Roaming policy may stall telecoms’ growth
Abuja (New Telegraph) — Plans by the Nigerian Communications Commission to implement national roaming service this year may stagnate further growth of the $68 billion investment already recorded in the nation’s telecommunications sector, New Telegraph has gathered . . .
According to investigation, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, had said that introducing national roaming service in the telecoms sector would be one of the initiatives he planned to execute.
National Mobile Roaming (NMR), whose process was started in December, 2015, by Danbatta, is the ability of a cellular customer to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data or access other services, including data services, when travelling outside the coverage area of the home network, by means of using a visited network.
According to NCC, such arrangements effectively multiply a carrier’s ability to cover those areas where they do not have the presence of their own network, without actually having to deploy infrastructure.
However, because the policy encourages increased collocation, investigations showed that the policy make some telecoms companies passive in the area of infrastructure deployment, since they can now leverage the telecoms base stations of other operators to provide services for their subscribers.
Till date, telecoms companies in Nigeria have built about 33,000 base stations as against estimated 60,000 base stations said to be needed in the industry for operators to provide optimum quality of service (QoS) to their over 153 million subscribers.
New Telegraph gathered that with a base station costing N40 million to be built, telecoms companies would need an investment of N1.08 trillion to fill the current infrastructure gap to build additional 27,000 base stations this year.
Nigeria’s telecoms investment rose from $500 million in 2001, following the licensing of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) to $15 billion in mid-2008; $25 billion in 2009 and to $32 billion in mid-2013. The figure has increased currently to over $68 billion up from $38 billion in 2014, NCC said in the last quarter of 2016.
Also, mobile subscriptions have also increased from less than 500,000 in 2001 to over 153 million; teledensity moved up from less than one per cent to over 107 per cent; while mobile Internet subscriptions has also risen from base zero to close to 100 million, according NCC’s statistics for November, last year.
“We expect major telecoms companies such as MTN Nigeria, Airtel, Globacom and Etisalat, as well as ntel, among others, to deploy aggressively this year, but we have noted that a policy such as national roaming service being introduced by the NCC might slow investment in his area.
“This is because an operator that does not have coverage in an area can just agree with an operator with coverage in that area to service the former’s subscribers, thereby foreclosing desire to invest due to an operator’s ability to leverage on the network of other operator,” said a telecoms analyst, Mr. Akin Akinbo.
Meanwhile, despite reservations being expressed in some quarters towards the implementation of national mobile roaming, the Commission has said it would go ahead with the implementation, saying the policy would not deter investment. “National mobile roaming is a must.
It is not a matter of whether or not it would happen. It is already part of the licensing conditions given to the operators,” said NCC’s Head, Legal and Regulatory Services, Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye, told New Telegraph at an event in Lagos.
“So, what we are working on through various stakeholders, especially the service providers, is the framework for launching the service to life easier for telecoms subscribers. So, whether we like it or not, it is coming soon,” she said.