By Amaka Eze
Telecommunication network operators have revealed that the estimated cost of diesel to power their over 22,000 Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) across the country may have increased to N177.7 billion annually.
The huge cost on diesel, THISDAY gathered, was as a result of the poor public power situation in the country, which is indirectly impinging on the clamour for improved service quality by telecoms
The financial outlay was also influenced by market demand for the operators to maintain round-the-clock operations of their base stations to provide seamless telecoms services for the current 102 million active telephone subscribers in the country.
A BTS is a piece of equipment that facilitates wireless communication between user equipment and a service provider’s network.
THISDAY findings revealed that operators, comprising the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators and their fixed line counterparts, have had to deploy at least a power generating set to support their site.
Further checks showed that an average of eight litres of diesel was being consumed by the generating set per hour at a average retail pump price of N165 per litre, and coupled with the need to keep the generating set running for an average of 17 hours daily, telecoms operators spend about N22,440 to maintain a generator stationed at a site daily.
On a monthly basis, it costs the operators about N673,200 to keep a base station up and running and this increases to about N8 million annually.
A breakdown of numbers released by telcos showed that if the estimated N8 million spent in maintaining a base station annually is multiplied by the total number of base stations already deployed in the country - 22,000 - , it costs telecoms firms an accumulated N178 billion annually.
Some of the operators, THISDAY gathered, are embracing hybrid approach of using diesel- powered generators and solar power sources to run some of their sites.
Operators said a huge chunk of their overheads on base station maintenance is consumed by increase in cost of purchasing diesel to fuel the base stations.
Investigations showed that the operators currently have combined 22,000 heavy-duty generators, given that at each base station site, a generator is deployed to keep the site running, which is the case currently in the nation’s telecoms sector.
The capacity of the generating sets installed at each site ranges from 20KV and 25KV with at least one generator in a site.
Former President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCONS), Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, had before now, estimated that “At a pump price of N153 per litre of diesel, operators will spend N3.82bn to fuel their generators monthly and N45.9bn in 2012.”
He noted then that telecoms operators use 25 million litres of diesel monthly to fuel 20,000 generators located at over 15,000 cell sites in the country.
According to him, the increased overheads being recorded by telecoms operators in the purchase of diesel to fuel generating sets deployed to power their base stations “counts towards tariff increase and lowers quality of service."
National President, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, also said power issues had indeed necessitated two generators at each BTS sites, which is compounded by frequent theft of generators and diesel.
According to him, “The huge amount spent on diesel, generating sets and other associated expenses could otherwise be spent on network investment towards the provision of qualitative services to Nigerians”.