Commission claims Nigeria’s 40,000 BTS inadequate to run digital economy
As part of the strategic plan to address infrastructure deficit in the telecommunications sector, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has directed the licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) to move to site.

The InfraCos, consisting of seven ICT/telecoms firms, have been licensed by NCC to ensure wholesale broadband deployment across the country, especially in Nigeria’s 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs). They have now been ordered by the commission to deploy broadband infrastructure across all LGAs in the next five months or face regulatory decisions.

The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who disclosed all these, emphasised that telecoms infrastructure deployment across rural communities in Nigeria is at the heart of every effort of the government towards ensuring the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

The Guardian had exclusively reported last week how currency risk, insecurity and lack of access to the N64 billion Federal Government grants slowed InfraCos’ take-off in the country, with some of the seven licensees having got their licences as far back as six years ago, though later reviewed.

Danbatta, while delivering a keynote presentation at the 2021 national conference, exhibition, and yearly general meeting of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), in Abuja, with the theme: “Expansion of the Energy Mix for National Economic Growth”, spoke on a topic focusing on a sub-theme, “Strategic Collaboration between the Town and Gown for Effective Rural Development.”

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The NCC CEO said that the vision of the Federal Government as enunciated in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020, National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030) and the National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) is being vigorously implemented.

Explaining the connection between these policies and NCC’s operations, Danbatta, in a statement made available to journalists, yesterday, stated that the NCC’s Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024, streamlined in the commission’s Strategic Vision Plan (2021-2025) to enhance operational and regulatory efficiency, is aligned with the Federal Government’s vision for an all-inclusive digital economy.

According to him, to improve Nigeria’s broadband infrastructure, NCC has divided Nigeria into seven zones, consisting of the existing six constitutional geopolitical divisions, and Lagos constituting the seventh, considering the importance of Lagos as a strategic commercial and technological hub within the structure of Nigeria’s telecom ecosystem.

“The NCC has proceeded to license companies for each of the seven zones, to deploy broadband infrastructure that will ensure speed of up to 25 megabits per second in the rural areas. Each of the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria will have an initial access point of, at least, 10 megabits per second.”

Also, to demonstrate NCC’s readiness to race at the same tempo with the Federal Government as articulated in the policy documents, Danbatta stated that the licensed companies, otherwise known as “Infrastructure Companies (Infracos), have been directed to move to site to cascade broadband infrastructure to the hinterland.”

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The EVC affirmed that there is timeframe for the implementation of these projects, including the building of specialised technology centres in the rural areas to enable stakeholders to harness huge benefits of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

The NCC CEO stated that the Commission is waiting to see the InfraCos demonstrate a creditable level of deployment in the cities and also discharge the burden of proof of the existence of access points in LGAs in the next five months.

Otherwise, he stressed that the Commission may have “to take firm regulatory decisions” in the interest of the Nigerian people and start-ups, who have been waiting for the deployment of rural tech solutions to make contributions to the growth of the economy by exploring derivable benefits that accrue from a digitised economy.

According to Danbatta, one of the benefits of digital economy that NCC has collaborated with stakeholders to bring to fruition is in the area of digital inclusion, where NCC has been collaborating with stakeholders, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure the target of 80 percent digital inclusion is achieved within the timeframe.

He said NCC will continue to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to enhance innovation, competition and participation in governance by the citizenry, which is one of the hallmarks of digital culture.