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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Nigerians clamour for affordable fixed lines

FOR the second national operator (SNO) Globacom, events in recent times depict audacious statements of its preparedness to take the telephony landscape by storm, reports CHARLES OKOH.

With the recent coming of its Glo 1 cable, the telco last week, followed with the launch of its fixed line service codenamed ‘Glo Broad Access.’

The launch is seen by industry observers as filling the void created by the inability of the first national operator (NITEL) after many years of operations.

Since the inception of NITEL until it became plagued by the burden of inefficiency and administrative bottlenecks which is the hallmark of government’s foray into businesses, the national operator could only achieve about 500,000 lines across the length and breadth of the federation.

Unlike other climes where the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) came after fixed lines, the reverse is the case in the country. Therefore, there is the fear by industry stakeholders on the health implication on a society that is almost completely dependent on GSM.

Granted that there is no conclusive evidence of the effect of electromagnetic radiation on health, experts are quick to warn that there is a need to exercise caution, since the implication, if any eventually, could take several years to manifest.

Recently at a stakeholders forum in Lagos, the chief regulator of the industry and Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe said because the nation did not catch up with the rest of the world on fixed lines, GSM has turned out to be the only way out for a communication-starved Nigerians.

Also, at the event some experts equally cautioned on the use of more than one GSM lines at the same time. Equally, parents were warned on the need to moderate the level to which their wards are exposed to the GSM as a preemptive measure.

The implication of the scenario is that the average person relies on GSM from when he wakes up in the morning at home to when he is in the office and eventually gets back at home for 24 hours, year-in and year-out.

The introduction of this new service by Globacom will bring the nation closer to the advanced worlds that have benefited from broadband services which include convergence of high speed internet and video and television at very low cost.

Responding to this development, a cross section of Nigerians expressed excitement on the development, provided, they argued, it would be cheaper to maintain.

For Chidi Okezie, a librarian, it is a good and welcome development that should be cheaper to maintain since it would be powered by the Glo 1 cable.

According to him, the operator should be encouraged by government to enable it offer Nigerians rock-bottom telephony services.

Also reacting, Mr Sina Adebowale,a public affairs analyst, said it will be healthy for the industry and if it will be cheap and affordable to subscribers then, it will be desirable at homes and the offices.

Joseph Nnaji, a trader at the Trade Fair Complex, said he will be interested in anything that will see tariff come down and if this will ensure that, then, it is welcome.

Femi Layinka, a student, said the cost will determine if he will be interested or not. You will observe that there is hardly any difference between costs among these service providers. They simply play around with figures. “Fixed lines should be by far cheaper else the essence will be defeated,” he said.

Commenting also, Mr. Jimoh Olatunde, commercial bus driver, it will be good if it is cheap. According to him, he already has three lines, two for himself and one for his wife. “To add another will mean more cost. And for me to add that I will drop one of mine and get the fixed line if it is cheaper to maintain,” he declared.

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