The Chief Executive of Phase3 Telecoms, Mr. Stanley Jegede, spoke with Emma Okonji in Bangkok, Thailand, recently about Nigeria’s participation at the ITU Telecom World Conference and how the country could continue to attract foreign direct investment. Excerpts:
Nigeria’s active participation at ITU Telecom World 2016 conference in Bangkok, Thailand has received commendations from global investors. What are the indices that could attract more foreign investors to Nigeria?
Global investors have continued to commend Nigeria’s active participation at the ITU Telecom World conference, which attracted over 25,000 participants and telecoms regulators from over 120 countries. The fact is that there are existing investors in Nigeria and they have been in the country for a long period of time. What has attracted them and has kept them in Nigeria over these years, is the returns on their investments and the returns on investments will continue to keep them and also attract more investors, despite the challenges we face as a nation. But one thing that is clear is that no country is immune to challenges, what matters is how the country manages the challenges, using technology. Nigeria has its own unique challenges such as lack of infrastructure, corruption, insecurity among others and government is doing everything within its powers to address the challenges. So investors should see more of the positive side of the country than the negative side.
I encourage foreign and local investors to invest in Nigeria because there are lots of opportunities and the opportunities still exist.
One of the challenges doing telecoms business in Nigeria is the access gap to telecoms infrastructure. How can it be addressed to attract more Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs)?
Yes, there are some clusters that exist where infrastructure is not available and I see it as an opportunity for investors to tap into and invest in such areas. There are some areas in the country that people do not have access to telecoms infrastructure and there is need to bridge the access gap by investing in telecoms infrastructure in such identified areas.
Now the gap still exists because operators are not willing to go to such areas to invest because it does not make economic sense to invest in such areas.
What government should do to address the situation, is to continue to give incentives to operators to build infrastructure in such areas and once those areas have enough infrastructure, other operators will be willing to invest there and do profitable business there. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator in Nigeria is giving such incentives, through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF).
What are such incentives that could bridge access gap in telecoms infrastructure?
Incentives could be in the form of offering the operators, certain percentage of the total cost of what it will take the operators to build infrastructure in rural areas. It is to encourage and enable them to invest in rural communities. Tax holidays is another form of incentive that should be encouraged.
Phase3 Telecoms was part of Nigeria’s delegation to this year’s ITU Telecom World conference. What is the contribution of your company to telecoms development in Nigeria?
We have been in existence since 2003 and we have built out unique infrastructure that leverages on power utility and our goal is to continue to build broadband infrastructure to remote parts and unserved parts of the country.
We operate open network system and our infrastructure is used by all telecoms operators.
Going forward, we see the need for converged services, where not only telecoms operators leverage on our infrastructure, but also associated sectors that see the importance of convergence with telecoms.
What makes your service offering different from your competitors?
We are unique in the sense that our operations are different from the operations of our competitors in the area of underground fibre laying, where our competitors have to escalate the earth to lay fibre cables. But what we do is to suspend our fibre cables on the high voltage of 132 and 330 KVA lines and we deploy them using choppers and most times we use power line engineers that are well trained in deploying such infrastructure. So it offers us the reliability that others do not have.
Do you consider the risk of vandals destroying your cables that are exposed and accessible?
Yes, we are aware of the risk of damage by vandals, like it used happen in the past, but we have put high level security checks in place along our power lines and that has helped us a lot in protecting the cables from willful destruction by social miscreants.
How much of investments have gone into this?
We have invested millions of dollars in this and we are still investing. We see the need to connect Nigeria to other West African countries and we are building infrastructure from Nigeria to Niger and that infrastructure will be completed soon. Already, we have connected Benin Republic and Togo on the same power utility.
Nigerians and the NCC have been insisting on collaboration among network operators, in order to reduce operational cost and to deepen network expansion. What is your take on this?
Yes, there is need for partnership with other operators that have presence where we do not have presence, but where we cannot find trusted partners, then we will go ahead to do the investment all alone, even though such investment is capital intensive.
Phase3 Telecoms has been involved in telecoms infrastructural development. How will this development transcends economic growth and job creation?
Building out infrastructure has benefits in terms of economic growth for job creation, efficiency, better security and we think it is our responsibility as Nigerians to ensure that the infrastructure is built to serve our people. We are collaborating with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on a number of programmes to facilitate relationships that will further enhance telecoms infrastructural development in the country and we will continue to build our infrastructure to enable us have a fully connected Nigeria.
So what is the expansion plan of Phase3 Telecoms, in relation to telecoms infrastructural development?
We are based in Abuja, but we have expanded our services across the 36 states of the country. We are long haul operator, but we drop our cables at some points and build out metro capacity in areas where our customers exist. So we have both long haul infrastructure and metro infrastructure, and we are able to cover all the 36 states of the country.
Phase3 has been recognised with several awards. What are the success factors?
Yes, we have won and received several awards and the success factor for us as a company is that we have a dedicated team of staff that have been with the company for over 10 years and the members are dynamic, innovative and smart and they have done so well to remain on top of their game. So I dedicate the awards to them for raising and maintaining the bar in customer satisfaction.
We are backend service providers and African largest operators rely on us for high level service agreement that enable them to transmit data from one part of the country to another, while servicing their customers. In the process of serving clients better, we get recognition in form of awards and we are happy getting the awards.