By Martin Ekpeke
The combination of federal government’s inability to work out a subsidy agreement with licensed infrastructure companies (InfraCos) and the refusal of some states to grant ‘Right of way’ approval have been seen as the twice evil delaying the rollout of infrastructure by the two companies, licenced two years ago.
This was noticed in a recent response of Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), while responding to questions to why the rollout of infrastructure is being delayed, during a media interactive session in Lagos.
A visibly worried Danbatta believes that the subsidy agreement between government and the InfraCos is a motivation for the rollout of services, but so far, this has not happened, causing the delay and leaving the end user with inadequate broadband services.
Apart from the subsidy quagmire, Danbatta also fingered state governments, accusing them of deliberately refusing to grant the InfraCos ‘Right of Way’ approval. He said some states have deviated from the present N145 per meter of fiber as prescribe by the federal government, which, according to him is still a challenge to the attainment of broadband connectivity in Nigeria.
“The federal government should review the present cost of N145 per meter of fibre as prescribe by the federal government to a more realistic cost as well as make any agreed cost national as against a situation where every state charge differently,” he urged.
The NCC boss cited the case of Abuja, where a joint technical committee has been set up to work-out a way to address ‘Right of Way’ issues, but has lingered for some years now.
Industry stakeholders are also worried, with some believing that government is send mixed signal to the investment community with regards to how investment will be able to get return on investment.
One of such stakeholders is Engr. Olusola Teniola, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).
Teniola, was quoted by Communications Weekly as saying that the delay in rollout of services by the InfraCos is largely due to the government’s uncleared signal. “What we witnessed and the records are there for all to see, is the numerous delays and slowing down of government to assist in the realization of the implementation – without government’s full buy-in. There were mixed signals sent to the investment community as to exactly how this was going to be realized. So, in 2018 we are yet to witness any rollout of any fiber by the two InfraCo operators that were licensed in 2015-16,” he said.
The Infrastructure companies (MainOne and HIS), were licensed to deploy infrastructure that would assist in transmission of bandwidth capacity across Nigeria. Three years on, no signs of deployment of fiber cables. While MainOne won the license to cover Lagos area, IHS grabbed the licence for the North Central.