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ISPs Decry Poor Service, High Rentals by Tower Owners

chike onwuegbuchi

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country have expressed their reservations over poor services delivered by telecommunications tower operators as well as high cost of renting towers that houses their base stations.

Satis Kumar, chief operating officer, Direct On Data, said ISPs are saddled with harsh business condition, which include high base station rentage, inefficiency of tower management that have forced them into deploying batteries at their base stations to ensure improved service quality among other challenges.

“Most times our base stations go down apparently because the attendant is not around to put on the generator when public power supply goes off, sometimes there are diesel issues. Some of our clients are providing critical services that don’t need their internet to go down even for a second. How do you explain this situation?”

Kumar said that ISPs are charged between N3.6million to N4million per tower for a year. This cost depends on the type of the equipment being hang on the tower as some equipment consume more power than others and some take space more than others.

David Venn, chief executive officer, Spectranet, a 4G LTE internet service provider, said that before now, their biggest cost outlay was cost of national and international bandwidth, “but today the cost of bandwidth is coming down which leaves cost of tower rental our biggest cost of operation. Though the cost of tower rental in Nigeria is high compared to other countries I have worked, considering operational cost in this environment in terms of maintenance of the towers, it is reasonable. But in Zambia where there is also power challenge, there is no need for operators to provide security at towers as security challenge is not serious,” he said.

Sunday Folayan, president, Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria (ISPAN) said that tower rental cost in the country will not be cheap as it is determined by some factors which include number of users on the tower as well as power and security provided at the towers.

“I’m not surprise that tower rental cost is high because the cost of powering base stations with generators is high. If we fix power problem in this country every other thing will take shape,” he added.

Lanre Ajayi, immediate past president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), identified two factors as responsible for high cost of tower rental in the country, which are competition and service cost.

According to him, ‘competition in the co-location business is not deep enough to bring about reduced cost and efficient management. Presently, there are few companies providing co-location facilities in the country’.

He added that high cost of tower rental is also occasioned by service cost provided at the base stations such as power and security. “Most base stations are powered by generators and the cost of gas is high, they provide security at the towers. These are outside the control of co-location operators,” he said.

He however, urged government to set up an intervention fund to support the growth of ICT in the country just as she did in the entertainment industry, from where small operators could borrow to expand their network.