New Telegraph

Stakeholders To FG: Encourage innovations in telecoms sector

Stakeholders in the telecommunications sector have charged the Federal Government to encourage innovation in the sector by making the business environment more conducive for operators. While the sector was adjudged the higher contributor to the GDP out of other nonoil sectors, they claimed that there are expectations that there would be new innovations to improve it and turn around the economy of the nation henceforth.

They said there are some challenges which have been hindering innovative activities in the sector which have to be cleared. According to them, improving on the identified challenges and working on the new innovation in each aspect of the sector will make it more robust. One of the aspects where the stakeholders especially the telecoms operators want improvement is government policies, which they complained affected their operation in 2022. Operators and stakeholders including ALTON, ATCON, NATCOMS, ATICS asked the government to always involve them while making decisions and policies that affect them.

They cited many instances in the previous years where some policies were made by the government which did not go down well with both the operators and the subscribers especially concerning the taxes put on the telecoms sectors. They said there was need for favourable policies to drive the required growth of the sector as well as creation of conducive business environment to attract foreign investors. According to them, it is also pertinent to bridge the gap between smaller industry operators and the tier one players.

This, they said, requires people-friendly policies and regulations. They also advocated the need to encourage Nigerians to participate fully in the ICT/ telecoms sector for efficiency. Complaining that there are about 30 different taxes in the sector, they urged the government to review such taxes and remove some to create enabling environment for the telecoms business to thrive.

It was said that the various too many taxes forced in the operators has forced many people investors out of the country while the remaining ones are striving to cope. For instance, it gathered that many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) both local investors and foreign ones have been forced out of the business due to the tensed business environment while others have relocated. Out of 756 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) licensed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), only 188 were active even as stakeholders tasked the commission to sustain the sector. It was gathered that the rea-sons for the inactiveness of the ISPs range from anti-competition issues; low internet access in the Northern region of the country due to security challenges; challenges of Right of Way (RoW) and conclusion of standardisation with state governments; multiple taxation; deployment of Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) compatible to all service providers; lack of company Corporate Code of Governance to lack of code of practice for Internet Service provision. Meanwhile, the stakeholders called on NCC to create the enabling environment for ISPs to thrive. The chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, noted that the big four operators (MTN, Airtel, Glo and 9mobile), had dominated the business of ISPs in Nigeria. Adebayo said: “The big operators are doing wholesale and at the same time, doing retailing. This is affecting the smaller operators like the ISPs. If the big operators who are supposed to be doing wholesale, are also doing retailing, what will happen to the smaller operators who are supposed to be doing the retail? This legislation is not working well for the smaller operators and if we are not careful, the smaller operators will be thrown under the table.” He also said the government needs to end multiple taxes witnessed in the sector, stating that the industry required the highest level of protection from government, and that the telecoms should be declared as critical national economic and security infrastructure. Adebayo, however, tasked the NCC to enforce strict regulation, adding that, the environment is hostile to the smaller operators. In the same vein, the Chief Operating Officer, WTES Projects Ltd, Chidi Ajuzie, said the tier 1 ISPs have deep pockets, adding that, they have the capacity to take over the business of the tier2/3 ISPs. “Technically, this is what has happened and that is why we have less than 200 active ISPs in Nigeria, of which 60 per cent of them are struggling,” Ajuzie added. Also speaking, a tech expert, Taophic Mustapha said the introduction of 5G network and other emerging technologies will bring about the innovation required in the sector as he urged the government to make it real.

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