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Stakeholders Make Case for Virtual, Regional Telecom Operators

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chike onwuegbuchi

Stakeholders in the telecommunications ecosystem have urged federal government and regulatory authority to implement policies aimed at supporting the emergence of regional and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO).

This is against the backdrop of the need to increase broadband penetration in order to achieve the 30 percent target by next year and address consistent poor quality of service.

MVNO is a provider of management services and a reseller of network services from other telecommunications suppliers that does not own the telecommunication infrastructure.

These network providers are categorized as virtual because they provide network services to customers without owning the underlying network. A M VNO typically leases bandwidth at the wholesale rates from various telecom providers in order to provide solutions to their customers.

They said that emergence of community or regional operators will reduce the over dependence on Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) networks which has resulted in consistent quality of service issues.

Fola Odufuwa, country partner, Nigeria Research ICT Africa, said there are policies in place that community network providers can utilize to deliver communications services within Nigeria.

“There are sufficient license categories within the telecoms framework too. The challenge for companies that seek to operate community networks is however multi-dimensional which could be stream line by regulatory intervention.”

“First, they will be faced with issues of economies of scale in the sense that telecoms is a game of numbers. Equipment vendors as well as the financial markets naturally favour the biggest players who get the lowest possible prices. These players also control most of the frequencies which community operators would need for transmission. Without economies of scale, smaller operators would find it increasingly hard to survive. It is an unfortunate reality that it is yet to be solved even in advanced markets such as the USA and the UK.”

He however stated that : “the polices are in place for community network provisioning but the market realities are such that except smaller telecoms companies develop innovative ways to compete, delivering services to communities as a sole business proposition would be highly risky. The same scenario applies when you consider the impact of technology on CDMA operations in Nigeria. It is not technology per se that has affected CDMA companies. It is rather CDMA operators' inability to generate economies of scale to deliver ubiquitous mobile communications.”

Also reacting, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators (Alton), said that community and regional networks can be driven by policy.

“Today, our operators are national in outlook, by definition; telecom is all networks in one network because we have one national network. Different operators are contributing members of this national network. If our policies encourage people to become regional, state or local operators, then there will be room for everybody to play,” he said.

He added that: “in the area of technology, we need to understand that technology is expensive as telecom is all about volume, so, players try to compete with less expensive technology due to high volume to face the struggle. The best of this would be, if there are policies to direct people to say you can be a regional operator or local operator, then you will have people that can deploy technology for a community with 1000 inhabitants using CDMA or other technology and then connected to the national network, people will be comfortable and happy with their service provider.”

“Community network from my experience is the most efficient. When I was operating a community network it was good because we know all the subscribers and they know us. Today, everybody is speaking to a pole that personalized service is no longer there. Community networks give better personalized service that you can’t find in national network; this is understandable because if you are dealing with 10,000 subscribers compared to the other operator dealing with 20million subscribers operational intricacies are not the same.”

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