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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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ALTON Fumes as Rivers Seals 9mobile Office

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The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has decried the unilateral closure of 9mobile Port Harcourt Regional Office by officials of Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS).

 

A petition addressed to the Executive Chairman, RSIRS jointly endorsed by Engr. Gbenga Adebayo and Kazeem Oladepo, ALTON chairman and executive secretary, respectively, lamented that the sealing of EMTS premises is to compel the collection of alleged tax liability of N107,958,536.96, which represents its disputed outstanding tax liability arising from Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) of expatriates, erroneously believed by the revenue agency to be subject to tax within the Rivers State.

“As you know PAYE obligations are to states in which the employees reside, therefore, since EMTS did not have any expatriate(s) on its payroll who were residing in Rivers State within the assessment period, EMTS is clearly not indebted to the government of Rivers State for the alleged tax. EMTS had, at several meetings and by various correspondence explained and maintained that it is not indebted to the government of Rivers State as alleged by the RIRS, as it has never had expatriate employees working or residing in the state, and provided relevant documents in support of its position,” the petition read.

 

ALTON said based on its findings, it wishes to categorically reiterate that EMTS is not indebted to the government of Rivers State and that the sealing of EMTS’ premises is illegal, especially as it was carried out without a court order and without adherence to the due process of law.

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“The conduct of the RIRS in this regard, apart from being a clear contravention of the law, goes against the efforts of government at improving Nigeria’s position on the global Ease of Doing Business index, to encourage foreign investment. Also by applying self-help remedies especially in a situation where the claim is erroneous, the RIRS has portrayed the state in very bad light as unfriendly and not welcoming of investors.

 

“We also wish to draw your attention to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) directive that no government agency should seal any BTS site as they are designated Critical National Infrastructure. In this instance the directive has clearly been contravened by RIRS in sealing 9Mobile premises where a critical site is also situated, which has become inaccessible with the attendant security implications,” ALTON said.

 

It said EMTS has suffered incalculable financial loss as the sales outlet which is within the premises has remained closed, preventing it from serving its esteemed customers. EMTS has also suffered severe reputational damage from the bold display of the sealing order on EMTS premises, creating the perception that EMTS is a tax defaulter. EMTS employees have suffered untold hardship due to this wanton act, as its employees have been unable to resume at their duty posts for over two weeks.

“All entreaties to meet with the RIRS for a reconciliation was rebuffed; rather, the RIRS has compelled EMTS to make a payment of 30 per cent of the alleged sum amounting to N32,387,561.088 as a pre-condition to unsealing EMTS regional office. EMTS has been severely prejudiced by the refusal of the RIRS to give EMTS an opportunity for a reconciliation meeting, despite several requests for the same.

 

In view of the foregoing, ALTON requests RIRS and the state government to desist from any acts inimical to the normal operations of our members in the state and to unseal EMTS premises immediately to enable it to continue its operations to offer Rivers State it usual world class services, while granting EMTS audience for a reconciliation meeting at which we trust the matter would be finally resolved,” the operators said.

 

Copied are the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); National Security Adviser, (NSA); Minister of Finance; Minister of Trade & Industry and Secretary, Joint Task Board (JTB)

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Mobile Phone Makers Mark World Emoji Day with Redesigned Emoji

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Yesterday was the fifth annual World Emoji Day, started to celebrate the use of little characters in communication.

The day was created in 2014 by Jeremy Burge, an emoji historian, with 17 July chosen because that was the date shown on the Apple calendar emoji. In 2016, Google altered its calendar emoji to display the same date.

To commemorate the day, several smartphone manufacturers, including HMD Global and Apple, are releasing new or redesigned emoji for their devices.

HMD Global, the Finnish company that owns the rights to produce and sell Nokia handsets, has said its new Nokia Android smartphone range will include 60 redesigned emoji, which are exclusive to Android devices.

Meanwhile, Apple has announced that more than 70 new emoji characters are coming to iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac later this year in a free software update.

The new emoji designs include more hair options to better represent people with red hair, grey hair and curly hair, and a new emoji for bald people.

Apple will also include new smiley face emoji which will include expressions like cold face, party face, pleading face and a face with hearts.

There will also be a superhero emoji and a few more animals and food items, such as a kangaroo, peacock, parrot, lobster, mango, lettuce, cupcake and moon cake.

Emoji were first created in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita. There are now over 2 600 emoji.

According to HMD Global, the most popular emoji in the world is ‘person shrugging’, while South Africans favour the ‘kiss and wink’ emoji.

In 2015, the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year was an emoji, the ‘face with tears of joy’.

According to Emojipedia, founded by Burge, the creator of World Emoji Day, some of the most requested emoji include afro, a bagel and hands making a heart.

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High Spectrum Prices Inimical to Social Welfare in Developing Countries – Study

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Better spectrum pricing policies are needed in developing countries to improve the economic and social welfare of the billions of people that remain unconnected to mobile broadband services, according to a new report, ‘Spectrum Pricing in Developing Countries’, released by the GSMA yesterday at the Mobile 360 – Africa conference in Kigali.

The study reveals that spectrum prices in developing countries are, on average, more than three times higher than in developed countries, when income is taken into account. This high spectrum pricing is a major roadblock to increasing mobile penetration.

Authored by GSMA Intelligence, the study also found that governments are playing an active role in increasing spectrum prices to maximise state revenues from spectrum licensing.

High spectrum prices are linked to countries with high levels of sovereign debt, and alarmingly average reserve prices in spectrum auctions are more than five times higher in developing countries than in developed, once income is accounted for.

The report also identifies a link between high spectrum prices and poorer coverage, as well as more expensive and lower quality mobile broadband services, all of which hinder the take-up of services by consumers.

“Connecting everyone becomes impossible without better policy decisions on spectrum,” said Brett Tarnutzer, Head of Spectrum, GSMA. “For far too long, the success of spectrum auctions has been judged on how much revenue can be raised rather than the economic and social benefits of connecting people.

Spectrum policies that inflate prices and focus on short-term gains are incompatible with our shared goals of delivering better and more affordable mobile broadband services.

These pricing policies will only limit the growth of the digital economy and make it harder to eradicate poverty, deliver better healthcare and education, and achieve financial inclusion and gender equality.”

The GSMA study assessed over 1,000 spectrum assignments across 102 countries (including 60 developing and 42 developed countries) from 2010 through 2017, making it the largest-ever analysis into spectrum pricing in developing countries, as well as the drivers and their potential impacts of spectrum pricing on consumers.

Among the countries included in the analysis are Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, India, Jordan, Mexico, Myanmar and Thailand – all markets where spectrum licensing is a priority.

Setting high final prices administratively or setting high auction starting prices (e.g. reserve prices), artificially limiting the amount of licensed spectrum available, not sharing a clear spectrum roadmap, and setting poor auction rules are some of the policy decisions highlighted in the report that are driving high spectrum prices in developing countries.

Mobile Connectivity Index

In related news, GSMA Intelligence today launched its latest Mobile Connectivity Index, which measures the performance of 163 countries (representing 99 per cent of the world’s population) against key enablers of mobile internet adoption.

The Index highlights recent progress made on widening access to the mobile internet and explores key roadblocks to adoption, including spectrum policy.

At the end of 2017, 3.3 billion people (or 44 per cent of the global population) were connected to the mobile internet, representing an increase of almost 300 million compared to the previous year.

That still leaves more than 4 billion people offline and unable to realise the social and economic benefits that the mobile internet enables. The majority of people that remain unconnected – 3.9 billion – live in developing countries.

Mobile broadband networks still do not cover 1 billion people globally, and approximately 3 billion people who live within the footprint of a network are not currently accessing mobile internet services.

In low-income countries, around two thirds of rural populations are not covered by 3G networks.

The Mobile Connectivity Index highlights the importance of factors such as the affordability and quality of mobile broadband services, and network investment in connecting people, both of which can be impacted by high spectrum prices.

“If mobile operators don’t get affordable and predictable access to spectrum, it will be consumers who will suffer the most.

“Developing countries have the opportunity to catch up with the developed on mobile adoption; however the investment case in some of these markets is being put at risk.

“Operators cannot keep paying significantly more for spectrum when consumer incomes and expected profits are much lower in these markets. This is making network investment challenging at a time when policies should encourage the development of the mobile sector to maximise the benefits it can bring to everyone,” said Pau Castells, Director of Economic Analysis at GSMA Intelligence.

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