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Nigeria ‘urgently needs broadband roadmap plan’, ATCON President says

Nigeria ‘urgently needs broadband roadmap plan’, ATCON President says
By Abbas Bolanle
Lagos. July 22, 2012: President of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Lanre Ajayi has said that Nigeria urgently needs a broadband roadmap plan to chart the course for sustainable growth of the high-speed internet services across diverse sectors of the economy.
In his first major interview since becoming the new President of the telecoms industry trade association, Ajayi expressed deep concern over the gradual extinction of local investors in the vibrant telecoms market in an exclusive interview with Technology Times in Lagos.
While he sees broadband as the next evolutionary phase after the explosive telecoms growth witnessed in Nigeria, there is need to chart a course to ensure growth of the service supporting voice, video and data services, he cautions the nation’s telecoms administrations.
“Broadband is vital, but where is the roadmap to get it to Nigerians? I can’t see any. If we think because we got telecoms right, we automatically will get broadband right, I am not sure that will be the case, there must be a roadmap.”
According to the ATCON chief, “we need a roadmap which will state the goal we want to set, how to reach it and how to get it done, so we start a milestone or timeline. It is because there was a roadmap that people noticed the misstep in the power sector in January, without it nobody will know.”
Explaining the importance of broadband service for national development, Ajayi notes that “broadband is more important than voice because if you have broadband you can also have voice on top of it, broadband gets you everything which is why people are able to use Skype and others.”
“When you have broadband you have almost everything you need in communications and there is no point emphasising the importance of broadband, we all desire to get Nigeria connected to broadband,” he adds
The ATCON President notes that smaller telecoms companies are dying today due to wrong decisions hitherto taken by the Nigerian Communication Commissions (NCC), the telecoms regulator.
One of such is the decision by NCC to withdraw the licence-exempt Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) radio frequency bands from use by ISPs, despite strident protest by that service sector, a development that led to the gradual folding up of players in that business, Ajayi says.
“I want to tell you that the singular decision by NCC was what killed most traditional ISP’s, and I want to believe that it was a very wrong decision. That is the genesis of the reason why today our telecoms and communication technology landscape is dominated by foreigners. If those traditional ISPs were encouraged to stay alive and not killed as they were, because most of them were actually killed, not only their businesses even some of them died physically as a result of the shock of their businesses going down,” he explains.
He adds that, “if NCC had not taken that wrong decision that led to the death of traditional ISPs, maybe today some of us would have grown to be strong investors in the ICT ecosystem and also grown to have sufficient fund to buy the licence.”
Stating the other problem that is killing the small ICT companies in the country, Ajayi said that the too much emphasis on foreign investors at the detriment of local investors by the government.
According to him, there is the need to balance the difference between the local and foreign investors as a solution to the problem of the dying companies and a way for Nigeria to benefit from the profits gained in the telecoms business.
“Certainly there is need for foreign investors. We need them in the country but we should not do this at the detriment of local investors. We have done that mistake at the early stage by killing the local ISPs, we should not repeat that at this era of telecoms boom.”
According to him, “the CDMA companies that are having challenges now, if you check most of them, they are owned by local investors. If you look at their statistics, they are local investors.”
In proffering the solution to the problem of the GSM dominance in the market, Ajayi says that the government should come up with specific policies that will encourage local investors underscoring the need for balance of encouragement between foreign and local investors, “just as it is been done in some other countries.”
He explains that this is very important “because when local investors make profit, that profit stays here in the country. This is where they live and where they want to enjoy that profit. But when foreign investors make profit, of course, the profit is taken out of the country.”
He concludes that “what happened during the era of the ISP boom is also repeating itself in this era of telecoms boom, which means we have not learnt our lessons, and I think the earlier we do that, the better.”
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