ICT Sector in dire need of Stability in 2021

Nigeria's telecommunications sector is in dire need of stabilization.

ICT Sector

The activities of the Ministry of Communications, and the numerous attacks on the digital economy, and the sector's otherwise independent regulator, the Communications Commission of Nigeria, NCC, and its activities have not only slowed the sector's move, but made it even more frightening. It has also created fear in the minds of foreign investors.

After the motives of some of these incursions have been revealed, it is clear that the Act, which constituted the regulatory body, has in recent days undermined the policies of some of the directives coming from this sector.

From the directive to operators to reduce call charges, data charges, ban on sale, and activation of new SIM cards to that of mandatory linking of National Identity Number, NIN, to SIMs, the sector has always faced surprises instead of strong negotiations, and conversations that usually follow such progress.

However, the NCC says it is ready to start the right engagements, and build a lasting relationship that is capable of building stability.

According to Prof Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman of the Commission, “The Commission has positioned itself in the Government's campaign for digital Nigeria, as enshrined in Nigeria's National Broadband Plan (2020 - 2025), National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy. (2020-2030) and the Commission's Strategic Management Plan (2020-2024).

This is in acknowledgment of the opportunities for tremendous economic growth afforded through the deployment of broadband and related technologies.

The Commission will continue its efforts to implement its mandate, particularly to facilitate the deployment of broadband, which is central to the diversification of Nigeria's economy and national development.

Challenged as to how these estimates could be met, considering that the regulator is usually held in captivity, Danbatta drew attention to several milestones achieved by the commission between 2014 and 2020. 

Also Read: Forensic audit progressing on data price deflation ― NCC boss

And strongly claimed that a new strategic management plan, SMP, would be implemented by his administration, and will take advantage of existing growth parameters to stabilize the industry between 2020 and 2025.

We have developed a 5-year Strategic Management Plan (SMP), which will allow the Commission to focus on energy and resources. And ensure that all stakeholders work to implement our mandate.

Currently, the Commission has a new SMP 2020-2024, aimed at consolidating the achievements of the past two decades, and more importantly, supporting the government's policy thrust of diversifying the economy through the deployment of digital technology. 

Our licensing framework is central to the actualization of the Commission's mandate to regulate, and promote private sector participation in the deregulated communications  industry.

Also, our licensing framework ensures that all operators of telecommunications services, must acquire a license before commencement of operations. And must comply with the stipulated requirements.

The NCC's initial five mandates are: to facilitate investment and entry into the market, to encourage and protect competition in the market, to protect the rights and interests of service providers and consumers, advise the Minister on formulation of policies, and other affairs, and expedite universal access. 

It formed eight pillars on which the Commission traced its successes and failures:

Looking at its activities over the past year, a positive report card has been shown on almost all fronts, although there is room for further success.

However, the two major sectors that have attracted Hi-tech attention are on broadband penetration and quality of service.

The commission deployed Long Term Evolution network, LTE, Re-planned the 800MHz CDMA spectrum, and Re-farmed part of the 1800MHz spectrum - Broadband Penetration. 

It also auctioned 14 slots of the 2.6GHz spectrum, where MTN winning 6, Airtel 4, and Open Sky got 2.

Probably all of this helped in the shooting of broadband penetration up to 45.07 percent as at November 2020.

The Commission also issued guidelines on TVWS for the use of Television white space, deployment of broadband, and forcefully pushing fiber optic transmission cables over 47,000 km to 54,725 km. 

It actively issued guidelines for business satellite communications, and licensed 7 VSAT gateway earth stations to provide broadband capability. Here too, MTN got 3 slots, Main One got 2 and Viasat got 2.

Infracos was licensed to provide at least 38,296 km of optical fiber cable for transmission, in addition to the 6 infrastructure companies.

Quality of service: Last year, the declining quality of telecom services in the country was very colorful.

The commission was put at its fingertips but it actively developed, and began monitoring of KPIs, QoS Key Performance Indicators, and 3G, 4G. Within that period, it announced the acquisition and deployment of new QoS monitoring tools.

Apparently, all these operators invested heavily in telecom facilities and increased 3G and 4G base transmission services from about 30,000 to 53,460

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