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Good News: NCC Set to Review InfraCo Framework to Suit New Broadband Plan

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The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, is reviewing the Infrastructure Companies, InfraCos, agreement.

The review of the InfraCo framework is done in accordance with the new National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 as well as the six InfraCos agreement processes which are currently ongoing.

Professor Umar Danbatta, executive vice-chairman, at a sectoral virtual forum organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, ATCON, stated that NCC under him has been working to deepen broadband penetration to several unserved and underserved areas through its Open Access Model, OAM.

The OAM project is aimed at extending access to digital services across the 774 local government councils through licensing of InfraCos.

DGN reports that in 2015, the NCC licenced two companies as Infracos. They are Main One Cable Company in Lagos and the HIS Ltd in North Central but the second company returned its licence.

In 2018, NCC licenced an additional five companies as InfraCos covering other geo-political zones to drive the deployment of broadband infrastructure.

The licencees include Raeana Nigeria Limited for the South-South Zone; O’dua Infraco Resources Limited for South-West Zone; Fleek Networks Limited for North-West Zone; Brinks Integrated Solutions for North-East Zone; MainOne Limited for Lagos Zone and Zinox Technologies Limited for the South-East Zone. The remaining licence for North Central Zone is being processed, according to the Commission.

According to Danbatta, as a stimulus to encourage investors of InfraCo to roll out, the NCC made provisions in the 2017 and 2018 budgets for subsidies to the InfraCo licensees.

The NCC is now working with the federal government, through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to ensure disbursement of the counterpart funding to the licensed InfraCos upon attainment deployment milestones.

DGN gathered that Nigeria’s broadband penetration rose from a mere 6.0 percent in 2015 to 40.14 per cent in May 2020. During the same period, active Internet subscriptions also increased from 93 million to over 141 million currently.

The number of active telephone subscribers also rose from 150 million in 2015 to 192.32 million in May 2020. The teledensity in Nigeria is now at 100.72 percent, following the rebasing the teledensity to 91 percent in March 2019.

Also, Olusola Teniola, president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, ATCON, noted that Nigeria’s telecom sector is witnessing several important developments from President Muhammadu Buhari’s renaming of the ministry which supervises the telecoms and ICT sector to the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy back in October 23, 2019.

For Teniola, this development has further expanded its mandate to capture the goals of digitalisation of the Nigerian economy in line with the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan, EGRP, to the recently launched National Broadband Plan 2020 to 2025, the unveiling of a National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, NDEPS, to the constitution of Implementation and Steering Committee for the plan, all these would empower Nigerians (consumers) to take advantage of the Nigerian digital economy.

The ATCON president stressed that interdependence and collaboration among the government, telecom and ICT companies and Nigerians are clearly necessary but each of separate stakeholder has limitations and potentials.

To attract further investment into the sector through consumerism and enactment of friendly policies and regulation by the government, Teniola said the need for the forum couldn’t be overemphasised as the platform would provide for governments, consumers (corporate and personal) and telecommunications and ICT companies on how consumers can be better off in terms of effective delivery of telecoms and ICT services and products in Nigeria.

Similarly, Funke Opeke, chief executive officer, MainOne Cable Company, noted that In this digital age where broadband connectivity is the bedrock of a thriving digital and national economy, there was need to focus on increasing access to broadband penetration beyond Lagos and Abuja for a shared economic prosperity, job creation and digital security in the country.

Opeke said: “We will need to take advantage of the opportunities, the digital economy provides if we are to create jobs for Nigerian youth in the not-too-distant future.”

In a keynote speech at the Startup South Conference held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom recently with the theme “Unlocking the Next 60 Million: Making Broadband Accessible and Affordable” she said for Nigeria to make appreciable progress in job creation, the country needs to ensure that broadband penetrates all the villages, towns and cities in all the 744 local government areas of the nation.

Others who spoke include   Ayotunde Coker, chief executive officer, Rack Centre Limited, who focussed on right of way, RoW.

Cover said RoW permit is still a big issue in Nigeria, noting that there is a standardised RoW rate but it is not being implemented by some state governments.

“I would rather advise state governors to give incentives to telecom companies to come to their states to lay fibre because the penetration of fibre brings reliable telecoms services to the people wherever they are. It brings in industries, the state’s gross domestic product, GDP, will increase significantly because fibre is there.

“RoW should be encouraged and telecom companies should be encouraged to invest in infrastructure. If you get the infrastructure right then every other thing will work. You cannot have technology hubs such as Co-creation Hub and tech villages without the underlining factor of infrastructure. And they wouldn’t be feasible if the infrastructure was not in place at the right price,” Coker said.

The sectoral forum featured regulators’ interests to ensure a competitive telecom market and fast track development of the telecom and ICT industry; operator’s interests.

It was also to enable an environment for businesses and protection of investment in the sector and consumer’s interests to ensure satisfaction in terms of quality of services, affordability access and connectivity; and for digital economy development.

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