With more than three years after the licensing of the first two Infrastructure companies, IHS Towers and MainOne Cable Company, the operators are yet to roll out services in the Lagos and North Central geopolitical zones respectively where they were licensed to operate.
However, in a twist, IHS Towers seem to have withdrawn their interest in continuing the project due to irresolvable challenges in the rollout.
This recent revelation came from the telecom regulatory body, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), even as the Commission says it is currently shopping for a replacement operator for the North Central geopolitical zone.
The NCC had in time past held series of consultations with the two operators to facilitate and meet their rollout plan, but these meetings seemed to have yielded little or no fruits yet.
NCC had in 2014, set up a mechanism to license InfraCos that will provide broadband infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones and promised them incentives that will facilitate their rollout plans and minimise the cost implication. In January 2015, the Commission, as part of its bid to grow infrastructure, awarded InfraCo licenses to MainOne and IHS for Lagos and North Central geopolitical zones respectively. This signified an opportunity to deepen infrastructure investments in Nigeria and to assure that the Broadband future which is critical to the growth of the economy is achieved.
However, despite the challenges faced by the two operators, the Commission in Q1 2018 further granted InfraCo licenses to Zinox Technology and Brinks Solutions to cover the South East, North East geo-political zones respectively.
There are three more licensees waiting for approval to bring the total number to seven. The three more InfraCos are to cover the South-South, North-West and South-West regions. But with the NCC shopping for a replacement for IHS Towers, the North-Central will join the waiting list, bringing the number of licenses in the waiting to four. The Infraco licences are based on the NCC’s Open Access Model (OAM) in line with the National Broadband Plan (NBP) of (2013 – 2018).
One of the challenges being faced by the operators is the issue of determination of appropriate pricing for state Right of Way (RoW). This challenge had pitched the NCC and the telecom operators against some of the State governments in a bid to make the states harmonise their charges with the charges of the Federal government. The federal government charges N145 per linear meter as the right of way, while some states charge as much as N5000 per linear meter.
However, Deputy Director, Technical Standards & Network Integrity, NCC, Engr. Bako Wakil, while speaking at a breakout session at the Nigeria ICT Impact CEO Forum organized by ICT Watch, noted that the Commission has put machinery in place to ease the challenges faced by operators.
He said that among other things, the NCC is advocating for speedy issuance of the right of way permit for within a period not later than 30 days; one stop shop for all permits in every state and the N145 per linear meter for states as it is with the federal government.
All these are geared at bringing development and making telecommunication services pervasive in all states of the federation.
Engr. Wakil noted that it has already gone into talked with Ibile Holdings, the Lagos State investment company that is saddled with the determination of the RoW cost in Lagos State.
By provisions of the NBP, Nigeria is expected to attain 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018. As part of the initiative to achieve this, the NCC, as the driver of this process, has so far licensed a number of companies to stimulate broadband penetration. These include Bitflux Communications Limited (Bitflux) for 2.3 GHz and MTN Nigeria for the 2.6 GHz licences. Other licenses are in the pipeline in this process. As at December 2017, Nigeria has attained 22% broadband penetration.