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Nigeria Among Top 10 Telecoms Nations by RedHotChic(f): 12:07am On Dec 04, 2008
Nigeria among top 10 telecoms nations
By Sonny Aragba-Akpore, Deputy Communications Editor

WITH a monthly growth figure of 1.1 million new subscribers to various mobile networks, Nigeria is now the eighth fastest growing telecommunications environment in the world.


There are now 57 million connected subscribers to the Nigeria's five mobile networks of MTN Nigeria, Globacom, Zain, Etisalat and M-tel.

In a similar development, European telecommunications ministers have endorsed a plan to cap retail prices for sending SMS (Short Message Service) text messages and browsing the Internet using mobile phones while abroad.

In September, the European Union's (EU's) executive body, the European Commission (EC), proposed slashing both the retail and wholesale prices for text messaging by introducing caps of 0.11 and 0.04 respectively. Average retail prices are currently estimated at around 0.29 Euros, the commission said.

It also proposed a cap on the wholesale price for downloading data of one per megabyte, and called for further reductions in the cost of voice calls when roaming.

Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, reeled out statistics yesterday from the books of GSM Association, the global trade group of over 700 mobile operators in 218 countries and territories.

Citing Quarter one of 2007 as a reference point, Nigeria added 3.3 million new subscribers in three months thus joining the top 10 on the global mobile networks.

China's 18 million, India (13.7m), Pakistan (7.6 m), Indonesia (5.3m, Iran (5.1m), Brazil (3.8m), Argentina (3.8m) are ahead of Nigeria.

Thailand (3.2) million and Russia (3. 2) million complete the chart.

Ndukwe spoke in Lagos yesterday at the 9th Distinguished Electrical and Electronics Engineer Yearly Lecture (DEEEAL 2008) hosted by the Nigerian Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers.

In his 32-paged lecture entitled "From Telecommunications Back waters to a Regional Hub: Tracking the Role of the Regulator in Nigeria's Telecom Revolution", Ndukwe said the growth recorded in the sector has been fuelled by adequate, responsive and transparent regulation.

Specifically, he told his audience including Zenith Bank's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Jim Ovia, who chaired the occasion that besides the significant growth rate recorded, the sector has raked in additional investment in the excess of $12 billion between January 2001 and October 2008, and government alone has realised over $2.5 billion from spectrum auction.

This is besides import duties and taxes from telecoms companies, which have contributed substantially to the government revenue profile.

He said the beauty of the Nigerian telecoms environment was that it is open to competition through effective and transparent regulation.

The opening up of the market to competition in all segments of the industry has resulted in major drop in prices for telecommunications services.

Pre-2001, the cost of subscription to MTel's analogue mobile services was over N60, 000 per line. In 2001, the GSM subscription started with a price of N20, 000 per line and today, this figure has fallen to almost zero. The tariff for calls on the GSM network was as high as N50.00 per minute. Today, a call on a GSM network can be made for lower than N25.00 per minute (mobile to mobile).

Ndukwe said, although, it does not set retail prices, the commission consistently monitors the prices at which the operators offer their services to the public. In the first instance, the commission approves all tariffs as stated in the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, and thereafter, monitors their implementation.

The commission, however, intervenes as necessary in determining interconnect rates for the industry. The combined effect of the two interconnect rate determinations made in 2004 and 2006 was a reduction of the mobile termination rate from about N30 to N18 per minute in 2003 and subsequently to N11.40 per minute in 2006. This has enabled the fixed operators reduce their retail tariffs for calls to mobile networks to as low as N20.00 per minute. The commission will be initiating a process for reviewing the interconnect rates in the next few months in line with international practice.

The commission has continued to implement the policy of licensing competitive operators in all segments of the market. "Today, the Nigerian ICT market remains the most competitive ICT market in Africa, with service providers competing fiercely for market share", Ndukwe said.

The NCC is widely acknowledged as a model telecommunications regulatory institution in Africa and in the past few years, has played host to various representatives from African telecommunications regulatory authorities on study tours. It is the commission's intention to continue to partner with the ITU and other development agencies in furthering the exchange of experience and expertise necessary for global best practices regulation in the region. NCC facilitated the establishment of the West African Telecommunications Assembly (WATRA), which it has continued to nurture and support, and is also very active within the African Telecom union (ATU), and the ITU.

With its current growth pattern and its position in Africa, Nigeria through the NCC, remains committed to facilitating the growth of the Nigeria's telecommunications sector, and taking its leadership position in telecommunications development in Africa.

Although tremendous progress has been witnessed in the telecommunications sector, Ndukwe admitted that there nonetheless remain numerous challenges.

"A key challenge remains the issue of ensuring optimum quality of service (Q0S) in the networks. However, the Commission is working assiduously to ensure that the quality of service continues to improve significantly within the shortest possible time. The major contributor to the current Q0S challenges had been network capacity constraints as the network operators had not been able to expand their networks fast enough to meet the ever growing demand by subscribers."

"Rapid roll out of networks resources such as base station and switches, which should result in improved quality of service, have been hindered by insufficient transmission infrastructure across Nigeria, with optic fiber and microwave transmission lines only available in limited number. The WiN project aims at ensuring that all the states of Nigeria are linked to the national optic fiber backbone infrastructure", he explained.

Therefore, the commission in consultation with the operating companies is offering incentives that will encourage more rapid expansion of the transmission infrastructure through the development of fiber transmission cables.

Since 2003, over 17000km new optic fiber cables have been installed. There is another on going project, which involves the installation of fiber cable over electronic power lines. This has greatly increased the long distance transmission capacity available to support the fast network growth.

"The commission expects that in the next two years Nigeria will be fairly well served with transmission capacity to support anticipated large-scale demand for broadband, voice and data services", Ndukwe said.

"Ministers have answered the European Commission's call for a speedy response to the SMS and data roaming rip-off very positively," said Viviane Reding, the telecommunications commissioner.

EU citizens sent 2.5 billion SMS messages, generating 800 million for their mobile phone operators last year, the commission said. The cost of sending messages while roaming can be 10 times more than sending a message from within the home country.

Slashing this price is seen as an essential part of creating one single European telecoms market, and an excellent way of illustrating the merits of the single European market to consumers.

"I am confident that with Parliament, we will ensure that consumers travelling in the E.U. will save money when sending texts and surfing the Web with a mobile phone as of 1 July 2009. This would send a clear message of consensus that the EU single market is there to serve European citizens as well as businesses," Reding said.

Under the proposed re-drafting of the 2007 roaming regulation, roaming customers should also receive an automatic message with data roaming charges for the country they have entered. From summer 2010, consumers should be able to specify in advance how high their data roaming bill can go before the service is cut off -- a measure designed to put an end to what the Commission calls "bill shocks".


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