Telcos slow down expansion of network coverage, capacity
Telecommunications operators have drastically reduced their efforts at expanding network coverage to underserved communities in the country as well as adding capacity, thereby frustrating federal government plans to extend telecommunications services to additional 40 million Nigerians.
It was gathered that in the past one year, just a very few number of base transceiver stations (BTS) have been built by both telcos and tower operators for network coverage and capacity.
A staff of one of the tower operators who does not want his name in print told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek that except for few internet service providers playing in the 4G LTE services that have requested for towers in certain commercial viable locations; Global System for Mobile communications operators no longer bother about extending coverage to underserved areas.
“They are concentrating in optimizing existing base stations for 4G LTE service and these are done in commercially viable cities.”He attributed the decline to harsh operating environment in the country, adding that, ‘we no longer build towers to stay idle we build towers on demand and demand for additional towers from GSM operators to extend services to new areas has not been there in the past year. The number of towers has remained within 26,000”.
David Venn, chief executive officer, Spectranet, a 4G LTE internet service provider, attributed the situation to scarcity of foreign exchange to buy equipment.
“Operators need equipment to build towers. In the last one year it has been difficult for us to access dollar to import equipment for network expansion as well as adding capacity, the ones we are doing is from the equipment we imported before the new policy on FX, for big operators it has been very difficult for them to import equipment which has affected their efforts in adding capacity,” he said.
There is growing concern about plans by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to extend telecommunications services to over 40 million Nigerians in this year, going by inability of operators to access foreign exchange to import equipment for extending network coverage to underserved areas.
Experts say that the country requires over 180,000 base transceiver stations to effectively cover the country with improved quality of service.Subscribers of mobile telecommunications services particularly Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) have been faced with poor quality of service which stakeholders have attributed to insufficient base stations and capacity issues among other causes.
Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) explained that effective coverage of geographical area requires deployment of base transceiver station (BTS) also known base station within the standard 5 kilometres radius.
Nigeria with geographical area of 910, 768 square kilometres requires about 182, 768 base stations to effectively deliver telecommunications services at improved quality on 5 kilometres radius between each BTS.