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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Killing of telecom personnel: ALTON warns South-East zone

The state of insecurity in the South-Eastern part of the country is worrying the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), just as the group identified lack of security as the greatest threat to telecom infrastructure in the country, warning that this may impact negatively on the Quality of Services (QoS).

Chairman, ALTON and chief executive officer of Communication Network Support Services Limited (CNSSL), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, disclosed this at a one-day Infrastructure Roundtable hosted by BusinessDay Newspapers at Victoria Island, Lagos.

Delivering a paper on “Managed Services & Infrastructure Sharing: Implications for a safe Environment” ALTON decried the recent killing of seven personnel on duty at a Base
Transceiver Station (BTS) located at Gabby Oil, Aba Road, Abia State.

According to Adebayo, despite the advantages of both co-shared and non-co shared infrastructure, lack of security remained the most menace to equipment, infrastructure and personnel in telecoms development.

He warned that this lack of security, especially with the recent killing of personnel at BTS, while carrying out routine maintenance on a Radio Base Station site located at Gabby Oil, Aba Road, would impact immensely and negatively to the kind of quality of service to the state and South Eastern region of the country as a whole.

This, he explained, is because telecommunications operation is a round the clock and workers and contractors of ALTON member companies work 24 hours and seven days of the week.
As said by him, this unfortunate attack would impact on ability of members to provide needed 24/7 maintenance support on network infrastructure in some parts of the country.

“ALTON foresees that this development will impact severely on quality of services across the networks,” he said, lamenting that those personnel were gunned down in the BTS as well as one was shot down from the mast while attending to maintenance, describing it as sad.

Pointing out that the motive behind the killing remains unknown as the assault on the workers and security personnel were unprovoked.

“This incident has brought to the fore the state of insecurity in some parts of country, and in particular some state of the South Eastern part of Nigeria,” he decried.

He noted that on managed services-outsourcing, network sharing and hosting, the Nigerian telecoms sector has fared very well over recent years and a number of operators who commenced services much later and now competing well with the early starters have been able to do so in the market place due to the ‘time to market advantage’ offered by collocation.

Nigeria, he said, is one of the biggest and fastest growing telecom markets in Africa, and has been attracting huge foreign direct investment and yet standing at relatively low market penetration.

He emphasised that far reaching liberalization led to several companies providing virtually all kinds of telecom and Value Added Services (VAS) in the market, thus, creating jobs and business opportunities for many Nigerians.

Most of the remaining addressable market is in the rural areas where network operations are expensive due to a combination of many reasons and it is expected that collocation and sharing of infrastructure will close the gap, but warned that if the incident that resulted in the death of aforementioned personnel, then, it could take longer time to extend telecom services to these areas.

Commiserating with the families and operator for the loss of its personnel, ALTON said it’s ready to provide relevant supports to ensure that the security agencies in the country fish out those behind the killing of telecom maintenance staff in Aba.

Managed services, he said, is the practice of transferring day-to-day related management activities such as planning, organization, staffing and controlling responsibilities to any third party with the right expertise, as a method to ensure effective and efficient operations in a service organization.

On infrastructure sharing, the ALTON boss noted that among telecom service providers is becoming the requirement and process of business in the telecom industry where competitors are becoming partners in order to lower their incremental investments.

“The degree and method of infrastructure sharing varies and depending on the policy, and regulatory environment as well as forces of competition,” he said, pointing out that there are multiple options of sharing among telecom service providers, but insisted that it all depends largely on regulation and legislation.

Telecom subscribers, ALTON chief said, are the major beneficiaries of collocation as it has increased competition in the market and forced prices downwards.

“… Naturally, some service providers tend to resist collocation but the industry has come to accept that the cost advantages offered by co-sharing and collocation far outweigh the disadvantages, as such everyone now embraces it as a way forward and our Association is championing that course amongst others, to the best interest of the industry,” he said.

Collocation, he said, comes with significant reduction in Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) and recurring Operating Expenditure (OPEX).

“Today, almost 65-70 per cent of an operator’s OPEX goes towards telecom infrastructure provisioning cost,” he said, maintaining that various independent studies have shown that a telecom operator offering wireless services could save up to 30 per cent of CAPEX and 15 per cent of OPEX by sharing infrastructure.

He enumerated some of the services being co-shared by service providers to include and not limited to underground telecom cable duct on the verges of streets and highways, fibre optic cable cores, mast and towers, radio frequency spectrum and a number of passive and active elements.

Adebayo further pointed out that infrastructure at a cell site typically consists of active (electronic) components such as BTS, microwave radio equipment, switches, antennas, and transmission as well as passive (non-electronic) components including the tower, shelter, air-conditioning equipment, diesel electric generators, batteries, electrical supply systems and technical premises.

ITRealms Online recalls that penultimate Thursday; seven persons were killed by unknown gunmen during an attack at a Base Transmission Station (BTS) located at the Gabby Oil Aba Road, Aba, Abia State.

A report made to MTN Nigeria Communications by the Project Manager for Aba, who was identified as Mr. Valentine, and sighted by ITRealms Online, indicated that those killed during the incident included two petrol seal engineers, one driver, two mobile policemen, a rigger on top of the tower and the site security guard.

He noted that six persons where instantly shot dead by the gunmen at the BTS, while the second petrol seal engineer was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital.

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