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FG programming its 30% Broadband Penetration for 2018 to fail—Stakeholders

Leading telecommunications operators in Nigeria on Tuesday in Lagos, made it clear before the management of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), that body language of the government does not truly depict its readiness to realize 30 per cent broadband penetration target by the end of 2018.

By what the government is projecting, telecoms concerns are expected to deploy broadband infrastructure that will push the 2018 target penetration, but operators are not convinced that governments both federal, states and councils are yet to do the needful that will spur the private sector to drive the feat after all.

First key factor needed to be resolved and on time is the issue of hostile operating environments across different states which have been playing out in the areas of Right of Way (RoW),  summersault of policies of government in relation to deployment and protection of telecommunications infrastructure.

In leading the argument, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, raised salient issues bordering on stiff interference by state government agencies and their consultants in shutting down base stations of operators.

He also hinted about the lack of strong will on the part of federal government in driving stakeholders to bring about stability in the industry.

He made reference to recent action of the Taraba State Environmental Agency which shut down several BTS on grounds of networks refusal to pay about N285m levy for BTSs in the state.

According to him, “How can you achieve 30 percent broadband penetration when efforts that are supposed to be channel to network optimization are used in repairing shut down towers by state government agencies. As I’m talking with you now (on Wednesday) our men are in Jalingo, Taraba state discussing with the state government over a state law on multiple taxation that has led to base stations of our members being shut down.

“We are facing the same situation in Kogi, Ogun, Edo and Ebony states. The issue surrounds environmental Impact assessment (EIA) for the state, this same EIA has been done through National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) an agency of the federal government by our members, why is state demanding same and shutting down cell sites if not for revenue generation. These elements and impediments to network optimization are scaring away investors and make deployment of telecommunications infrastructure for broadband penetration difficult,” he noted.

Corroborating ALTON boss’s argument, the president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engr. Olusola Teniola, noted that shocks occasioned by the 2017 recession are yet to be contained in the industry, stressing that up till now, forex access for strategic equipments is still hard for his members.

He said “The mechanism in place to allow our members access to FOREX at the I&E rate was not well communicated by CBN and government disregarded our calls for a more enabling environment to prevail that would give our members encouragement and confidence that investments made will result in a viable Return-on-Investments (ROI) over a medium term period”.

Continuing, he said “If you dig into the numbers behind the 21 percent broadband penetration that NCC quotes, that was attained in Q4 2016, you will notice that it was on the back of 4G LTE and initial 4G LTE- deployments that were made in that year, however, there has been no further significant deployment and expansion of these ‘high speed internet networks’ alongside MNO(s) 3G networks.”

Teniola argued further that “ATCON members, did not see and still do not see any viability in further bringing in hard earned money into an environment that appears hostile to them. Until Government seriously addresses the multiple taxation issue, multiple regulation and the harmonization of taxes and removal of exorbitant Right of Way charges applied to our members then there wasn’t and there still isn’t any logical or business reason for further investments to be made by them.”