NCC Moves to Restore Fixed Line Telephony

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Emma Okonji

Worried about the continued decline in fixed line subscription, which is currently put at 348, 933 with a teledensity 0.01 per cent, as against the rising trend in mobile telephony that has reached the 149 million active subscriber mark, with a teledensity of 107 per cent, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said the wide margin was due to total neglect for fixed line telephony.

As a result, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said there was need for the country to revitalise fixed line telephony, saying that should be a complementary telecommunication service to the mobile telephony.

Danabatta, who spoke in Abuja at a press conference to mark his one year anniversary achievement at NCC, blamed the continued decline in fixed line telephony on total neglect for fixed line telephony by the telecoms operators and the subscribers.

According to him, before the advent of digital technology in 2001, which ushered in the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), Nigerians were using fixed line telephony, otherwise known as landline service, but suddenly neglected it for mobile digital telephony.

“In developed countries of the world, mobile telephony runs side by side with fixed line telephony and I see no reason why Nigerians had to dump fixed line for mobile telephony,” Danbatta said.
He said the NCC had to save Visafone, one of the surviving Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operator, offering fixed line services from total collapse, by approving the acquisition of 100 per cent shareholding of the company by MTN. He said that singular intervention saved Visafone from going into extinction as telecoms service provider. He, however, said NCC deliberately did not approve MTN’s request to acquire Visafone spectrum licence to avoid the issue of becoming a dominant player in the telecoms industry. He said NCC would, in a later date, organise a public forum, where the issue of spectrum licence belonging to Visafone would be discussed.

He assured telecoms subscribers and operators that the NCC would continue to protect their interests, as a regulator that believes in transparency.

Counting his achievements in the last one year as the CEO of NCC, Danbatta said broadband remained the fulcrum on which the commission’s 8-point agenda stands, and that broadband penetration has improved from 10 per cent penetration in 2013 to 14 per cent penetration in 2016. He said Nigeria would certainly meet up with the 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018, as projected by the country’s National Broadband Plan.

He further quoted documents recently released by the International Telecoms Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which state that the Nigerian mobile broadband penetration has reached 20.95 per cent.

He said one of the key ingredients for successful implementation of broadband penetration, is the availability of a robust regulatory framework, upon which an appropriate strategy could be based.
“We have been able to articulate a regulatory framework that will enable strategic and systematic licensing and deployment of broadband infrastructure across the country. A broadband implementation and monitoring committee has also been established within the commission to give proper assessment on regular basis of broadband infrastructure deployment,” Danbatta said.
He also said NCC encouraged the re-farming of previous frequencies in order to improve on their efficiency.

“Through the process, some service providers, who were hitherto providing services on the 1800MHz spectrum band, have been allowed to re-farm and deploy services on the 4G LTE technology band. Through this, NCC has been able to revive some of the companies whose services have been hampered by the characteristics of the frequencies,” Danbatta said.

He explained that spectrum monitoring has improved to ensure sanity in the industry, and that NCC currently deployed four Anmtsu Spectrum Analysers, leading to more efficiency in radio spectrum monitoring.