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Rural Telephony, Internet Connectivity Now Critical in Nigeria- Smith

Leigh Smith is the managing director of World Telecoms Lab (WTL)
Leigh Smith is the managing director of World Telecoms Lab (WTL)

Leigh Smith is the managing director of World Telecoms Lab (WTL). Smith, an Australian with Economics degree has been based in Belgium for over 30 years and has held international positions. These positions have enabled him to gain extensive experience in Europe, the Middle East, the US and Japan.  The business areas that Smith has worked are Office Equipment and Telecommications.  The last and current role that he is engaged on is to successfully grow the WTL business in Africa and in particular by having the main WTL business focus now being placed on Nigeria. In this interview with peter ugwu, he spoke on the Company’s role in repositioning the country telecoms sector, while discussing other national telecoms related issues.

World Telecoms Labs (WTL)
WTL is a Belgian based company which has long been a leader in the provision of VoIP switches, pre-paid applications and signalling gateways for emerging carriers and telecom service operators. WTL has an installed base of 100,000’s of voice ports with service providers worldwide switching billions of minutes of VoIP traffic using WTL equipment.

Nigeria’s Telecom Industry Overtime
Under the control and guidance of the NCC the 4 key operators are offering voice, SMS and internet services to a large proportion of Africa’s 180 million inhabitants. This has been a massive achievement but is there still significant QOS improvements to be achieved and estimated 40 million rural dwellers still to be connected. So there is, still major infrastructure investments to be made to get the quality of all the services being offered up to a more acceptable level.

Critical Areas to Address
Specifically, WTL helps in solving key challenges with telecoms networks and businesses, so that they can deliver better, more profitable services, more efficiently and faster. Over the years, in Nigeria we have observed key challenges that need to be addressed. Today the old style TDM switching accounts for over 95% of all the switched Nigerian voice traffic where as in Europe the evolution the VoIP takeover of the TDM traffic is virtually been completed. So Nigeria still has to go through the same evolution. As WTL was one of the VoIP pioneers we are very well equipped to help accelerate the change over from TDM switching into VoIP and the WTL customers are now playing an important role in building up the confidence amongst the key operators that VoIP will allow them to manage traffic more efficiently and at a lower cost.

WTL & ICN’s 2nd Generation VoIP Switches for Voice Traffic Transfer
As was mentioned in the last point, Nigeria is still in the early stages of the transition it using IP and it is not yet evident to the consumers at this point in time. However the process needs to start and the faster the evolution comes the sooner the QOS improvements will start to be seen by the consumers.

Reducing Traffic on Congested Inter-city Links
WTL has a tried and very well tested VoIP protocol which allows the operators to send high capacity traffic over inter-city or intra-city links which requires only one tenth of the bandwidth required to carry each call compared to the transmitting the call with TDM. This is therefore one of the means which available to free up band width on congested networks but it will require the existing operators to invest and install the necessary WTL equipment to optimize the bandwidth available on the existing inter-city links.

Assessment of Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
The consumers are experiencing quality issues with all four (4) of the key operators so the consumers have not been to motivated to change from one operators just to be with another operator who has similar problems so the use of MNP has been quite limited. If one of the operators finds a way to address the QOS issues in a much more efficient way than the others then it would seem most likely that the requests for MNP could go up significantly as consumers mover offer the operator who has developed the higher quality image.

Messaging and SMS Routing Hub & Unsolicited Messages
Yes there are ways to cut the number of unsolicited messages but as the big 4 operators are all sending out daily unwanted messages to their respective client basses then I can see anything changing until they themselves start the process to cut back these messages

ISPs Benefit from WTL’s Value Added Service Product
The ISP’s already have a customer base which they are handling the internet traffic so they can look at ways to offer additional voice and value added services to their existing customers to try to generate more revenue.

Trending Data Vs Telecoms Losing Revenue on Voice Services
I think I disagree with this question as last year the estimated total revenue of the Nigerian operators was $10.0 billion and of this total $ 7.5 billion of the revenue was related to the voice traffic. It is true that the growth of data is going faster but voice is still very much the king when it comes to revenue generation and the voice traffic volume is still growing. The operators need to look at how to reduce the costs associated with carrying all the voice traffic and using WTL’s TDM to VoIP platforms is one way to achieving this.

WTL’s Technology Agenda for New Government in Nigeria
The absolutely need to give basic telephony and internet connectivity to the rural areas which the government has been talking about since I first came to Nigeria 5 years ago and very little has been done. The National Broadband Plan is very commendable but the rural areas could start to benefit from initial and basic connectivity now instead of waiting another 3 – 5 years for more expensive broadband connectivity.

Bandwidth Efficiency: WTL’s Role
As I have already explained WTL has a VoIP optimizing protocol which enables voice traffic to be transmitted using only 6Kbps (kilobytes) per call compared to 26 Kbps per call for standard VoIP calls and 64 Kbps using TDM.

Comparing Broadband in Nigeria to Other Markets
There are many different markets with a whole range of differently priced services so I find this difficult to comment on. The prices still have to reflect to very significant infrastructure investment made by the 4 key operators and the leading data infrastructure company Main One. So if the prices are on the higher side then this is due to the sizeable investment that has and is still being made.

What Should The Market Expect from WTL?
WTL will continue to strive to provide the most reliable, high performance VoIP solutions throughout the period of the market change from TDM over VoIP and we want to continue to build on our growing reputation as one of best support and maintenance organisations in the industry.