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Why Government Should Encourage Telcos in Nigeria- Jane Egerton-Idehen

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CFA with Jane Egerton-Idehen, country manager, Avanti Satellite Communications

BY chukwuemeka fred agbata

There is no doubt that Nigeria has one of the largest Telecom markets in Africa as the sector attracts considerable foreign investment.

Over The Top Players, OTTPs, such as WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger, Telegram and many others, have significantly affected the average revenue per user of Telecom subscribers and this has adversely affected the overall revenue of the industry.

Questions that are begging for answers includes, ‘where does the industry go from here, having invested billions of dollars?’ ‘How does the Television compete with OTT players who have very little investments in overheads?’

I recently had a chat with Jane Egerton-Idehen, Country Manager, Avanti Satellite Communications and our discussion centered on her thoughts on the way forward for the Telecom industry in Nigeria.

Jane, who has been in the Telecom industry for a while now, thinks that the industry is currently at the threshold of an evolution, where it is about to enter into a transformation phase.

She observed that the growth of the industry is slowing down globally, with declining revenues, although the customers are becoming more savvy and aware in the face of technology that is daily becoming more sophisticated.

In terms of returns on investment, however, Jane thinks that it is not coming in as it should be. She also observed that, one good thing that is currently happening in the industry, is that, there is ample room for growth.

“It is also at a point where we are about to access a new layer of countries on the continent of Africa. Places that we haven’t been before”, she stated. She further observed that, all this while, the Telecom industry had concentrated in the cities, but now, gradually moving into the rural areas.

Jane is of the opinion that investors should be interested in investing in rural telephony because, that is the next phase where the billionaire subscribers will come from. “And that is where technology hasn’t really accessed untapped potentials”, she observed.

She, however, stressed that, for efficient return on investment, the infrastructures used in the cities cannot be used in the rural areas because, the cost model for rural areas has to be lower as the expected revenues from there will not be as much as we currently have in the cities.

“Yes, the technology in the sense of base stations or switches have to be the same, but how can we make the costs lower? How can we make them cheaper? How can we use lower cost models to access them? So, we really have to rethink all these”‘, she posited.

Government can compel investors to invest in the rural areas, through policies and regulations as well as complement the efforts of the investors, In Jane’s view, even though, they might be reluctant to do so because  of the lower returns they are likely to get from there,  coupled with the projected higher cost expected to be used in running the facilities in the rural areas.

To Jane, technology is capable of positively affecting the growth of the rural areas as this is where most of the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SME’s, are located, so, the government should be interested in this. She emphasised that the government can assist in facilitating the process for the investors in areas, such as site cost, customs clearance, swift right of way approvals, etc. She also suggested the use of Satellite KA band of a low cost model for accessibility in rural areas.

Jane believes that the OTT players are making a huge impact in the Telecom industry, even though, they are eroding the revenue accruing to the Telcos. In her opinion, therefore, players in the Telecom industry should be thinking about what to do about it, instead of whining about it.

In Jane’s view, we should take a look at relaxing some of our policies and regulations to encourage Telcos that have physical infrastructures, pay tax and are helping to reduce the unemployment in Nigeria by employing Nigerians to work in their companies. This is in contrast to OTT players who do not have or do these things in Nigeria but take a chunk of the revenues that would have accrued to the Telcos.

“We can demand for things, like they should have physical presence in the country. We can demand that they invest in certain sectors of our industry as a way to give back, for the kind of revenues they are making from our country”, she concluded, in respect of the foreign OTT players.

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Telcos, ISPs Frustrating IPv6 Adoption by Networks

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There are indications that telecommunications operators and traditional internet service providers (ISPs) in the country are frustrating adoption of Internet Protocol version six (IPv6) by other networks, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek has learnt.

 

IPv6 is touted as the latest level of the Internet Protocol (IP) and is now included as part of IP support in many products including the major computer operating systems.

 

A network engineer with a university who does not want to be named expressed the university’s frustration to use its IPv6 address by the telecommunications operator providing them with internet connectivity because their network is not compactable with IPv6.

 

Providing more insight on this, Mohammed Rudman, chairman, IPv6 Council Nigeria, said that most telecommunications operators and internet service providers in the country have not adopted IPv6 which raises the issue of compatibility with other networks they are offering internet connectivity service.

 

“Upstream service providers in the country are not offering IPv6 on their network. For instance, among networks that bring submarine cable to the country, it is only MainOne network that have adopted IPv6 on its network. This is not good for the country’s effort to adopt IPv6,” he said.

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations revealed that there are 32 networks in the country which are made up of telecommunications operators, internet service providers, universities, banks, oil companies among other organizations that have acquired IPv6, with only three networks using it as at today, they include MainOne Cable Company, Internet Solution Limited, and ipNX Nigeria Limited.

 

Rudman noted that while other African countries are making steady progress in the adoption of IPv6 Nigeria lags behind because of their use of Network Address Translation (NAT). NAT allows networks to convert private addresses of internet protocol (IP) to public addresses thereby making the country to consume less resource of IP addresses.

 

He added that the use of NAT is responsible for Nigeria’s low ranking in consumption of IP addresses on the internet, even as the country ranks amongst the highest in Internet penetration in world and number one in Africa.

 

Niyi Yusuf, country managing director, Accenture Nigeria, urges for regulatory push in the adoption of IPv6, he cited the case in banking sector where CBN issued a directive mandating banks to adopt tier 111 Data Centre which led them into outsourcing of data centre business to commercial data centre operators with Tier 111 certification.

 

Chris Uwaje, vice chairman, IPV6 Council Nigeria, urged Nigeria to focus on the awareness of the challenges, opportunities and benefits of the global trends of IPv6 and the future of Internet.

 

“We must activate planning processes now and initiate partnerships among business, government, academia and other members of the community. To accelerate the diffusion of IPv6, regulators should encourage the ISPs with focused incentives for constructive IPv6 transition and migration,” he said.

 

He also called for the establishment of Regional IPv6 Task force Workgroup’s as a “Train the Trainer” strategy for accelerated diffusion of the Internet Protocol Version 6 in Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NCC to Mulls 14 Days Window for Unused Data Roll Over

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Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, will soon issue a directive to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to allow 14 days window for telecom service consumers to roll over their unused data even when they do not renew at the expiration of the data plan.

 

This is giving concrete expression to the spirit of its declaration of 2017 as Year of Nigerian Telecom Consumer.

 

The Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, stated this recenly in Port Harcourt at the programme commemorating the NCC Day at the ongoing Port Harcourt International Trade Fair, where he was represented by Bashir Idris, NCC’s Head of Projects.

 

It is adequate to say that, once the direction is issued; there will be a cessation of the ongoing practice in which subscribers to certain data regimes lose their unused data whenever they failed to renew the data plan subscribed to at the expiration of the subscription period.

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NCC Fixes Handover of 9mobile, as Glo, Others Send EoI

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has reiterated that the December 31 deadline for the handover of 9mobile to the preferred bidder is sacrosanct.

 

Globacom Limited, Bharti Airtel, Smile Telecoms Holdings, Helios Investment Partners LLP and Teleology Holdings Limited have all been shortlisted as the five bidders still in the running to buy 9mobile, the Nigeria’s fourth largest telecommunications provider, which ran into financial problem with some banks in July.

 

The companies were selected through a process conducted by Barclays Bank, the financial adviser to the creditor banks, on December 4.

 

But speaking to journalists on the sideline of the 82th edition of Telecoms Consumers Parliament in Abuja ON Thursday, Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman of NCC, said the five shortlisted companies had been allowed to conduct due diligence on 9mobile.

 

Although Danbata did not give the names of the five firms, sources listed them as Airtel, Globacom, Smile, Helvis and Telelogy Holdings are the companies.

 

Prof Danbatta said the next stage of the sale process after due diligence would be for the firms evidence of strong financial commitment to buy 9mobile.

 

He said Nigerian authorities would not just handover 9mobile to any company, but to a very “technically and financially capable company.”

 

He assured that there would be seamless takeover of the company, and that whoever buys it would improve the fortune of the company.

 

He said: “As you are aware five bidders have emerged as I am talking to you and they have been allowed to access the data room of the 9mobile in order for them to get access to the financial situation of the company and subsequently make bid for the takeover of the company.

 

“But we will ensure that the takeover is done in a regulated manner, not a forceful manner. That is why the CBN and the NCC are supervising what is going on through the interim board that was jointly set up by the NCC and other partners.”

 

Meanwhile, the NCC boss has disclosed that the number of subscribers using the ‘Do Not Disturb’ had risen from 500,000 to 10million within eight months; underscoring the fact the campaign was achieving its objective.

 

He said the telecom consumer is the paymaster of the operators hence he should be treated as a king.

 

9mobile which was formerly Etisalat rebranded after its major owners in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, pulled out and a new board was inaugurated to run its affairs.

 

This was after failed negotiation with its lenders over a missed payment of the $1.2billion loan taken from a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks in 2013.

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