suggested that NCC should work toward releasing more spectrum in the sub-gigahertz frequencies to drive Internet penetration and lower cost of access to rural and underserved areas that are not profitable for GSM and ISP operators. CWG CEO Austin Okere stated that communications infrastructures should be move to the cloud and savings on CAPEX should be used to buy more bandwidth.
Finally, the most thought-provoking appeal for a strong leadership was made by Rack Center CEO, Tunde Coker who expressed delight about a former American Vice President Mr. Al Gore whose ambitious leadership gave rise to developing the Internet, which may have been impossible. We believe there must be a moral starting point in achieving success in broadband “Data” service delivery, penetration and affordable access for Nigerian voice and data consumers, if the telecoms sector authorities do their job by working on regulations for freer competition and transparency in the marketplace.
Read: Full Chat with Spectranet Limited CEO, David Venn – Here
View Podcast: Biggest Hurt for Nigerian Telecoms Consumers
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