ATCON: Weak Investment in Telecoms Sector, High Cost of Smartphones Impeding 4G, 5G Penetration

Emma Okonji

President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Tony Emoekpere has attributed the slow penetration rate of the fourth generation (4G) and fifth generation (5G) technologies, to weak investment and exorbitant cost of acquiring smartphones, especially the 4G and 5G enabled smartphones.

Emoekpere who corroborated the views of the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Aminu Maida, said he totally agreed with Maida who had earlier said that the bulk of connectivity in the telecoms sector hovered around 2G technology, with little penetration and connectivity across the 4G and 5G technology networks.

Emoekpere however said weak investment in the telecoms sector and the high cost of 4G and 5G enabled smartphones, were responsible for the slow rate of 4G and 5G connections across networks in Nigeria.

Both Maida and Emoekpere spoke at a reception dinner for Maida, organised by ATCON in Lagos.

According to Maida, “The telecoms industry challenges are huge, but the NCC is addressing them, while looking at the right policies to ensure sustainability for the industry that has done so well for the country. Today we celebrate Nigerian telecoms subscribers for achieving close to 200 million connections, but more than half of the connections are on 2G technology. So we need more smartpones that can connect to 4G and 5G technology networks. There is a lot for us to achieve, but we are looking at the sustainability of industry growth, and to ensure that local manufacturers are able to survive the market dynamics.”

He said as at March this year, 2G still had the highest penetration level at 56.97 per cent, followed by 4G at 32.74 per cent, 3G at 9.04 per cent, while 5G penetration was as low as 1.24 per cent.   

“NCC will take sustainability of the telecoms industry very seriously, diversify licenses and work with industry players for greater collaboration. The Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Value Added Service (VAS) providers and other industry players have done so well in the last eight months in supporting NCC to sustain development in the telecoms industry and such collaboration is highly commendable,” Maida further said, adding that the telecoms sector is currently contributing 14 per cent to GDP, with a strong motive to increase GDP contribution in subsequent years.

“As a regulator, we have both the industry players and the consumers at heart,” Maida added. 

Responding to the comments of the NCC boss on telecoms connectivity, Emoekpere said the NCC boss was right in his submission that majority of telecoms subscriptions are on 2G, but blamed the development on weak telecoms investment and high cost of 4G and 5G enabled smartphones. According to Emoekpere, the telecoms industry therefore needs more investments to enable more subscribers connect to the available 4G and 5G networks.

“The purchasing power of telecoms consumers has been adversely affected by fuel subsidy removal, which has led to increase in petroleum products, increase in transportation and increase in the prices of goods and services. Again the cost of 4G and 5G enabled smartphones are far above what the average telecoms consumer can afford. We also have the big challenge in investment in the telecoms sector. Most operators are no longer investing for expansion, because they are trying to sustain their existing networks and the cost of sustenance has gone so high, a development that is adversely affecting telecoms growth across networks,” Emoekpere said.

He called on MNOs to invest in base station upgrade in order to accommodate new technologies like 4G and 5G. He also called in Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) and Data Centre operators to invest in new technologies that would enhance co-location of base stations and boost data hosting in Nigeria. Emoekpere also called on the federal government to provide incentives for telecoms operators to expand their investments to rural and underserved areas of the country.

According to him, governments all over the world are investing in technology. He referenced countries like America, United Kingdom and Korea that are investing heavily in technologies that will drive sustainable development.   

Speaking about the reception dinner for the NCC boss that was well attended by industry players, Emoekpere said it was organised to furnish the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC of trending issues in the industry, which he superintends. 

Related Articles