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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

MTN moves Nigeria forward with fibre optic

Features of the week:

Last Thursday marked a rebirth of MTN network in the country with the commissioning of its three-phased national Fibre Optic Transmission Network (FOTN) in Abuja, in determination to move Nigeria and Nigerians ahead. REMMY NWEKE who was there reports.


“Investment in infrastructure is the key to sustainable
development,”
says Ms Lyndall Shope-Mafole.

The Director-General, Department of Communications, South Africa, Ms Lyndall Shope-Mafole made this assertion at the 10th Highway Africa conference held in Grahamstown, in her paper, “Making South Africa a global leader in harnessing ICT for socio-economic development,” last month.

This seems to explain the continued investment of the South African companies led by the like of MTN Group in infrastructure on the continent; the latest of which was the investment of over $300m on national Fibre Optic Transmission Network (FOTN) in Nigeria.

The telecommunications giant and leading Global System for Mobile (GSM) operator on the continent, MTN Group, it was gathered invested in excess of $300 million.

Revealing this much at a colourful launch of the network in the nation’s capital Abuja, the Group President cum chief executive, MTN Group, Mr. Phuthuma Nhleko, informed penultimate Thursday, that the backbone infrastructure is a necessity for telecommunications development and network expansion precisely.

He also disclosed that the group was considering the issue of seamless roaming on the continent and was emphatic that seamless roaming will avail subscribers lots of advantages such as in the West African sub-region where the telco has operations to move across borders without communication hitches.

As said by him, this figure is merely “cost of transmission and only 10 per cent of what we have invested in the country on network basis,” noting that the switching backbone is very important for telecommunications operations.

“Because without the transmission backbone, you’re limiting the amount of penetration we can have in a country, while maintaining reasonable service, so this is very crucial,” he asserted.

Welcoming guests to the occasion, chairman, MTN Nigeria, Dr. Pascal Dozie, described the backbone infrastructure as the largest of its kind in Africa with the highest capacity in Nigeria as of date, saying that MTN is renowned for setting pace for others to follow.

“Our commitment to the Nigerian people is best demonstrated on level of investment,” he affirmed.

Emphasizing that right from inception five years ago, MTN Nigeria has established a remarkable track record of undisputed leadership in the telecommunications sector in the country.

MTN, he said, has excelled in diverse areas which have also had a powerful influence on the life of millions of Nigerians through service delivery based on cutting edge technology deployment, innovative products, life-changing promotions, sponsorships and award winning social investment initiatives among others.

The telco’s entrance into Nigeria, he said, “was at a time when many others were apprehensive, but because MTN saw the formidable developmental potentials in the country and took all necessary steps to unleash it.”

Dr. Dozie also said that history alone could adequately assess the level of skill transfer to scores of young Nigerian engineers during the planning, design and building of its Y’ello Bahn launch in 2003 and now the fibre optic network, which has the ability to accommodate over 5 million simultaneous calls, data and multimedia transmission all at once.

“We deliberately ensured a strong local content in implementing the project with over 60 per cent of the engineers involved in executing the job being Nigerians,” he said.

The bold investment, according to the chief marketing and customer relations officer at MTN Nigeria, Mr. Bola Akingbade, as he told audience at the Ladi Kwali hall venue that the move was the desire to democratise access to quality telephony services across the length and breadth of its network nationwide and in response to its avowed customer-friendly initiative.

He also said that it is a major instrument for moving MTN customers ahead in their world with availability of variety of benefits for the entire cross-section of “our ever-growing customer base.”

For the individual MTN subscriber, he said that the national fibre optic backbone would avail positive changes in experiences that are expected in improved speech quality, better short messaging services (SMS) response time, reduction in congestion and dropped calls as well as the ability to carry far more traffic.

And for corporate bodies, their experiences, he outlined would transform to unlimited transmission capacity, appreciable reduction in transmission error, extra accurate customer billing system and superior data offering.

Explaining further on the fibre optic scheme, General Manager, Access Network, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Lance Dickerson, said the backbone process began 18 months ago as an expansion project on the network, describing it as the most ambitious project to date since it launched the 4,500 kilometres Y’ello Bahn based on microwave backbone in January 2003.

Phases one and two, he said, constitute a total of 2,420km and the addition of phase three avails the additional 1,116km of fibre to the project, bringing a total of 3,536km to the network.

The backbone, he also said has been segmented into three main phases out of which, the first and second phases were completed prior to the launch, while the third phase will be finished before the end of this year.

Mr. Dickerson further said the backbone ring covers Lagos-Benin-Asaba-Port Harcourt-Enugu-Abuja-Ibadan-Lagos, just as the ring has before now commenced carrying of live traffic.

Elated Communications Minister, Dr. Obafemi Anibaba, could not hide his joy as he declared “MTN has done a great thing in Nigeria” with the launch of the backbone, stressing that by the time he pressed the button to commission the network, he realised that the ring is for telecommunications and not roads.

He implored telcos to ensure they send their technical staff to the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) for training, praying that as “You continue to develop manpower in Nigeria, God would continue to bless your business.”

Equally, he tasked MTN to invest in the rural telephony out of the profits made from the urban centres and went further to enjoin the group President to table his request as they move ahead and challenged the telco to also sustain its pace of growth.

For the chief executive, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Ahmed Farroukh, there are lots of people and corporations to thank mostly the federal Ministry of Works controllers particularly in Imo, Anambra and Abia states for their truly understanding cooperation.

“I must also thank the state ministry of works in Lagos, Enugu, Delta, Benue, Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Imo and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),” Mr. Farroukh said, emphasising that their support for contractors especially in facilitating cordial relations with the various host communities has been remarkable.

He did not leave out the northern states of Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, and Bauchi states as work on the third phase advances.

Like one of the guests declared, this backbone is really a way of moving Nigeria ahead aside from aligning itself to the call by Ms Shope-Mafole for African investors to optimise this opportunity by investing in infrastructure in order to sustain development on the continent.

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