Telecoms operators under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) have described the recent directive given to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) by the Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, to implement the two per cent call-drop rate across all telecoms networks, as a tall order, insisting that the federal government must first address the challenges of the telecoms sector.
But despite the opposition by the operators, NCC has vowed to enforce the policy.
The minister, had in his maiden media briefing held in Abuja recently, urged the NCC, one of the five parastatals under the ministry, to among other things, enforce the implementation process of achieving a two per cent call-drop rate across all networks and had threatened to sanction any parastatal that failed to enforce the directive.
Pantami had said achieving the target would help in addressing challenges associated with poor service quality delivery in the telecoms sector.
He was worried that since the idea to achieve two per cent call-drop rate was introduced last year, the NCC has not been able to enforce it and achieve it across all networks.
However, the telecoms operators called on the minister to focus on addressing challenges that have been impeding the achievement of the target rather than addressing the effect.
Chairman of ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, told THISDAY that the telecoms industry had always been faced with myriad of challenges that must be addressed by government if government expects better performance from the operators.
He listed some of the challenges to include denial of Right of Way (RoW) by government agencies, insufficient network capacities, multiple taxes, incessant closure of telecoms sites by government agencies and wilful destruction of telecoms facilities by social miscreants, among others.
“These challenges have slowed down telecoms network expansion across networks and we do not have support systems at all times like power, national backbone infrastructure that will facilitate transmission of network capacities and connectivity, coupled with insecurity around telecoms infrastructure,” Adebayo said.
According to him, the issue of RoW has slowed down network expansion in Abuja and other cities, a situation that would make it difficult to achieve two per cent call-drop rate in Abuja and its environs.
“Again, the incessant closure of telecoms sites in some states by the orders of state governments will continue to make it extremely difficult to achieve the two per cent call-drop rate in those states. So, while it is possible to achieve the two per cent call-drop rate in some few states and locations, it is impossible to achieve it in several other states and locations where the challenges are high,” Adebayo said.
He, therefore, called on the federal government to as a matter of urgency, press it on the National Assembly to pass the Critical National Infrastructure Bill before it, to enable the pronouncement of telecoms infrastructure as critical national security and economic infrastructure that needs government protection.
Adebayo equally called on the federal government to pass an Executive Order on telecoms infrastructure to facilitate the protection of such infrastructure.
But the NCC has said it will continue to monitor the networks and enforce strict compliance in the process of achieving the two per cent call drop rate across all networks.
Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, told THISDAY in an interview yesterday that the commission has service quality regulations as spelt out in its Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and would continue to enforce such regulations across all networks.
“NCC understands that there are challenges facing telecoms operators, but we will address all identified challenges and ensure that telecoms operators have the enabling environment to operate in.
“As a regulator, we will ensure that all vandalised masts are rebuilt and all damaged fibre optic cables replaced. Regulations are subsidiary laws enacted by government that must be obeyed, but even at that, NCC will continue to identify industry challenges and work with relevant government agencies to address them,” he added.