BCN Lauds NCC, Request USPF Review

Ibrahim Dikko, Managing Director, Backbone Connectivity Network Nigeria (BCN)


Backbone Connectivity Network Nigeria (BCN) has commended the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC’s) efforts towards the deployment of fibre broadband infrastructure to the un-served and underserved areas of the country through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF).

Managing director (BCN) Ibrahim Dikko made the remark during a presentation on the “State of the Industry – Telecom Infrastructure Company’s Perspective” at a reception organized by the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) in honour of Professor Umar Danbatta, executive Vice Chairman of NCC, recently in Lagos.

Dikko pointed that NCC’s gesture falls in line with a World Bank study between 2000 and 2006 which found ‘low-income and middle-income countries experienced “about a 1.38 percentage point increase in GDP for each 10 percent increase in [broadband] penetration.”

The World Bank further found that the development impact of broadband on emerging economies is greater than for high-income countries, which “enjoyed a 1.21 percentage point increase in per capita GDP growth” per 10 percent increase in broadband penetration.

He said that with Nigeria’s projected 2017 GDP estimate of US$657 billion, a 1.38% GDP growth is equivalent to $8.6 billion (N309.6 Billion).

He also said that broadband penetration level is now up to 14% from 10% in 2014, signifying a growing trend in much needed communications infrastructure.

But, in the midst of these successes, Dikko said that there are gaps in the ICT ecosystem that is inhibiting the kind of growth, sectoral connections and contribution to our economy that it is capable of.

According to him, the National Broadband objective to attain 30% broadband penetration goal by 2018 is facing challenges; “The big question before us today is —how do we develop the requisite infrastructure to sustain and increase growth rates and increase broadband penetration levels? Is the environment enabling enough to allow for more infrastructure rollout? The answer rests in how we unlock the supply chain of our Digital Ecosystem”.

“We commend the efforts NCC through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) to extend fibre broadband infrastructure to the unserved and underserved areas of our country. We believe a review of the current model is required for greater effectiveness and impact of the very laudable initiative. This would range from shortening the tender process, consideration to move to a longer term IRU model (5 – 10 years) rather than the present yearly tender and to either increasing coverage area (600km to 1,200km) or increasing density (clustering in focused area) in proposed zones to ensure critical mass and higher impact,” he said.

The BCN MD said that consideration need to be given to securing waivers for import duties and levies for equipment for broadband deployment such as FOC etc, granting tax holidays to Infracos.

“Broadband infrastructure as the pivot for ICT growth should be regarded as a critical socio-economic infrastructure,” he recommended.

He also urged the NCC EVC to double efforts in collaboration with partners such as Bank of Industry (BoI) and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create an ICT infrastructure fund with a-two year moratorium period which would provide long term investment funds at single digit interest rates.

“This would definitely have a strong and positive impact on operators, enable rapid deployment of broadband infrastructure, assist our country bridge its ICT infrastructure gap deficit, facilitate growth of our digital economy and increase our sector contribution to GDP.

“We must all pause and reflect deeply on the digital ecosystem bottlenecks that abound such as Base Station permits and taxes, telecom equipment manufacture& services and the continued lack of and epileptic power supply situation in the country. This continues to negatively impact businesses with the corresponding adverse influence on the digital ecosystem.

“We need to eliminate the high taxes, bureaucratic bottlenecks, considerably ease the cost of doing business and improve the overall environment to best of our ability to progress the development of the digital ecosystem with attendant benefit to its constituent parts. We must also look critically at the challenges of Wireless transmission, of adding more Base Stations to areas where technology upgrades are needed, for example from 2G to 3G, etc.

“We must also engage government parastatals that seek to embed and enjoy most times exorbitant ROW charges on routes and cause avoidable bottlenecks in fibre deployment. These charges are generally on routes that ROW charges have already been paid, this are some of the challenges including community issues that operators face concerning deployments. We must note that infrastructure companies whose sole business is to operate at wholesale capacity transmission level must survive and interconnect for Nigeria to have an independent neutral carrier/backbone strong enough to unlock the supply chain challenge that exists in our country today”.

He underscored the necessity of speeding up the legislative process to enact the ICT Critical Infrastructure Act to criminalise sabotage and vandalism to telecom infrastructure and subsequently see to it that Federal Executive directives are issued to security agencies to enforce the law and administrative protection from theft and vandalism.

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