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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Broadband deployment: Stakeholders canvass bail-out for ICT sector

Core stakeholders in the nation’s Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector have canvassed for a bail-out for the industry, particularly in deployment of broadband.

Those leading this call include the chairman of pioneer Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the country, Linkserve Limited, Chief Chima Onyekwere, president of ATCON and his counterpart in the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, among others.

They made this call at the weekend during a breakfast with the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) organized by the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) in Lagos.

For Chief Onyekwere, the ICT regulator, NCC, should have a bail-out fund for various operators within the ICT sector in the country.

He noted that even if today Nigeria deploys broadband nationwide, there is still challenges of compatible user premises equipment for it to be put to use.

“Though if you have developed broadband nationwide, it may not be well accepted due to lack of user premises equipment,” he said, stressing that operators in the industry need subsidy.

“A subsidy from NCC will help a great deal,” he declared.

Onyekwere pointed out that in South Korea and America, governments have assisted immensely in deployment of broadband in their various countries and urged the Nigerian government to queue into this process to move the ICT industry in the country forward, especially if the nation is still desirous of meeting her Vision 20-2020.

In his goodwill message at the occasion, the chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, noted that voice only and scratch card companies are no longer in business, so much so most of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are no longer operational.

He lamented the fact that in addressing issues of national importance like the kind of meeting President Goodluck Jonathan, held last week in Lagos, without an ICT agenda, simply because those at leadership of this country likewise most Nigerians think that all is well with telecommunications or ICT sector.

“We started early to celebrate the revolution of telecommunications, especially with the advent of GSM,” he said.

He proposed that his group and ATCON would join hands to come up with guidelines to help the government and its agencies to understand what is going on within the ICT, which would expose them to some of the challenges.

He however, listed some of these challenges to include lack of right of way, electricity, vandalisation of telecom infrastructure, multiple taxation by various second and third tiers of government respectively, whom he alleged see telecommunications as a cash-cow.

Adebayo also suggested that EVC of NCC may have to go cap-in hand to the relevant authorities of government to enlighten them and show factors depicting that all is not well with the industry, especially the operators.

He went on to urge NCC to probably secure right of way from the Federal Ministry of Works and Environment and offer that as part of the Federal Government’s Broadband initiative like WIRE Nigeria, in order to save the operators the trouble of leaving their competence and be chasing one local government and ministries from the other.

Corroborating the chairman of ALTON, his counterpart in the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, declared that it has not been too rosy for the sector as Nigerians were made to believe.

He said that they saw it as a challenge that would be faced, Omo-Ettu assured that ATCON would partner ALTON in detailing challenges facing the industry and channel it to the industry regulatory, who in turn has the liberty to send it to the Federal Ministry of Information and Communication for onward presentation to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) which is the apex FG implementation organ in the country.

In his remarks, the EVC of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah advised various industry interest groups in the sector to come together so as to encourage the government and its agencies and ministries to take them more seriously, especially on their position in moving the industry forward.

He pledged that appropriate recommendations made to his commission would be channeled to the relevant quarters such as the ministry for actions.

Though, he doubted the interest of the government to come up with a bail out, Juwah did not dismiss the plea for bail-out by the stakeholders.

“We believe government can intervene and should not be seen in a competitive manner,” he said.

Remmy Nweke:
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