The observed silence of the Minister of Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu in his keynote address at the 6th European Union-Nigeria Business Forum 2017 held on Thursday at the Eko Hotels, Lagos, has raised serious anxiety on the seriousness of the federal government in driving both foreign direct investments and local interest in the nation’s broadband space.
The hostile investment climate currently frustrating Internet Services Providers (ISPs) caused by non-review of Data Price Floor (DPF) in the market segment of the telecoms service sector is now causing lull in both data services competition and investment.
Telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), recently revealed that more than 100 ISPs had failed to approach it for review of their operating licences.
According to industry analysts’, the implications simply means that they have folded up due to harsh operating environment.
Business Hilights investigations show that surviving ISPs are now operating below profit margins which may suggest that if something is not done fast in reviewing the DPF, by year end, only main one or two Network Operators (MNOs) will be offering data services.
It would be recalled that the fourth leading MNO, 9Mobile had during the visit of the management team to NCC few months ago, called for immediate review of DPF.
Also, MTN Nigeria had argued that leaving the DPF floorless is not encouraging.
Trouble had started when MTN Nigeria responded to NCC’s resolution to reintroduce DPF by sending sms to subscribers, only for the telecoms to be discouraged by sudden change and twist from the regulator which ended up in the suspension of the review earlier in the year.
Though the minister agreed that “Globally, ICT has become a veritable tool for advancing growth and economic diversification in countries,” he did not say much on the drive by the federal government to deepen broadband penetration so as to hit the target of 30 per cent by the end of 2018.
Currently, penetration is hovering around 21 per cent. Experts say the coverage would have been faster if the DPF had been reviewed to not only encourage exiting investors, but attract new investors.
Speaking further on the significance of ICT, the minister “In order for the ICT sector to supplement or replace the oil and gas sector, we have put in place strong policy frameworks which favour the sector. We want the ICT sector to be the cash cow for our nation. The success of Local Content drive in the telecom and ICT in Nigeria would accelerate the progress of the sector”.
“Nigeria is also using ICTs to build a more inclusive society. Our broadband initiatives, which are being implemented across technologies and at various level of governance, are in line with union’s priority of bridging digital bridge and providing broadband for all. Nigeria is committed to a sustainable ICT environment at a global level, as well as within its national boundaries”.
Though he said the Nigerian government is addressing issues of investment in ICT infrastructure, and ICT education and regulation in order to build on the successes of this digital revolution, he did not explain why it is taking the telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) more than four months to conclude a market research it claimed to be conducting on DPF.
Shittu commended the EU-Nigeria Business Forum, organizers of the Forum for its unflinching commitment towards transforming economies of developing and emerging to Digital Economy, stressing that the theme of the conference ‘Youth as an Engine of Broad-based Economic Transformation’ is apt and timely, because it brings attention to a segment of the Nigerian population that should have been increasingly contributing to the economy of the country.
The minister added that the theme aligns with the Ministry’s mandate and forthcoming Africa Union and EU summit later this year.