By Ignatius Okorocha
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has rolled out new policy guidelines for infrastructure sharing, co-location and National Roaming services in the country.
Infrastructure Sharing is the joint use of network facilities by two or more operators subject to agreement specifying relevant technical and commercial conditions, while co-location refers to the placement of transmission equipment owned by the interconnection demanding operator in the premises of the interconnection providing operator for interconnection to that operator’s network.
On the other hand, National Roaming allows SIM cards to use more operators in a country.
The National Roaming guideline seeks to remove uncertainty and ensure seamless communication across all networks in Nigeria.
The policy documents seek to permit the licensees to enter into agreements for the purpose of providing National Roaming services, infrastructure sharing, and co-location in Nigeria, subject to the prior approval of the Commission.
Section 70 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003 empowers NCC to issue such guidelines and carry out periodic reviews as it would be necessary.
The National roaming guidelines document covers legal, technical, operational and maintenance and commercial provisions
According to the commission, the guidelines shall apply only to holders of licences validly issued by the Commission, containing a condition that makes the holder eligible to enter into a national roaming service agreement.
It also stated that the national roaming services shall be provided within the geographical boundaries of Nigeria.
The commission also noted that the guidelines are to be read in conjunction with the Act, the Collocation Guidelines, Interconnection Regulations, Quality of Service Regulations, Competition Practices Regulations, other subsidiary legislations that may be issued by the Commission from time to time, and relevant Licence Conditions.
NCC further noted that for national roaming, only duly authorised service providers shall request and negotiate National Roaming Agreements with each other on bilateral and non-discriminatory terms.
The Commission reserves the right to request for additional information or amendment of relevant parts of the National Roaming Agreement in order to comply with the provisions of the Act, these Guidelines, and any other relevant subsidiary legislation or regulatory instrument.
The infrastructure and co-location guideline, a 31-page document covers several areas among which are general rules for Co-location/Infrastructure Sharing, general rules for active infrastructure sharing and the role of the Commission.
The guidelines on Co-location and Infrastructure Sharing between Access Providers and Access Seekers within a predetermined framework would remove uncertainty and create an environment for better cooperation, according to the NCC document.
The guideline as released on NCC’ official website, is of the premise that all Access Providers and Access Seekers have the liberty to negotiate C/IS arrangements in accordance with mutually agreed terms.
Other aims of the guidelines according to the NCC is to ensure thatthe incidence of unnecessary duplication of infrastructure is minimised or completely avoided and protect the environment by reducing the proliferation of infrastructure and facilities installations.
This can be a big advantage for operators and mobile telecommunication users in the country, as such that if your device is at a location with poor reception, it can switch to the best network. In case of a network outage, it switches to another network for continued service.
The commission listed the procedures for active infrastructure sharing to include: Technical consideration, process consideration, operational and maintenance consideration, engineering consideration and commercial consideration.