By Emma Okonji
As Nigeria celebrates her Diamond Jubilee today, having clocked 60 years of Independence, some telecom operators and subscribers have said despite the challenges, the sector has recorded unprecedented growth in the last ten years.
Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, while responding to telecoms development since Independence, told THISDAY that the sector, like every other sector of the Nigerian economy, had its challenges. He however said the challenges were products of the growth and development processes that brought telecoms to its limelight in recent times.
According to Adebayo, “Our challenges in the telecoms sector in the last 60 years, were products of growth and development. We had challenges in power supply, telecoms infrastructure rollout among others, but government, in recent times, showed its political will to develop the telecoms sector.
“At a time growth in telecoms was hindered by lack of adequate power supply, vulnerability, destruction of telecoms facilities during roads construction and willful destruction of the telecoms sector, which affected widespread rollout of telecoms infrastructure, but all that were products of growth and development, which we have gained in the last 10 years.
“We also had issues with spectrum allocation, which was another challenge as a result of growth and development of the telecoms sector. We have the National Spectrum Management Council established by government to look at the challenges and even distribution of spectrum in the telecoms sector.
“The challenges were there but they were not unusual. The kind of growth we have had in the telecoms industry, passed through some challenges, which were products of growth and development, and today we can beat our hands on our chest and say that telecoms activities have really grown well in Nigeria, cutting across all sectors of the Nigerian economy.”
What we lost in 50 years as a country, we have gained it in the last 10 years. In essence, we have reasons to be happy as we celebrate Nigeria at 60, having gained what was lost in the past decades in terms of telecoms infrastructure and development, Adebayo said.
Citing vision 2020, Adebayo said only the telecoms sector surpassed the target that was set 10 years ago. According to him, the Vision 2020 target was that by 2020, we should have 50 million lines, “but today we have surpassed the 100 million mark in telecoms subscriptions in terms of the number of registered subscribers and number of lines across all networks. There were doubt 10 years ago that Nigeria cannot register 50 million lines by 2020, but we have surpassed that today.
“At 60 years of Independence, I think players in the telecoms sector have done very well in terms of telecoms growth and development,”Adebayo said.
National Chairman, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, who also corroborated with telecoms operators about the unprecedented growth in the telecoms sector, however called on government to provide more support to further deepen telecoms development in the country.
Citing statistics from the website of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ogunbanjo said from less than 400, 000 active lines in 2001, when GSM was introduced, the telecoms sector has recorded over 199 million subscribers across all networks as at July 2020.
He however called on the federal government to introduce policies that would further boost broadband penetration in the country.
“We need policies that will enhance broadband penetration and internet services in the rural and unserved communities of the country. The concentration of broadband services in urban cities should be decentralized and we need well implemented broadband policies to achieve it,” Ogunbanjo said.