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NCC releases guidelines on infrastructure co-location

As part of regulatory drive to raise flexibility in service delivery and further reduce cost of production on the side of telecom firms, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has released fresh guidelines bounding on access provider for rejecting any request for telecoms infrastructure sharing and collocation.

Details from a 31-page document containing the guidelines made it clear that while an access provider has the right to refuse an application for infrastructure sharing by another player, the refusal can only be justified by lack of sufficient capacity to carry the traffic of the applicant.

NCC made it further clear that “The ground for refusal of sharing under these rules will be insufficient capacity, compatibility and prior indebtedness under other services such as Interconnection. The Infrastructure Provider shall inform the Infrastructure Seeker and the Commission of the grounds for refusal with adequate data within 5 (five) working days.

“Any disagreement on commercial terms during negotiation for active infrastructure sharing, which parties are unable to agree on, shall be referred to the Commission for resolution, and the decision of the Commission shall be binding on parties.

“Meeting the roll-out obligation as spelt out in an NSP’s Licence Condition is a precondition for entering into an Active Infrastructure Sharing agreement. However, where it is established by the Commission that Active Infrastructure Sharing will expedite such roll-out, the Infrastructure Provider may grant such request,” the Guideline read in part.

Among other provisions, NCC explained that every infrastructure sharing agreement, including any prior existing agreement, shall be in writing and shall specify the contractual terms and conditions agreed on by the parties.

While urging the telecoms operators to ensure that all such agreements are registered with the Commission requested that as a precondition for registration, every infrastructure sharing agreement must be submitted to the Commission for review and approval.

“The Commission shall in reviewing infrastructure sharing agreements ensure that the terms on which infrastructure sharing is offered are in compliance with the principles of neutrality, transparency, non-discrimination and fair competition.

“Every Infrastructure sharing agreement that has been duly negotiated and executed by parties shall be submitted to the Commission within seven (7) working days for review and approval. The Commission shall, within twenty-one (21) working days, review and approve the agreement, provided that all information requested by the Commission are received”, the Commission stated.

Meanwhile, the NCC warned that prices for infrastructure sharing should be non-discriminatory, reasonable, and based on the actual costs incurred by the owner of the facility adding that the determination of the costs underlying prices should be transparent and neutral.

The commission further said the Guideline is intended to ensure that the incidence of unnecessary duplication of infrastructure is minimised or completely avoided; protect the environment by reducing the proliferation of infrastructure and facilities installations; and promote fair competition through equal access being granted to the installations and facilities of operators on mutually agreed terms.

Others include to ensure that the economic advantages derivable from the sharing of facilities are harnessed for the overall benefit of all telecommunications stakeholders; minimise capital expenditure on supporting infrastructures and to free more funds for investment in core network equipment; and encourage Access Providers and Access Seekers to pursue a cost-oriented policy as part of drive to further drop tariffs on telecom consumers.