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Building Capacity to Sustain Telecom Growth

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The telecom sector is presently undergoing speedy transformation on account of explosive growth and rapid infrastructure development. The liberalization of telecom sector along with increased competition among players have brought substantial benefits to consumers in terms of lower subscription rates and enhanced choice.
In line with the escalating education and business in the country, the demand for Internet services will soar as businesses need new mediums to get exposure on the global map. Supported by forward-looking government programs, the country is all set to become one of the leading Internet markets in Africa in terms of users, international bandwidth and services offered.
As the country prepares for this explosion in telecom development, the importance of capacity building needs to be stressed. While technology and infrastructure always seems to be at the forefront, it is what you do with access that matters. What is the essence of technology? How important is human growth? Developing a knowledge driven economy means people must come first. Progress today is propelled by a combination of knowledge, technology, and most importantly people. Are people using ICT to create wealth? Is ICT being deployed by individuals and organizations to conserve foreign exchange and reduce foreign dependency?  Where is infrastructure taking the people to? Technology on its own can do nothing. It is people that will determine the growth and impact technology will have. It is people that will determine how ICT is used in the economy and in society. Answers to these questions will determine the direction the sector wants to go in future, either to continue with the growth pattern or development of the sector.
The question is do we want real development or we are satisfied with masquerades posing as solutions? Are we to remain spectators or active participants? Then human resource development must be high on the agenda. It must be top priority. It is people who will create, operate, run, support and manage the technologies to improve their lives and the environment. Where are we on the human capital scale? Can a nation be a knowledge society giant simply by investing in infrastructure? People are the focus of development. There are pockets of access and things may have improved. But to assess quality, we must know what proportion of the populace utilizes knowledge of the benefits and opportunities offered by ICT. Access means availability. But how deep is the penetration and can there be value without participation?
The great improvement in access to telecoms in the country has had a positive impact on virtually all facets of life in the country, political, social as well as economic. Government’s interface with the citizens is now faster, people now contact their folks in most parts of the country from anywhere instantly whenever they wish and clients now easily reach their various service providers such as mechanics and tailors, all thanks to the telecommunications revolution.
Ownership of phones now cuts across the various social classes, opening good opportunities for the e-health, e-education, e-security, e-commerce and e-banking in the country.
The outstanding growth in the telecommunications sector has correspondingly created a significant number of new jobs in the economy. Also, other sectors such as advertising, real estate and finance have gained tremendously from the ripple effect of the growth in this sector. Today the telecom sector is a key contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
Skilled manpower issues
Aside building of infrastructural facilities required to deliver telecom services, building skilled manpower is also necessary for development in the sector. Presently, in spite of establishment of Digital Bridge institute and other related institutes in the country offering core telecommunications courses, the sector is largely dominated by foreign expertise especially in the technical areas. Indigenous manpower in these areas are attempted by good working conditions outside the shores of this country and thereby consistently creating vacuum that has been difficulty to fill in the industry.
However, there has been growth in the number of skilled manpower in the telecom industry over the last eight years. The NCC took certain timely initiatives to ensure that the dearth of skilled Nigerians to run the fast expanding telecom industry in the country was remedied.
A milestone was achieved on May 20, 2004 when Mr. President commissioned the ultra modern Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) in Utako, Abuja, established by the NCC as an international centre for advanced telecommunication studies.
Apart from training technical manpower, the DBI trains personnel in other specialist areas such as economic analysis, financial planning, law, arbitration, mediation, interconnection, e-commerce, business management, human resources and consultancy services.
The Nitel Training Schools in Kano and Oshodi have been transferred to the Commission by the Federal Government and have been resuscitated to become campuses of the DBI. The expanded DBI have started providing multifarious ICT training programs for over 2000 graduates annually to service both local and international markets.
Improving Quality of Service
Though tremendous progress has been witnessed in the telecommunications sector, there remain numerous challenges. One of such challenges is the poor quality of service being experienced in the network. This situation has also being blamed on lack of adequate capacity to transmit calls as well as other socio-economic factors.
However, the Commission is working assiduously to ensure that the quality of service improves significantly within the shortest possible time. The Commission is now working with operators to achieve network optimization and speed up the rate of deployment of new base Stations, switches and transmission infrastructure.
The major contributor to the current QoS challenges is network capacity constraints. The operating companies have not been able to expand their networks fast enough to meet the ever growing demand by subscribers. This was further aggravated by a few factors such vandalization of telecom infrastructure, theft among others which are adversely affecting efforts made by service providers to ensure better quality of service delivery.
Other issues such as major deterioration in the public power supply situation in the country; security challenges; delay in securing approval for siting of new base stations; among others, have also contributed in various degrees to the problem.
With the current rapid expansion programs being implemented by all the service providers, and other measures the Commission has put in place, the QoS situation has started to record improvements. The recent intervention of the Ministers of Information/Communications and the FCT in the case of Abuja will also translate to major improvement in QoS in the Federal Capital Territory.
To ensure that this situation remains the focus of the industry stakeholders always, the Commission has constituted an industry working group on Quality of Service. Also, Guidelines on Infrastructure sharing which was published few years ago should be strictly enforced to encourage infrastructure sharing at all levels.
Future outlook
As the market gets matured stakeholders in the industry which include Nigerian Communications Commission, operators, infrastructure providers among others should emphasis on building both human and infrastructure capacity required for the next frontier of growth and development in the sector. A lot of emphasis is also being placed on growing Nigeria’s data capability by promoting large scale broadband internet and optic fiber rollout across the country.
The commission having concluded work on modalities of introducing Number Portability is expected to announce time for its introduction this year. To this end operators should start putting in place the necessary things for its effective launch which include capacity building in various areas of their operations.
Just last week Kenya’s telecoms regulator announced that the country’s four mobile networks will be required to start supporting Mobile Number Portability from this July. The regulator has been planning to offer MNP in the country for several years, but kept deferring the plans.
The plans, originally announced in 2004 were put on hold in 2007 after the regulator cited the high costs of implementing the system. They were then resurrected in late 2008 for launch between March and September 2009. It now seems likely that the launch will finally occur in the middle of this year.
Subscribers will be charged an administrative fee for each time they port their number to a new operator, although the fee is still to be worked out with the operators.
Typically in most countries where MNP has been introduced, the smaller players tend to see a short-term jump in subscriber numbers at the expense of a dominant player – in this case, Safaricom.

 

 

 


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Satellite Operators Push New Signal across Africa, Indian Ocean Regions

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The Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), has started to broadcast a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) signal over Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI), providing its first open service in the region via NIGCOMSAT-1R Satellite managed and operated the by Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd., under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Satellite Operators Push New Signal across Africa, Indian Ocean Regions

This early open service is provided as part of the programme, which pursues the autonomous provision SBAS services in Africa, to augment the performances of the satellite navigation constellations GPS and Galileo.

With improved accuracy to within a meter, and boosted integrity, availability, and continuity of safety-related applications, these SBAS services will improve flight safety and efficiency in Africa, and also benefit the economy in many areas as land, sea, and rail transport, as well as mass-market applications, supporting user safety, cost-effectiveness, and sustainable development.

The launched open service essentially aims to carry-out technical trials, and to undertake partner airlines field demonstrations for aircraft and rotorcraft, to demonstrate the benefits of the future operational safety-of-life SBAS services, expected from 2024. It will also include early Precise Point Positioning (PPP), and emergency warning service to populations, which performance will be proven through other demonstrations.

The signal-in-space is generated by a dedicated system tested, developed as part of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” preliminary design phase, financed by the European Union, and awarded to Thales Alenia Space, Joint Venture between Thales (67 per cent), and Leonardo (33 per cent).

The “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” is based on the European EGNOS (1) developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), acting under the delegation of the European Commission and operated by the European GNSS Agency GSA.

The system prototype uses as reference stations the SAGAIE network deployed by CNES and ASECNA with the support of Thales Alenia Space.

The signal is broadcasted via the SBAS payload on NigComSat 1R GEO satellite of the Nigerian Communications Satellite, and an uplink station deployed in Abuja, Nigeria.

It is compliant to the standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and the minimum operational performance standard developed by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) organisation.

It will be visible in the whole of Africa and the Indian Ocean, up to the West Australian coast, and also in Europe.

Dr. Abimbola Alale, managing director/chief executive officer of NIGCOMSAT, said: “we are proud to be part of this ambitious program to provide satellite navigation services in the Africa and Indian Ocean region. The use of our geostationary communication satellite NIGCOMSAT-1R navigation payload to broadcast the first signal will be Africa’s premier contribution to SBAS as a regional satellite-based augmentation system for the continent.”

On his part, Benoit Broudy, vice president, Navigation Business at Thales Alenia Space in France, said the longstanding expertise acquired with the development of EGNOS1 SBAS in Europe, and KASS SBAS in Korea, combined with the new leading-edge satellite positioning technologies make Thales Alenia the ideal partner to best support countries to implement their own SBAS efficiently.

“The equatorial region represents also a key engineering challenge for such a system due to difficult ionosphere conditions, for which Thales Alenia Space has developed a proven solution,” he stated.

Mohamed Moussa, director-general of ASECNA, said the provision of the first African SBAS early service is a crucial major step forward in the development of satellite navigation in the AFI region, and in the deployment of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” system, the navigation solution for Africa by Africa.

He said: “It demonstrates the ambition and commitment of ASECNA to enhance air navigation safety for the benefit of the whole continent, in line with my vision for the unification of the African Sky.”


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ipNX, USTDA Ink Partnership Deal to Develop Nigeria’s ICT Infrastructure

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ipNX, Nigeria’s pioneering and leading information, communications and technology (ICT) company and the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) have signed a partnership deal that will further support the development of Nigeria’s ICT and broadband infrastructure and help ipNX expand its fibre-optic network to more than 200,000 residences in Lagos and other locations, including Abuja and Port Harcourt.

A virtual signing ceremony that signalled the beginning of this far reaching relationship between the two parties was held on Thursday, September 17, 2020.

Through this innovative initiative, the USTDA is supporting ipNX to promote inclusive, secure and sustainable connectivity across the nation.

The agreements were made possible as a result of several engagements between the USTDA delegation to Nigeria and the leadership of ipNX; and will advance the goals of the recently updated Nigerian Broadband Plan.

At the Signing Ceremony, Ejovi Aror, group managing director of ipNX, said: “We believe that world-class connectivity and broadband internet access will be pivotal to the digital transformation and socio-economic development of Nigeria.

‘We are very positive that this project will play a crucial role in making our belief a reality.”

Aror added that with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the case for a vibrant ICT sector has never been stronger and the new partnership will bring ipNX a step closer to achieving its mission to continually leverage technology to create innovative solutions that help mankind thrive, while making a crucial impact to the lives of Nigerians across the country.

Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, said’ “These projects will support the development of Nigeria’s telecoms infrastructure and help to achieve the goals of the National Broadband Plan.

“The U.S. Government has committed significant resources to improving telecoms infrastructure in Nigeria and this support is crucial as we believe that investment in critical ICT projects will strengthen the resiliency outlined in Nigeria’s economic sustainability plan.”

Also present at the virtual event, the Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Bako Wakil, who spoke on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, said: “The support this grant will provide to the telecommunications sector, in particular broadband, is in line with the National Digital Strategy and the National Broadband Plan.

“The NCC would like to congratulate ipNX as it shows the company’s integrity and commitment to be selected for this grant”.

ipNX also revealed that it intends to continue to work with USTDA beyond the preliminary stage, to execute many more projects into the future that will bring about the digital transformation and socio-economic development of major cities in Nigeria in alignment with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.

With their partnership, both parties fully agree that further development of the nation’s broadband infrastructure is key to unlocking the potential promised by Nigeria’s digital economy.

According to the World Bank’s ‘Nigeria Digital Economy Diagnostic Report’ released in 2019, Broadband is a key enabler to harness the digital economy transformation and high-speed broadband has the potential to accelerate Nigeria’s socio-economic development.

 


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Manfa, ANSICTA Boss Pledges to Collaborate with NITDA for Establishment of Zonal Office in Anambra State

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Mr Theo Manfa, managing director/chief executive officer, Anambra State Information and Communication Technology Agency, (ANSICTA) has hinted that they are ready to collaborate with National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) for the establishment of the agency’s South-East Zonal office in the State.

 

He stated this when he led ANSICTA delegation to NITDA’s head office in Abuja recently.

 

Mr Manfa explained that the call for special requests by the state is necessitated by the fact that the state “has long been known as a home of innovation and entrepreneurship, through the various markets like Onitsha and Nnewi and the plethora of locally produced goods they spawned over time.”

Dr Vincent Vincent Olatunji, Director E-Government and Regulation NITDA receiving an award on behalf of the DG from Theo Manafa MD ANSICTA

He said that innovation and entrepreneurship are important elements to drive the digital economy which the nation is striving to create adding that the state has been watching with keen interest the activities of Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NITDA which necessitated the intended partnership.

 

He requested NITDA’s partnership with ANSICTA in building an ICT Hub in Anambra State; hosting a NITDA regional office; hosting NITDA events and programs as a State and region; trainings and Skills development programs of NITDA where the State hopes to train 40,000 residents in the next 2 years in Digital skills; establishment of cooperation on the Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture (NGEA) and the provision of the Unity Board where 150 units were requested for a program for secondary schools in Anambra.

 

ANSICTA also presented an award to the Director General for his “Outstanding Achievements in Driving theDigital Economy” which was received by Dr. Vincent Olatunji on behalf of the DG.

 

Dr. Olatunji responded along with comments from some of the Directors and said NITDA would be glad to cooperate with the State.

L-R: Theo Manafa, MD/CEO of ANSICTA, Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, DG of NITDA and Michael Orekyeh, COO of ANSICTA

He said it was gratifying to note that Anambra State now has an ICT Agency as Gov Willie Obiano had visited NITDA 6 years ago and the agency had worked with the State in developing an ICT policy for Anambra.

 

The success of that exercise is the take off of the agency (ANSICTA) which is the execution arm of the policy developed by NITDA.

 

He further said ANSICTA was by the speech of its MD really in tune with the affairs and mandates of NITDA and stated that ANSICTA should make a formal application for the things requested at this meeting will be looked into by Management for approval by the Director General.

 

He also thanked ANSICTA for recognizing the hard work of the DG through the award they presented, which he said was most encouraging.

Michael Orekyeh; chief operating officer of ANSICTA was part of the delegation from Anambra State. while the Director General of NITDA, Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi was represented by the Director E-Government and Regulation, Dr. Vincent Olatunji; Director Office of ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship – OIIE, Dr. (Mrs.) Amina Sambo Magaji; Deputy Director of IT Infrastructure, Dr. Saidu Kumo; SA Technical to the DG, Dr. Mohammed Yahaya; Corporate Strategy Department, Dr. Taofik Yekini and other Directors and Key Management Staff.

 

 

 


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