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Facebook, NCC seal infrastructure deployment deal to drive digital economy

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The leadership of Facebook, global digital services provider has resumed discussions with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnership for infrastructure deployment to strengthen connectivity, enhance businesses and bolster citizens’ embrace of digital culture.

In his remarks at the first partnership meeting held at NCC Headquarters in Abuja this week, Network Investment Lead at Facebook Office in the United States, Ibrahima Ba, averred that that robust infrastructure is the bedrock of massive connectivity that signposts Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

According to him, “Without adequate and right type of infrastructure there can be no robust connectivity.”

Ba recalled that Facebook had successfully undertaken two connectivity projects in Edo and Ogun involving a total of 800 kilometres of fibre connecting institutions and operators’ towers. He said that, considering the connectivity gap that still exists in the country, there is a great need for more and even further expansion of infrastructure because increased penetration of services will require further deployment of infrastructure which will encourage investment and promote digital culture.

Ba agreed that Nigeria is very important to Facebook for many reasons but particularly because it is Africa’s most populous country, hence the desires and dedication by Facebook to explore further opportunities for partnerships in infrastructure expansion.

He emphasised that Facebook looks forward to seeing opportunities for partnerships manifest because such collaboration will result in kilometres of infrastructure expansion in fibre connectivity. He advised the Commission to facilitate further liberalisation of partnership and collaboration processes with stakeholders.

Responding on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive (EVC/CE) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, Deputy Director Technical Standards and Network Integrity at NCC, Edoyemi Ogoh, thanked the Facebook team for the visit.

He commended the group for the model it has adopted in participating in the Nigerian market by partnering with licensees of the Commission, and assured the team of NCC’s irrevocable commitment to infrastructure expansion to enhance better connectivity.

He affirmed that NCC is aware of how central infrastructure is to the expansion of telecom services, and said that the realisation explained NCC’s adoption of the Open Access Model (OAM) and the licensing of infrastructure companies (Infracos) to cascade fibre to the hinterland of Nigeria.

Ogoh also informed the guests that President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent re-designation of NCC’s supervising ministry as Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy speaks further to Federal Government’s commitment to encouraging more citizens to embrace digital culture. He declared that the Commission is central to these processes, and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has continued to also demonstrate his commitment to tackling bottlenecks to infrastructure expansion. He cited the recent meetings between the Minister, the EVC and Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) which focused on streamlining and standardizing Right of Way (RoW) charges as eloquent testimony to Government’s commitment in this regard.

Ogoh also stated that the Commission is finalising processes to institute the ‘Dig Once Policy’ that will encourage operators and other key players in infrastructure segment to have greater strategic collaboration in the laying of fibre especially in the context of the upcoming National Broadband Plan 2020-2025.

Business Hilights gathered that Ba came to NCC with four of his colleagues – Erik Schmidt, Network Strategy Manager, Facebook Infrastructure; Adaora Ikenze, Head West Africa (Public Policy); Imran Abass, Partner Manager, Sub Sahara Africa; and Fargani Tambeayuk, Africa Public Policy Manager (Connectivity).

In his vote of thanks and closing remarks by Jerry Ugwu, Deputy Director Legal and Regulatory Services at NCC, the Commission expressed delight at the meeting, which was initiated by Facebook. He said NCC will explore the proposition by Facebook further and hope that discussions with Facebook will continue in order to give concrete expressions to the desires and vision of the two organisations.

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