Airtel Blames High Call Drop Rates on Infrastructure Vandalism

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Emma Okonji

Airtel Nigeria has blamed the rising rate of telecoms drop calls on infrastructure vandalism and insurgency across networks, calling on the federal government to urgently deal with the menace of vandalism, insecurity and insurgency in order to address the current spate of dropped calls experienced by most telecommunications subscribers.

The telecoms company made the call yesterday in Lagos, while addressing journalists about its travails in providing telecoms services to Nigerians.

The Director of Corporate Communications and CSR, Airtel Nigeria, Emeka Oparah, noted that the declaration of telecoms infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure by the government would go a long way in helping to safeguard telecoms infrastructure as Airtel alone recorded 1,022 cases of fibre cuts between July 2019 and February 11, 2020.

According to him, 405 cases of the fibre cuts were as a result of road rehabilitation activities by construction workers, while 617 cases were due to vandalism.

Oparah pleaded government to come to the aid of telecoms operators as these activities have resulted in dropped calls, poor network quality, network congestion and poor user experience for telecommunications subscribers across the country.

He also urged the federal and state governments to hasten the approval process for right of way for fibre deployment as well as quicken the Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) approval process, noting that these actions would help solve the problem of network congestion and network failure.

Vice President, Network Operations, Airtel Nigeria, Dr. Adedoyin Adeola, explained that telecoms installations across the country were repeatedly vandalised, stolen, bombed and destroyed, thus creating myriad of problems for the network operators as well as the telecommunication consumers.

“Telecoms operators are plagued with so many problems, ranging from security issues to illegal signal boosters. While a network provider is working hard to restore a fibre cut due to vandalism or activities of road construction workers, it also has to deal with illegal signal boosters, which interfere with network quality and operated by unlicensed operators.

“Then, all operators would have to wait endlessly for right of way approvals, EIA approvals and other approvals. Also, telecoms installations are huge targets for thieves who cart away inverter batteries, generators, diesels in addition to other daily and long standing problems of multiple taxation, community issues, among others,” he said.

Adeola also highlighted the efforts telcos are making to remedy the situation despite the harsh operating climate, stating that steps are being taken to improve surveillance across telecoms fibre routes; proactively engage with construction companies and communities; and enlisting the support of security agencies to access sites/telecoms infrastructure in flash points or troubled areas, among many others.

He called on the government to urgently declare fibre routes as critical National Assets, contain the security challenges country-wide and improve public power availability and quality.