Assign Temporary Spectrum to Operators to Address Poor Network Availability, ATCON Tells FG

Olusola Teniola

The President, Association of Telecommunications Company of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola, has called on the federal government to assign temporary spectrum to some operators to address poor network availability.

Spectrum refers to the radio frequencies on which data and information are carried.

In a statement, Teniola said: “We believe strongly in government incentivising and putting in place measures that will improve our members’ ability to render improved quality of service (QoS) and customer experience to those that are working remotely and especially those workers that are directly supporting the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The assignment of temporary spectrum to operators that have acquired spectrum through NCC is fully supported and ATCON believes that this will be a great gesture by government in aiding the delivery of internet services to households.

“NCC can allow a three-month period or window of usage to all operators that currently are using the spectrum assigned and allocated to them just like they allow new technologies to be tested on the spectrum on a trial basis over a three-month period.

“It is important to also highlight the fact that all spectrum in Nigeria has already been allocated for 2G, 3G and 4G type services and it would be very challenging for government to find and allocate an amount of extra bandwidth when this bandwidth doesn’t exist as spare. So even though it is a great idea/concept, the reality suggests otherwise.”

He identified the direction telecommunications services should focus on against the backdrop of Covid-19 lockdown experience going forward.

According to him, “Government needs to really focus on two key areas to address any issues surrounding quality of service (QoS); firstly, the FOREX issue needs CBN intervention and ATCON calls on the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy to assist in intervening with the Finance Minister in working out a framework where our members have reasonable access to USD$ to fund the much-needed increase in capital required to fund capacity expansion at this time.

“Secondly, it is very obvious that FDI has almost disappeared in the sector over the last 12 months on a year-on-year comparative basis and a stimulus or injection of fresh funds needs to occur to support the CAPEX programmes that address the purchase of additional equipment (such as base stations, installation of towers, and core networks) required.

“Finally, government can also remove all bottlenecks in key regions such as Lagos State and the FCT where the highest number of Covid-19 cases have been reported to ease the red tape in site acquisitions in both Lagos and FCT in particular.”

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, has a contrary opinion, as he believes that the way out of the challenge is for operators to build more headroom to accommodate the upsurge in service demand and meet the capacity requirements of subscribers.

In a note, he said: “It’s more work to be done by all stakeholders.”

Mobile operators have long argued that access to spectrum will help reduce the cost of mobile data because it will allow them to cover a wider geographical area with existing towers while carrying more data traffic.