‘NCC Yet to Decide on Physical Infrastructure Sharing'

By The Citizen

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which is the telecoms industry regulator, is yet to decide on the modalities for physical infrastructure sharing among telecoms operators.

Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, who dropped the hint in Lagos at the Telecoms Executives and Regulator Forum organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said the commission was still studying the situation in order to come out with the best solution for infrastructure sharing. Telecoms stakeholders and consumers have decried a situation where every telecoms operator is investing in the same infrastructure, rather than sharing from existing telecoms facilities and infrastructure. They have attributed the poor service quality in the telecoms industry partly to  lack of infrastructure sharing. They are of the view that if a particular operator installs a Base Transceiver Station (BTS) in a particular location, for instance, or even facilitates the rollout to submarine cables, other operators should be able to share from such infrastructure, instead of investing in the same project.

'With infrastructure sharing, operators can save money from repeated investments and channel such money for other operations that will address service quality,' they said. According to the stakeholders, apart from cost saving, infrastructure sharing will also reduce the frequency of road digging, while laying fibre optic cables. State governments have complained bitterly about the manner in which telecoms operators dig up roads indiscriminately, when laying telecoms cables.

Responding to the stakeholders’ views , Juwah said, it would not be appropriate for the commission to compel a particular operator to allow other operators share from its existing infrastructure. “We cannot compel submarine cable operators to open up their cable ducts to other operators to tap capacities, because it will negate our plan to licence Infrastructure Companies (Infracos), that would be responsible for distributing capacities on a wholesale basis for broadband deployment,” Juwah said. Addressing the issue of perceived high cost of spectrum licences in the country as complained by some stakeholders, Juwah said Nigeria has the cheapest rate of spectrum cost among countries of the world.

He insisted that NCC would continue to auction available spectrum in a manner that would continue to generate income for government. According to him, the NCC has been accused of inconsistency in the cost of spectrum sales, explaining that the cost of spectrum has never been increased in the country. 'Rather than increasing cost, the cost is actually dropping,' Juwah said. However, stakeholders at the forum called for re-evaluation and downward review of the cost of spectrum licences, in order to make its auction attractive to even small industry players. Thisday