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NCC to subsidise deployment of 318 base stations

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it will subsidise the fund for deployment of 318 Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) in unserved and underserved locations in the country in 2019.

The Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, made this known on Thursday in Lagos, during the Nigeria ICT Impact CEO Forum (NIICF).

The forum, organised by ICT Watch Magazine, had the theme, “Connecting the Unconnected’’.

Represented by Babagana Digima, Assistant Director, Special Duties Department, NCC, Danbatta said that the subsidy, which would be through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), was to ensure the availability of connectivity to the unconnected.

He said that connecting the unconnected was globally a huge task marked by various challenges ranging from technical and business considerations.

According to him, the clear consensus on the part of governments and international organisations is that “everybody must be connected’’.

“Providing connectivity to the unconnected comes with its own set of challenges, especially in developing countries like ours, where other complementary infrastructure such as power, transmission and transport are non-existent or inadequate.

“Indeed, we are aware of the challenges faced by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) even inside city centres where they are forced to deploy two power generating sets per Base Transceiver Station (BTS) to complement the erratic public power supply systems.

“Nonetheless, the NCC, as a matter of obligation, has been facilitating and promoting the provision of services to unserved and under-served areas.

“Our access gap study has identified 198 clusters of unserved areas, which translates to about 40 million unconnected Nigerians.

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“With such population yet untapped, there is therefore a business imperative to exploit this vast resource.

“This year alone, the NCC has committed to subsidising the deployment of 318 BTSs in various unserved and under-served locations through the USPF funding,’’ he said.

Danbatta said that in order to lower the cost of entry to MNOs and other service providers, the Commission licensed six Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos).

He said that the InfraCos would provide no less than one fiber Point of Access (PoA) in every local government headquarters of the federation.

The NCC boss said that the InfraCos deployment, when successfully completed within the next four years would provide an unprecedented capacity of 10 Gigabit per second in each LGA headquarters.

He added that the InfraCos would provide 28,902 km of fibre in the six geo-political zones (excluding North-Central, which is yet to be licensed).

According to him, subsidies for this newly-built fibre shall only be paid after the infrastructure has been installed, tested and certified to be in accordance with the technical standards.

“The InfraCo project will not only accomplish the provision of ubiquitous broadband across the country but will also contribute to this administration’s vision of providing 120,000 km fibre coverage as outlined by Mr President in his ‘Next Level’ agenda speech.

“The InfraCo initiative will also leapfrog the present 33 per cent broadband penetration to a level exceeding the target set under the Nigerian National Broadband Plan, of which the NCC is identified as one of the key drivers.

“Therefore, the InfraCo will be a game changer akin to the licensing of the GSM spectrum by the NCC which has seen an increase of voice connectivity from a meagre 400,000 households in 2001 to over 174 million subscribers today.

“This is coupled with a dramatic cost reduction to subscribers and increased turnover and profit to the service providers,’’ he said.

The convener of the forum, Tayo Adewusi said that there was the need to examine the state of broadband in Nigeria.

Adewusi said that government should map out creative ways to ensure broadband penetration was accessible, available and affordable in all corners of the country.

He said that the forum offered a veritable platform for the regulators and players to come together and fashion out solutions to the issue of cyber-attack as it related to broadband penetration in Nigeria.

“We need to find a lasting solution so that we can all live in an environment that is devoid of cyber-attack,’’ Adewusi said.

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