How ALTON is leading resolution of RoW, crazy fees in states for Infracos—Awonuga
For several years, since the telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) came up with Open Model Access (OPM) to drive the nation’s march to broadband stardom; it encouraged investors to register special purpose vehicles to be known as Infrastructure Companies (Infracos).
In this interview with the Executive Secretary of Association of Licenced Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbolahan Awonuga, he opens up on the background activities of the group to interface with states’ governors on behalf of Infracos for easy access to Right of Way and multiple taxation.
We are aware that by the status of the Universal Access Service Licences (UASL), given to Main Network Operators (MNOs), they are free to give the same services Infracos are licenced for. Now, how do you think that Infracos can survive when MNOs are equally giving the same services?
You see, MNOs are giving as handed over to the Infrastructure Companies (Infracos) when you look at all the MNOs now apart from Glo, they handed over all the infrastructures to either manage or lease out to reduce operational expenses.
Doing business in Nigeria, you know the environment is not so conducive for business, which is the truth. So they have handed over their infrastructure to the infracos (the regional infracos, the licencees).
It now depends on them. But the issue is that it is the same problem of multiple taxation and Right of Way (RoW) cost differentials across states.
I have not rested for some time now. I just came back from Ilorin and I will head to Abuja, from Abuja I am going to Ibadan again. But we thank God, ALTON is getting it right with all the states one by one.
Otherwise, ALTON Team is now reaching out to states governments for the issue of RoW?
Exactly, we are now doing it on individual states’ basis. And I think that the states’ governments are now reasoning with us. They are seeing the reason why all these things must come down so that their states will begin to enjoy the gains of data and broadband revolution.
So what is your campaign team trying to tell all these governors? What do you want them to understand?
A lot of things; number one is that their state not being smart city, remains a disadvantage to them because they won’t enjoy fast internet, they won’t enjoy broadband.
But we just finished with Kwara State; in Kwara, do you know that when you go to their banks’ ATM, you would see a long queue. Why is that long queue?
The long queue is because of the quality of the service in the state as we speak. The networks at that place are so slow and all these ATMs are deployed on MNOs infrastructure. You know they use internet.
And when we are talking about 4G even 2G, they don’t have. And the problem with them is that they don’t allow us to expand due to this outrageous prices, so all of them are now changing because we are now going there and we are telling them the disadvantages, what the state is losing and what the citizen is losing, you are there to provide for the citizen, to protect your citizen but you are the one now through your action the one now short-changing them.
So, we are letting them know that this is what they are doing and it is not good.
Already, some of them are now realising their mistakes and even most of them didn’t know that it is the MNOs that power the ATMs at banks.
So, they need awareness, this right of way that we are even talking about, some of them are beginning to understand that it is not necessarily the duty of telecom operators to provide right of way infrastructure.
It is the government what they have to do is to come and connect we go there and lease, all those things is supposed to be there.
You are doing road construction and you did not provide service duct by the side, so it is the work of the government to do that.
What we need to do is to lease a duct from them. So, all these things they are now putting on us, it is not our duty but it is their own duty but because we need to deliver so that is why we are doing all these things. And when you look at right of way, about 70% of deployment of infrastructure, right of way have taken 70% of it, so what is left.
And that is the reason why people are not interested when we are talking of broadband penetration and NCC is telling us that it is 21%, how are we sure that it is 21%, what is the measure when we are talking of broadband penetration we are talking of fibre optic and not mobile, not the smart handset you and I are using, and that is why when they talk about the broadband penetration data, we always say that we don’t know where they got their own from. And they would tell you that it is ITU, which ITU.
So, ALTON wants to get to all the whole states.
How many states have ALTON team covered so far?
By the grace of God, I think that we have done about seven or eight states now
…And you tend to do it till the end of the year or you would continue till next year?
We can’t cover it before the end of the year, and you know that one thing is that there was a stakeholder meeting that was done around September by NCC.
NCC now has tried. They really tried but it is just that things are not working the way that they want it to work, there is a lot of politicking and you know that everybody wants money.
So what they were then doing was that if a state goes to them to complain, they direct them to ALTON and when they come, we give a download on how to do it. So we have been to Kwara, Kaduna, we have Ebonyi in the next two weeks, we’ve been to Ogun state, Oyo state, we are still working on Akwa-ibom state.
Have you been able to reach any South East State?
In the south east, we will be talking with Anambra and like I told you, we are going to Ebonyi very soon.
The governor, Chief Dave Umahi, has called us for a meeting he called us on 30th of last month, but it clashed with Kwara state as we had earlier booked with Kwara before Ebonyi came up.
So Ebonyi was tentatively postponed for another condusive time sooner.