The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has cleared the air of doubt as to whether the planned licensing of seven Infrastructure Companies (InfraCo) by the NCC will lead to unfair competition and market monopoly against telecoms operators that have struggled to build their own broadband infrastructure.
Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, gave the clarification in Lagos at the recent Telecoms Executives and Regulator's Forum 2013 organised by the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).
Juwah, who responded to the comments made by the President of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said there was no reason to be afraid, since the planned licensing would not in anyway, create market monopoly and unfair competition.
Adebayo had, in one of the panel discussions at the forum, spoken against the planned licensing of InfraCo, insisting that it would put telecoms operators in a very tight business corner, since they have already invested their monies in infrastructure rollout in the past.
According to him, InfraCo would enjoy government support and monopolise the infrastructure market, since it would be getting funding from government to rollout nationwide broadband infrastructure. "Unless the teething challenges of infrastructure rollout is addressed, as currently being experienced by telecoms operators, the idea of licensing infrastructure companies will be an exercise in futility," Adebayo said.
He explained that it would be nice for NCC to address the challenges plaguing telecoms operators in their course of rolling out infrastructure, instead of licensing other infrastructure companies.
Adebayo listed some of the challenges to include delay in getting government approval for right of ways, incessant fibre cable cuts, willful destruction of telecoms facilities, closure of telecoms sites by government agencies, and the unlawful intrusion of social miscreants in the rollout of telecoms infrastructure, among other challenges.
He insisted that it would be of no use licensing other infrastructure companies in the various regions of the country, if the identified challenges were not addressed.
Executive Director, Corporate Services at MTN Nigeria, Wale Goodluck, told NCC to consider the fate of telecoms operators that had already invested heavily in broadband infrastructure rollout. He said the planned licensing of InfraCo would force telecoms companies to unduly compete with the InfraCo that would be using government funds to intimidate them in broadband infrastructure rollout.
Telecoms operators had in the past accused government of not having a national infrastructure rollout plan, a situation, they alleged, was eating deep into their revenues, since they plough back all their revenues in infrastructure rollout. They also alleged that lack of national infrastructure was highly responsible for poor service quality as currently being experienced across telecoms networks.
Reacting to their fears, Juwah assured telecoms operators that the planned licensing of InfraCo would complement their efforts in broadband infrastructure rollout, without creating unfair competition or market monopoly.
According to Juwah "It is done all over the world, especially in developed countries, where government will fund private operators to rollout national broadband infrastructure. It is working well in such counties and Nigeria will not be an exception."
NCC had announced that it would license seven private operators that would carry out regional broadband infrastructure in the six geopolitical regions of the country, and created Lagos as a region for the purpose of broadband infrastructure rollout, making it seven regions with seven operators.
They are expected to be licensed next year, after the release of a Memorandum of Information (MoI) that will spell out the condition for the Licence, rollout date, rollout coverage areas, among others. NCC is expected to release the MoI early next year.