Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Seamless service: Africa needs fibre optic without borders – Ndukwe


The Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, has advocated for a cross border fibre optic project through the continent of Africa.

Speaking at a press conference in Lagos, Saturday, to herald the end of the 2009 Nigerian Telecom Awards, as a guest lecturer, Dr. Ndukwe, who dwelt on ‘Using Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to develop and unite Africa’ noted that in order to avert the kind of experience recently witnessed in the industry, especially in Nigeria where services fall below expectation due to a cut on the South Atlantic 3 (SAT-3) there is an urgent need for African countries to embark on laying of fibre optic across its shores.

He pointed out that in a situation where there is an optic fibre cable across Africa, that as soon as any cut is experienced like in the Contonou axis, for instance, the affected country could easily switch over to the nearest country of Togo or even Chad.

He explained that the cut leg of the Contonou SAT-3 was from where the backbone company, Suburban got its link, basically due to incessant cutting of the Nigerian Telecommunications plc (NITEL) part of the SAT, which has been too frequent and gave rise for the Nigeria-based company to reach out to nearby Contonou, in order to cushion the short-falls of NiTEL SAT-3.

Ndukwe insisted that though in this case NITEL SAT-3 was not affected at all, but with the proposed African fibre optic, such incidents could easily be checkmated in matter of a few hours rather than the current situation whereby a ship has to travel from all the way to the point of repair, which could take up to two weeks before the subject matter or actual repair could even commence.

The cross border fibre optic initiative, the EVC said, would facilitate a borderless telecommunications service like the one-network scheme of Zain, which is one of the proud networks on the continent.

While also advocating that apart from telecommunications, other relevant sectors that boost the economic development, like power should as well be encouraged to be fashioned in this way.

This is because whenever there is a cable cut like that of SAT-3 recently, the entire country seem cut off from the world of telecommunications, which has become a life-wire of today’s world, elucidating that when a major cable like SAT-3 is cut, it is like the cutting of a major arthries in human is severed, thus resulting in low quality of service and eventually leading to customer dissatisfaction.
“No country is self-sufficient in ICT,” he declared, stressing that there must be a link between every country on the continent.

He maintained that with the African fibre optic without border in place, there is no time ICT services would go down, emphasizing that the need for interdependence among African countries.

Just as he called on government, operators and other stakeholders on the continent to embrace the concept so as to ensure seamless service delivery to the people of Africa.

“I would like governments, operators and stakeholders to encourage this – initiative – all over Africa,” he asserted.

Ndukwe expressed optimism that this latest proposal would form part of his major contributions at public engagements with various governments, operators and even fellow regulators under the African Telecommunications Union (ATU).

This is coming as he enjoined African Union (AU) to reposition ATU in terms of helping it to stand firm and focused in the current scheme of things and take the mantle as expected of an assemblage of African regulators by delving into core technology research and development that would ultimately accelerate benefits for the populace on the continent.

He added that by this, ATU would be relevant and contribute optimally in technological development of the African people.

“Fibre is more reliable in providing robust telecom infrastructure and as we always say, telecom is the infrastructure of infrastructure,” he maintained.

In his speech at the occasion, chairman of the 2009 telecom awards and former President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, urged African leaders to always talk to each other so as to bring about meaningful development to their countries and the continent.

For him, he had since realized that communication over long distances especially across national frontiers required a lot of joint effort and collaboration between partner countries and entities engaged in providing such services.

“Of great importance is the need to ensure uniform standards of service through the spectrum, thus giving rise to bilateral and multilateral cooperation and agreements,” he said.

Kabbah identified telecommunications as a natural unifier and a platform on which countries and providers of equipment and services must collaborate for purposes of complementarity across borders and even within borders among operating parties.

“When we speak about the world being a global village, we are simply talking about how much the world has contracted both in time and space through developments in telecommunications,” he observed.

The event was attended by former President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Tejan Kabbah, Ambassador Olusola, former Minister of Information, Chief Alex Akinyele.

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