Frustrations being experienced by telecoms subscribers on account of poor services will increase even further, if the activities of vandals, which seem to be on the upward swing in Nigeria’s telecommunications sector are not checked.
This is even as operators continue to witness increasing fibre cuts and theft of infrastructure, especially their generating sets and diesel, which they use to power their base stations.
The increasing act of vandalism is impacting negatively on the quality of telecommunications services across the country, with the resultant effect being high rate of drop calls, higher calls terminations, undelivered text messages, poorer networks connectivity and a host of others.
The Guardian reliably gathered on Tuesday that fibre cut menace increased by 60 per cent in 2016. Besides, about 10,000 generating sets were said to have been lost to miscreants in the year. In 2015, report had it that the industry recorded about 1,200 fibre cuts.
While the industry still grapples with shortage of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), which is currently put at 29,000 and spread across the country, The Guardian gathered through the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the industry’s network of over 25,000 BTS spread across the country is powered with about 50,000 generating sets.ALTON is the industry body for all telecommunications companies and service providers.
The Guardian gathered that a direct operator, like MTN, Globacom and others, use a 15-20KVA generating set, while those on co-location run a 27KVA set, which are changed sometimes every two years depending on wear and tear forces.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry regulator, had at a forum in December 2014, disclosed that the sector was home to 29,000 BTS, and noted that it was abysmally low to carry the traffic on the various networks.
For effect, NCC declared that the country needed about 80,000 BTS to meet growing telecommunications service demands across the country.Further investigations showed that telecoms operators, who do not rely on Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) for electric power to run their BTS, fully relied on their generating sets. Each has two generating sets, with one as standby.
As such, based on the arrangement, telecoms operators usually have challenges of poor service quality as a result of the activities of the miscreants, which lead to service disruptions and downtime on various networks.A source in MTN Nigeria, told The Guardian that the firm had since the beginning of the year being coping with two fibre cuts on a daily basis across the country.
MTN, which has about 65 million subscribers, said that Boko Haram, the extremist Islamic sect, had destroyed 120 of its sites between 2013 and 2014. The company had at a recent function declared that at least 80 sites were destroyed during the last quarter of 2014.
During a working visit of the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, to MTN Head Office, in Lagos, a former Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria, Amina Oyagbola, had solicited government’s support to address the monster of infrastructure vandalism to further improve service delivery to end users.
A telecommunications expert, Kehinde Aluko, said the increasing menace of vandalism has become a dent on the success of the sector.He stressed that this development has also limited many telecommunications operators from completely implementing outlined network expansion initiatives in the country, amid rising cost of doing business in an industry that is heavily dependent on foreign exchange and capital.
At forum earlier in the year, the Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Segun Ogunsanya, claimed that Nigerian operators spend between $3 billion and $4 billion as capital expenditure yearly on network expansion initiatives.
He explained that if vandalism of telecoms equipment and installations continued unabated, Nigerian subscribers could experience higher frequency of dropped calls, incoherent transmission and undelivered text messages.
“Two per cent to three per cent of Nigeria’s telecoms sites are affected by random shutdown and destruction at any given point in time,”added. Experts are of the view that the current situation has been exacerbated by the failure of the National Assembly to pass the Critical National Infrastructure Bill.
The bill, if passed into law, will criminalise any act of vandalism of telecoms equipment, since they will be classified as critical national infrastructure.
According to Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, stressed that inadequate power supply and insecurity; vandalism; multiple taxation and regulation among others have impacted seriously on the fortunes of the industry.
Adebayo said telecoms infrastructure should be seen as critical equipment just like the oil pipelines, as well as PHCN and NITEL (Nigerian Telecommunications Limited) facilities.