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Soaring vandalism to deny targeted 70% broadband penetration—ATCON, ALTON

President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engr Olusola Teniola has once again, warned that the nation’s fresh target of meeting 70% broadband penetration on the powers of the new National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 may fail if the endless vandalism of telecoms infrastructure is not tamed.

This is as his counterpart in the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr Gbenga Adebayo has described recent upsurge in attacks on telecoms facilities as very unfortunate.

Reacting to the recent attacks on telecoms infrastructure belonging to MTN and Airtel in Damaturu, Yobe state penultimate Monday by the Boko Haram sect, Teniola averred that damage to the facilities will cost more to repair, hinting that “these associated costs are passed onto the consumers in affected areas.”

He said the growing frequency of attacks on infrastructures will definitely “make it even harder for government to achieve the 70 per cent broadband penetration target for 2025 and makes it a particular challenge by operators to keep services ongoing under tough circumstances.”

Adebayo, who recalled that operators had suffered same experience some years back in some part of the North East, stressed that “sadly this happened again.”

ALTON Awonuga-Gbenga-Olajide
L-R: Head, Operations, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbolahan Awonuga, ALTOn Chariman, Engr Gbenga Adebayo and Chairman, Technical Committee, ALTON, Aremu Olajide at the press conference to announce the 20th anniversary celebration of the association in Lagos. Photo: Business Hilights

On the way forward, ALTON president appealed to the Federal Government to kindly provide special protection for Critical Telecommunications Infrastructure (CNI) across the country, and especially in the North East.

Both associations therefore called on the National Assembly to expedite action on the CNI bill which had overstayed at the national assembly.

Explaining more, Adebayo said the operators are concerned, “but as an industry, we will continue to work with the authorities to minimize the effect of this willful damage in the public. We will continue to work with relevant authorities to minimize the impact.”

Also giving further insights on efforts so far made by his company, the Chief Corporate Services Officer, MTN Nigeria, Tobechukwu Okigbo revealed that “We are working with security agencies on ground to ascertain the true situation of things, and determine how to respond.“Our primary focus at this time is the safety and security of our staff and securing the delivery of uninterrupted services to our customers.”

In general, telecoms stakeholders are of the opinion that time has come for the Federal Government through the security agencies to act fast on the threatening activities of Boko Haram sect, fibre cuts, theft, and over regulation in the industry so that the target 70% broadband penetration can be achieved in record time.

The stakeholders’ also argued that aside the vandalism aspect, the issue of Right of Way (RoW) must be roundly addressed so that MNOs and Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) can begin speedy rollout of broadband infrastructures nationwide.