New Telegraph

NCC to InfraCos: Don’t wait for govt funding

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has directed its licensed infrastructure companies (InfraCos) not to wait for government’s promised counterpart funding. With this, they are to immediately commence the rollout of broadband infrastructure across the country. The Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who disclosed this at a retreat organised by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, said the licensed Infracos have been directed by the Commission to commence immediate rollout without recourse to counterpart funding because the licence issued to them is independent of the counterpart funding agreement.

As part of efforts to accelerate broadband infrastructure deployment across the country, NCC had licensed seven Infra- Cos, one for each of the six geopolitical zones of the country and one for Lagos. Earlier, NCC had said it would raise N65 billion as counterpart funding subject to the approval of the Federal Executive Council, while the Infrastructural Companies would raise the balance of N200 billion to actualise the project.

The InfraCos are licensed to provide Layer 1 (dark fibre) services on a commercial basis with a focus on the deployment of metropolitan fibre and transmission services, available at access points – Fibre-to-the- Node or neighbourhood (FTTN) – to seekers.

They were licensed regionally for maximum impact and expected to cover the 774 local government areas. Before now, many of the operators had been waiting for the Federal Government planned subsidy before moving to the site as forex scarcity slowed down their take-off. The directive by NCC has, however, put the companies on the spot to source funding on their own. Speaking at the retreat, Dabatta, who reinforced the commitment of the Commission to infrastructure deployment to achieve the objectives of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020-2030, said the InfraCos have been mandated to lay 38,296Km of fibre optic cable across the country.

The NC boss said the project was not only expected to transform the telecommunications industry but engender the socio- economic transformation of the country. “We see the Infraco project as a much more ambitious broadband initiative of the government, we have gone very far with it as a PPP project based on the recommendation by International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and payment will be based on attainment of milestones depending on what a particular infrastructure company has done.

“If we can get this done successfully in the next four years, we would have succeeded in transforming the country in multiple ways, especially in managing energy, education, transportation, and the environment and meeting some of the Sustainable Development Goals. And because broadband is so desirable, we hope to see the financial inclusion rate increase significantly as well as mobile money services and this would, of course, transform our society,“ he added. The InfraCo project started in the latter part of the administration of former Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, the late Dr. Eugene Juwah, in 2015. But it was reviewed, expanded, and given a fillip by the current EVC, Prof. Umar Danbatta. During the tenure of Juwah, MainOne Cable Company Lim-ited and IHS Limited got the first two licenses to cover Lagos and the North Central zone including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) respectively in November 2014. After about three years, IHS returned the license to the commission over difficulties in securing the right of way approval to deploy infrastructure in the North Central Zone. Other licensed InfraCos are Zinox Technology Limited for Southeast and Brinks Integrated Solutions Limited for Northeast. Others are O’dua Infraco Resources Limited for Southwest, Fleek Networks Limited for Northwest, and Raeana Consortium Limited for South-South. Broadbase Communications Limited last year picked up the licence for parts of the North Central.

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