High points of Nigeria’s ICT sector in 2015
For the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, the challenges appeared to have outweighed major achievements that could have made the industry a star performer.
Indeed, from spectrum racketeering; disregards for extant laws and regulations; outrageous fines; slow ICT developments; stagnant broadband penetration; influx of sub-standard products to telecoms service downtime, among others.
However, this year also saw Nigeria crossed the 100 per cent teledensity mark; telephone subscriptions hitting over 150 million, 100 million Internet users and indeed change of baton both at the ministry and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The telecommunications sector estimated to worth over $32 billion started the year roughly following the altercation between the All Progressive Party (APC) and the NCC over Short Messaging Service (SMS) platform-35350 operated by the party for fund raising. This was during the tenure of former Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah. A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos ordered the NCC to pay the APC N500 million as damage for unlawfully banning the party’s presidential campaign fund raising platform.
Secret sale of 4G spectrum licenses
In May, there were series of queries on NCC when the news broke that the commission secretly sold off the 900MH and 700MHz bands fourth generation (4G) Digital Dividend Spectrum licenses to Globacom and Cyberspace Ltd towards the last days of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. The licensing did not pass through the normal bidding process. The embarrassment that followed made Cyberspace, owned by the Chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia, to return the license to NCC.
Nigeria failed to meet 2015 Digital Switchover
On June 17, Nigeria missed the digital switchover deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for countries to switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting.
Blames were traded! NBC claimed that it could not get the required funding (about N60b) from the then regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan, to prosecute the DSO project. Besides, there were pockets of other challenges including low awareness, absence of set-top boxes and right technology to adopt. However, a new 2017 date has been set.
Prof Danbatta becomes the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC.
On August 4, President Muhammadu Buhari removed Juwah as NCC EVC. He was replaced with Prof. Umaru Danbatta. Prior to
Juwah’s tenure expiration, there were indications that he had secured reappointment from President Jonathan. But the Buhari regime reversed it on the ground that such was against the act that established the commission.
Buhari appoints Shittu as Minister of Communications.
On September 30, President Buhari named Adebayo Shittu as the new minister of Communications. Shittu succeeded Dr. Omobola Johnson, who was the pioneer Minister of Communications Technology from 2011 to 2015.
NCC’s N1.04 trillion fine on MTN Nigeria.
In October, the NCC imposed a fine of N1.04 trillion on MTN Nigeria for flouting the regulator’s directive to deactivate 5.1 million pre-registered subscriber identification module (SIM) cards from its network.
The fine was the highest in the history of the telecommunications sector globally and led to a 22 per cent fall in the MTN Group’s shares listed at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).
The aftermath of the fine led to a series of forced resignations of top management officers among which include the Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MTN, Sifiso Dabengwa; CEO, MTN Nigeria, Micheal Ikpoki; and Regulatory and Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria, Wale Goodluck.
For the same offence, the quartet of MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat were fined N120 million earlier in August. MTN Nigeria paid the highest—N102 million.
Bharti Airtel’s Africa’s $170m losses triggers 30% job cuts in Nigeria.
In November, Bharti Airtel the parent body of Airtel Nigeria claimed that the African arm lost $170 million in the financial year, as such, this triggered about 30 per cent job cuts in Nigeria. The telecommunications firm described the exercise as a major restructuring to reposition the firm competitively.
Nigeria crawls in ICT Development Index; broadband growth.
In November, out of the 169 countries studied by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on ICT growth in the year, Nigeria ranked 134 behind even African countries including Seychelles; Sudan, Lesotho, Mauritius, South Africa, Zimbabwe, among others.
Another report from ITU on broadband growth also ranked the country low. Nigeria ranked 130 out of 189 members of the United Nations body in charge of global telecommunications. The country ended the year at 10 per cent broadband penetration amidst capacity glut.
Nigeria hit 100% teledensity mark, over 150m telephone subscriptions
Amidst cries of service downturn; inadequate customer care centres; unsolicited SMS; Illegal deductions of customers airtime, among others, in the middle of the year, Nigeria crossed the 100 per cent teledensity mark. As at September, NCC puts active subscribers at over 150 million.