Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Co-location is good, but ... ALTON

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has said that it is not against any concept that could lead to co-location of infrastructure among players, but this must be structured to be viable.

ALTON is the umbrella body of telecom operators in the country with over 28 active members out of the over 40 operators currently existing nationwide.

Disclosing this at the end of its meeting in Lagos, recently, ALTON said that it is not against the co-location idea being suggested by some stakeholders and precisely by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).

ALTON speaking through its chairman, Mr Gbenga Adebayo, said that the group is fully in support of the plan, but that it must adhere to technological feasibility and commercially viability.

“We reiterate our belief in co-location, but not via a commercially unviable and technologically unfeasible process,” he noted.

Mr. Adebayo also said that ALTON welcomes constructive dialogue, engagement and consultation with all stakeholders and request for an immediate cessation of the destruction and demolition of network infrastructure by government agencies.

ALTON equally called for a review and eventual abolition of illegal, arbitrary and punitive taxes and levies for network infrastructure and operation in the FCT and other states of the federation.

“We call for an industry driven co-location process supervised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC),” he said.

ALTON chairman further said that the group plans to organize stakeholders’ workshops, where it plans to breakdown some pertinent industry issues and proffer solutions.

In addition, ALTON decried that no handset is currently being manufactured in the country despite the exceptional growth recorded in the last six years of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM).

“Handsets are not made here, exchange equipment are not made here, even the fibre optic cables are not made here, and the more we have this kind of difficulties in our operating environment, the more foreign investors will be scared away from coming to invest, even on those value added services or those other services that are required to grow telecom networks,” he said.

Mr. Adebayo urged Nigerians to see operators as drivers of the economy, adding that ALTON is trying all means possible to enlighten the government and populace on what its members are facing.

“We regard ourselves as the driver of the economy, as prime movers of the economy,” he said.

He pointed out that though everybody has the right to complain about the quality of service, but this is part of the challenges operators are going through on daily basis.

“Quality of service certainly is also a challenge to us as operators, but we’re also challenged by the fact that there are no adequate infrastructure in existence,” he said.

He lamented that, operators most of the time run their businesses on private generating sets rather than the public power supply, which has remained epileptic.

“Electricity supply is still a problem. Practically, we have to run cell sites and remote situations on generators on 24/ 7 basis,” he said.

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