Business & Finance

Digital Economy: Telcoms Mull Pathway To Development


Telecommunications experts are of the view that for Nigeria to make progress in its information and communications technology (ICT) development roadmap, critical policies necessary for leapfrogging the country to a digital economy needs to be properly implemented. They agree that the time has come for the telecommunications industry to move from the real of talking to pragmatic articulation of action plans.

Action steps need to be taken in the areas of spectrum availability, broadband infrastructure build-out, right-of-way issuance and access, as well as utilisation of Universal Access Service Fund (UASF) to extend telecom services to underserved areas as well as adequate electricity supply for telecom and e-commerce growth in the country.

Mr Segun Ogunsanya, managing director/chief executive officer, Airtel Nigeria, making a presentation on ‘The State of the Nigerian Telecommunications Industry: Telco’s Perspective’ at reception organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) for the Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu called for the release of digital dividend spectrum.

He said one key step is to fast track the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting to facilitate the transfer of 700MHz spectrum band from National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to National Communications Commission (NCC) for broadband services.

He urged the Ministry of Communications and NCC to engage state governors to implement the resolution of the National Economic Council (NEC) on multiple taxation, levies and charges on ICT infrastructure in Nigeria which harmonizes taxes/levies administration for ICT infrastructure in states.

Ogunsanya said “At 149 million subscriber threshold and 108 per cent penetration (Jan 2016), telecoms plays a key role as an economic enabler and social overhead capital (SOC) with a 8.5 per cent contribution to gross national development (GDP),” adding that there is need to accord priority to foreign exchange requirements of the telecoms industry and facilitate speedy passage of critical network bill at the national assembly.

The Airtel CEO said telecoms is capable of contributing significantly to government’s objective of diversifying the economy from oil to non-oil dependence. Stronger collaboration of relevant stakeholders is required to address issues hindering the further growth of the industry.

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On his part, national president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engr Lanre Ajayi, said although the telecom industry has been identified as the fastest growing sector of the Nigerian economy and which presently contributes more eight per cent to the nation GDP, there is need for operators to buy and sell frequency spectrum to fast track infrastructure rollout.

“ATCON is of the opinion that the Nigerian market is matured enough to have a secondary spectrum market. Presently, there is large number of idle spectrums in custody of some operators while numerous investors are yearning for spectrum to roll out services. Since it takes a lot of hurdles to retrieve such spectrum from the owners, it makes sense to allow such owners sell to new buyers who may have a need for the spectrum.

“These will benefit everyone concerned. It benefits the seller, who may have challenges in rolling out after the acquisition of the spectrum. It benefits the buyer who now have spectrum to roll out services. It benefits the consumer who are now able to obtain services, it benefit government who can take in more taxes.

Ajayi however said participation at secondary market should be limited to those who obtained spectrum through competitive bidding, like auction, to avoid a scenario where people use their contact to obtain spectrum from government and sell in the secondary market.

Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu who also spoke during his reception organised by ATCON in Lagos recently noted that the expansion of our telecommunications network will therefore accelerate development across the nation. “Even for the rural or previously disadvantaged areas, access to telecommunicatio

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