Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nigeria: NCC calls for the sharing of infrastructure to improve quality of service for customers

[daily independent] Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ernest Ndukwe, has urged telecom operators in the country to embrace infrastructure sharing through co-location, as a means of improving network quality.

According to him, insufficient base stations (BTS) across the country, largely account for the high rate of network congestion across networks.

Speaking at a co-location forum organised by Telecom Answers Associates in collaboration with the NCC in Lagos last week, Ndukwe said unless operators are able to rollout 40,000 base stations across the country, which he said is the projected target by the end of 2010, operators will continue to face network congestion problems, since subscribers' growth is on the increase. He decried the present number of base stations in the country, which he puts at 14, 000 for GSM operators and 2, 400 for CDMA operators, while urging operators to as a matter of urgency, consider fast rollout of base stations and towers across the country, in order to meet the projected target of 40, 000 base stations in 2010.

"Operators should take co-location and infrastructure sharing very seriously and make it a policy to promote infrastructure sharing because it will boost telecommunication in the country," Ndukwe said, adding that infrastructure sharing is the next level, since it has the potentials to improve quality of service across networks.

In his welcome address, Managing Consultant, Telecom Answers Associates, Titi Omo-Etu said the forum was organized to bring together, the thinking, experiences and views of industry players for the development of infrastructure sharing and co-location in the Nigerian telecoms industry.

Network development, Omo-Ettu said, is a major aspect of telecommunication investment and that such investment is fixed, sunk and generally irreversible. Speaking on the benefits of co-location, Omo-Ettu said infrastructure sharing can among the things, reduce cost of spreading base stations.

Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo who was pleased with co-location forum, said the initiative, if embraced by all telecom operators, will help in improving network quality across networks.

Telecom operators have been in the habit of rolling out services, without due consideration for base station rollout or co-locating with other operators, a situation that has led to network congestion and high rat of drop calls across networks.

Recently, MTN announced it has attained 25 million subscribers' mark on its network, without disclosing the record of its current number of base stations across the country.

In the same vein, Globacom had in December 2008, announced it has attained 22 million subscriber on its network, but did not give details of the extent to which it has expanded its base stations. At the last official statement on subscriber number, Zain announced late last year that it has recorded over 20 million subscribers on its network.

On the total, telecom subscribers' number both with the GSM and CDMA operators, is over 70 million. NCC had last year, announced 64 million, but subscriber number keeps appreciating on a daily basis, while quality of service remains on the decrease.

An insider from one of the telecom companies, who chose to remain anonymous, disclosed that telecom operators do not rollout base stations the same way they rollout services in various communities, a reason, he gave rise to poor quality of service.

Although he refused to disclose the current number of base stations the company has, he said it will be difficult to release such figure for two reasons.

One of the reasons, he said, is the fear of being taxed by government on every base station. The second reason, according to him, is that of the public perception that electromagnetic emissions from base stations pose health risk, especially to those living close to telecom base stations.

He further explained that most telecom operators do no longer invest on base stations, but rent from already built ones by Helios Towers and IHS Limited, the two famous telecom infrastructure companies in the country. He said since the issue of co-location was taken seriously by NCC, operators now rent base stations and mount their antennae on them. He equally disclosed that operators are concentrating more on laying fibre optic cables underground and later connect them to the few existing base stations for data and voice transmissions.

Should telecom operators take the issue of co-location seriously as currently being canvassed by NCC, there is sure hope that the combination of co-location and fibre optic laying will put an end to network congestion before the 2010.

Ndukwe Tasks Operators On Co-location, Traces Congestion To Insufficient BTS

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