Telcos await NBP committee report for direction on fixed line deployment

By Chike Onwuegbuchi |   21 February 2020   |   3:27 am  

Telecommunications operators are waiting for government policy direction based on recommendations of the National Broadband Penetration committee on the deployment of fixed-line service in the country.

Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek that recommendations of the NBP committee will determine the future of telecommunications which will have bearing on the deployment of fixed-line service.

“All over the world there exist a combination of mobile and fixed lines in the delivery of telecommunications services and Nigeria case will not be different. However, due to the peculiarity of our environment where state governments see deployment of telecommunications infrastructure as source to increase their internally generated revenue, government will have to come up with incentive for operators to deploy fixed-line services especially in underserved areas as it is not competitive because of high cost of deployment in the areas of laying fibre and right of way.

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“The way fixed lines are deployed is no longer like the way it used to be with copper wire to subscriber’s home but with fibre to a home system that will support high-speed internet for the digital home, 5G features and other artificial intelligence services,” he said.

Adebayo said: “considering the social-economic impact of telecommunications services and to realize the digital economy aspiration of government I advocate for free ‘Right of way’ as part of incentives for operators to deploy telecommunications infrastructure.”

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According to the Nigerian Communications Commission’s recent statistic on fixed-wired line subscription as of September 2019, there are only 107,250 subscribers of services through this channel dropping from 107,949 in January the same year.

More so, according to the Africa Digital Outlook 2019 report from market research firm Ovum, “Fixed broadband household penetration in Africa was about 8.5% at end-2Q19, lower than in any other world region, except Central and Southern Asia.”

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Sharing his thought with Nigeria CommunicationsWeek on the potentials of fixed-line services, Engr. OlusolaTeniola, president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) said: “Fixed-line services complement mobile services and in more developed economies and due to legacy issues acts as the foundation and primary access to telecommunication services.

“However, in Nigeria and with the death of NITEL the gradual decline and withdrawal of fixed-line services to the home, means that a great number of fixed-line supplementary services taken for granted in other climes and well-proven productive enhancing features available on the fixed-line networks are not delivered on the mobile networks deployed in Africa, especially Nigeria.

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“With fiber now being the chosen medium for fixed-line networks going forward, it is very apparent that FTTH deployments will provide higher levels of data thru put and higher levels of Quality of Services for live streaming media at both 4K and 8K definitions”.

Mohammed Rudman, managing director, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) said: “The ship has sailed – We allowed the largest fixed telephone network operator to go under, NITEL would have been the perfect vehicle to deliver fixed broadband.

“Most countries strengthen and privatize their national carrier before providing license to other operators that is why today companies such as British Telecoms, France Telecoms, and South African telecoms are still in existence.

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Unfortunately building such companies requires huge investment; hence it would be very difficult to go that route these days, especially with the advent of wireless technology.

Teniola explained that: “There is an unwritten understanding that until there is a compelling fixed-line business case demonstrating a rate of return that exceeds that of mobile service business case, it is virtually impossible for any investor to fund capital to rolling out FTTH on a large scale.

“Currently, in Africa, there are close to 800m unique mobile subscribers and with the advent of 5G the argument to support fiber-to-the-home is going to be challenged and further supports the argument that fixed-line networks are viable for backbone, enterprise and metro network deployments and possibly in support of fiber-to-the-Towers, however, last-mile wireless technologies will be the dominant access medium that supports the return of investments operators across the continent seek.

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