Friday 18th August, 2017
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NCC's expected milestones, by Prof. Danbatta

NCC's expected milestones, by Prof. Danbatta

We are addressing issues of multiple taxation, other critical challenges
Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, became the Executive Vice Chairman & CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in 2015. He earned a BEng and an MSc from the Technical University of Wroclaw, and received his PhD from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. Professor Danbatta recently served as a member of the Implementation Committee of the Northwest University Kano, and as the Acting Vice-Chancellor of Kano State University of Science and Technology in Wudil. He is a member of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria as well as the Nigerian Society of Engineers. He spoke with The AUTHORITY’s MALACHY UZENDU on critical issues bothering on the telecommunications sector. Excerpts:
 
How is the NCC encouraging private sector investment in broadband?
The growth of broad­band in the country has been a critical area of focus for the NCC in the last few years. The impact of broadband penetra­tion on economies across the world has been empirically proven.
The Commission articu­lated a new broadband infra­structure framework called Open Access Framework to facilitate the rapid deploy­ment of broadband infra­structure across the country. Under this framework, the country has been divided into seven licensing areas, where each area will have a licensed Infrastructure Company (In­fraCo).
 
Why is this so sir?
This is meant to support such strategic initiatives as accelerating the deployment of metropolitan broadband infrastructure across the country that is currently inad­equate, successfully conduct­ing licensing for the Lagos and North Central zones, licensing several retail service providers like ISPs to drive broadband delivery to subscribers, trans­parent auctions of one slot of 30 MHz bandwidth in the 2.3Ghz spectrum band on a wholesale basis to provide the required infrastructure for RSPs for the delivery of broad­band services to customers, and encouraging the deploy­ment of 3G Mobile broadband services in every state across the country.
 
Did it have any impact?
The impact of this can be seen in the exponential growth of subscribers with internet access from about 30.9million in December 2012 to about 97million in Septem­ber 2015. The NCC is also ef­fectively engaging with bodies like the Nigeria Governors Fo­rum to address the issues neg­atively impacting investment in broadband infrastructure across the country, such as Right of Way charges, as well as streamlining taxes and fees required for the deployment of critical telecommunica­tions infrastructure.
 
How do you plan to raise the level of telecommunications service across Nigeria?
We actively monitor techni­cal factors to maintain service delivery at a high standard. We are also looking at non-technical factors in terms of improving overall service. Operators are subjected to multiple taxations at the level of the federal, state and local government as well as some­times even at the global level. There is also denial of the Right of Way for the deploy­ment of fiber cables, sabotage of critical telecommunica­tions infrastructure and the issue of power supply.
 
Is it backed by any law?
There is a bill in the Na­tional Assembly that will make the telecommunica­tions infrastructure a critical infrastructure, the sabotage of which will become a serious national offence. We are also urging the government to im­plement a document on levies, multiple levies, taxation and other issues. This will grant infrastructure companies un­fettered access to sites and lo­cations for the deployment of broadband infrastructure.
Looking ahead, if and when they do accept this, and broadband services deployed, the taxes they will generate from these services will easily warrant the initiative.
 
What initiatives will drive growth in the sector in the fu­ture?
Broadband will transform the economy and the way things are being done, per­haps at par with the transfor­mative effects of electricity distribution. Broadband will determine the socioeconomic development of every country in the 21st century. The Nige­rian government has therefore created a national broadband plan, which is envisioned to contribute up to 13% to GDP. Broadband will also enable the rollout of services that will benefit both the urban and ru­ral population.
The NCC has been assigned the responsibility of licens­ing infrastructure companies that will provide broadband infrastructure. That process has started with two licenses already issued; Mainone was licensed for Lagos, while an­other infrastructure company has been given the license to deploy Wi-Fi infrastructure in the North Central zone, where Abuja is located.
 
What logistics have you put in place to get all these effi­ciently done?
There are five more zones to license. As soon as we have de­ployed the necessary technol­ogy to facilitate the rollout of broadband services, then the operators will be licensed and the spectra will be provided. We will have achieved the two main milestones of install­ing a mostly fiber broadband infrastructure in every major city and all rural areas across the country and successfully auctioning the broadband spectra.

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