New Telegraph

5G: Governors’ decision on right of way threatens deployment

States charging N6,000plm as against N145

Morethanayearafter a Federal Government’s agreement with the 36 states governors on harmonisation of Right of Way (RoW) charges at a benchmark rate of N145 per linear metre, 29 states are yet to comply, New Telegraph has learnt. This is even as the telecom industry stakeholders worry that 5G deployment may not be feasible with the current high charges across most of the states.

The RoW charges are government levies imposed on telecom companies and internet service providers (ISPs) to lay fibre-optic cables along state roads. While some of the states are currently charging as high as N6,000 per linear metre, the Federal Government’s harmonisation policy enjoins all states to charge a uniform price of N145 per metre to aid fast rollout of telecoms infrastructure and drive down the cost of internet access in the country. Last year, six states an-nounced compliance with the policy as they slashed their charges to N145 while Kaduna State declared RoW as free for telecom operators.

However, as of the time of filing this report, the remaining 29 states are yet to implement the policy. Speaking with our correspondent, the Executive Secretary of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Ajibola Olude, lamented that the reluctance of the remaining 29 states to adhere to the fixed N145 naira had been slowing down fibre rollout in the country. According to him, Lagos State currently charges over N1000 per linear metre for fibre deployment. “There is even charge disparity between Mainland and Island (higher rates). So the Federal Government should engage more with the states to understand why the N145 cap should be maintained,” he said.

On the readiness of telecom operators to invest in 5G equipment, Mr. Olude said that the present economic climate situation of Nigeria discouraged investments in the telecoms sector, especially with regard to the high RoW charges and the exchange rate fluctuations. Also speaking at a forum this week, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the success of the 5G deployment being planned would depend on the ability of the operators to roll out fibre cables across the country, which would require cheaper RoW charges. According to him, the operators would need to complement their base stations with fibre cable to be able to deploy 5G. “The current tower capacity of 1 Gbps (for 2G to 4G services) does not match the 20 Gbps peak speed required for 5G.

This calls for the urgent need to increase fiberization of network, and the reliable energy supply to power the base stations,” he said. He noted that to fiberize the towers/base stations, the issue of RoW charges must be well addressed as this would determine how fast and wide the operators can deploy 5G service.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, had recently disclosed that while some states had implemented the RoW agreement, some states were introducing new charges. “We received reports that some states have introduced some extraneous charges that have increased the charges beyond the amount agreed,” he said, adding that the ministry would continue discussions with the states. The minister further disclosed that on March 18, 2021, he addressed the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, which was chaired by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, and had more than 30 governors in attendance.

“I made a detailed presentation on the importance of broadband to the economy of the country and discussed the impact of ICT and telecoms on the economy, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics in the 4th Quarter GDP Report,” he noted.

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