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Competition and Service Delivery in Telecoms

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Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has severally re-instated its desire to continue to encourage competition in the sector. It does this through licensing of several operators in different space of telecommunications sector against the wishes of many operators that were licensed earlier.
They argued that in voice space, there are 12 operators while India with higher population than Nigeria has six operators. In the traditional internet service providers, there are about 300 licensed ISPs with 60 functional operators.
One of the reasons NCC opened up the space for many to participate is for the benefit of the consumer who has a lot of operators to choose from depending on what he or she needs from the operator. It is also geared towards driving down tariff as operators in a bid to lure subscribers to their network introduce mouth-watering packages to increase their subscriber base as the business of telecom is volume driven.
How the journey started
The process of ensuring a competitive telecom sector started shortly after the sector was liberalized in 2000. The commission granted license to three Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operators, namely: Econet now Zain, MTN and Mtel mobile arm of Nitel. More so, there were about seven Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators providing fixed wireless access as well as limited mobility, most of whom restricted their service in Lagos with three operators operating outside Lagos.
As the market begins to expand with many people seeking to have touch of telephone which then was easy to get in most cities, the need to encourage more operators to complete for the benefit of Nigerians arose. This led to the commission removing limited mobility license for CDMA operators as well as service portfolio obstacle with unified licensing regime.
A unified license is an authorization that allows the licensee to provide a basket of services under a single license. For instance, under the regime, the licensee may be able to provide mobile, fixed telephony services, national long distance communications services, and international gateway services, among others, under one license.
It is often times referred to as convergence. The concept of ‘convergence’ is frequently used to describe the development of global information society. The process of convergence starts when previous separate technologies now come together as a result of direct consequence of the advances made in ICT.
Presently, we have different types of networks for telephony and broadcasting and they are regulated differently and usually by separate authorities, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) which regulates radio and television, while NCC regulates telecommunications.
Explaining NCC’s  proactive stance in moving the industry forward by introducing convergence, Ernest Ndukwe, immediate past executive vice chairman, NCC said that the state of maturity of the telecommunications market in the country, vis-à-vis global trends in service and technological development, convinced the commission that a sure way to promote universal access to telecommunications services at this stage of the industry’s development is to evolve a policy framework that recognizes the issues relating to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as an engine for the development of telephony in the country.
“The unified license regime is helping to extend the frontier for service providers to move service delivery to the next level. One thing that has begun to happen is an increased converged environment for the delivery of services in the ICT sector. The four factors identified to enable convergence are already here, ready and hot for the market. They are the increased digitization of content, the rise in connectivity, technological improvements and a new generation of technology users,” he said.
Changes in Service Delivery
Convergence is a revolution rooted in technology and like all revolution so rooted, the convergence revolution poses two types of challenges: technological and societal. Vendors, content owners, software/application providers, telecoms operators, and the broadcast industry practitioners must rethink their business processes or cave in under the convergence challenges. Nigeria’s unified license regime ushered in by the NCC has already set the tone for the convergence challenge.
For regulators, the challenge is on how best to respond to new technologies redefining traditional services orientation. What should regulation look like in a converged services market? And for operators, it is driving the market with competition?
Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (Alton) corroborated Ndukwe on the gains of convergence when he said that gone are the days when system, services, facilities and networks are built for one type of application, “today the available system and services allow for an all encompassing services-voice, data, video and internet”.
All these have started manifesting as men are beginning to be separated from the boys in terms of service delivery. Before now, internet service were provided by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) using dial-up technology that requires a telephony line which delivers about 56 kpbs, radio technology as well as very small aperture terminal (Vsat) for those who can afford the cost.
In all of these, subscribers are faced with very slow speed of internet basically, as a result of sharp practices of sharing a lot of people on available bandwidth and the technological capacity.
Four years after the introduction of convergence, things have started changing especially in internet service delivery; we are now witnessing an improved service delivery as well as reduction in cost of access. This is made possible by telecommunications operators upgrading their technology to accommodate data and video services, since they are no longer restricted by license. Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators upgraded from 2000 1x technology to Rev A EV-DO that offers robust service in voice and data. It enables operators in this space deliver wireless broadband internet service at affordable cost compared to what traditional ISPs are offering.
On the other hand, GSM operators upgraded from 2.5G to 3G technology which enables network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved spectral efficiency. Services include wide-area wireless voice telephony, video calls and wireless broadband internet, all in a mobile environment. Additional features also include HSPA data transmission capabilities able to deliver speed up to 14.4 Mbit/s on the downlink and 5.8 Mbit/s on the uplink.
These developments are taking toll on traditional ISPs whose subscriber base have reduced by 60 percent, thereby pushing some out of business as they cannot compete with telecom operators whose tariff are cheaper.
Competition hots up
As a result of growing competition in different service delivery options in the space, operators are beginning to create for themselves niche services and are concentrating more in those areas. This does not mean that they are leaving other service area they also provide. For instance, CDMA operators whose network are better suited for internet service as well as voice have started refocusing their business model by investing more in the provision of quality wireless broadband service.
Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations revealed that the four active CDMA operators are now focusing more in provision of internet services as against competing with GSM operators in provision of voice and expanding network to all nooks and crane of the country. Rather, they are rolling out in selected cities where the demand for internet services is high.
Mr. Bashir Gwandu, executive commissioner at NCC, said that telecom market in the country is gradually attending the level where content will determine subscribers’ choice of network. This is beginning to happen as some operators such as Starcomms and MTN are rolling out several value added services.
For the ISPs, they need not fold their hands while telecom operators snatch subscribers from them. To this end, they are upgrading their network especially those with Wimax license to provide fast internet service which is the toast of subscribers.
Recently, Swift Network announced the upgrade of its network to 4G seen as providing faster internet service. It has begun the process of changing its subscribers modem to be able to deliver with the technology.
Mr. Lanre Ajayi, president, Nigeria Internet Group, attributed the stiff competition in the sector as fallout of convergence and level playing ground created by NCC. He lamented the inability of traditional ISPs to rise up to the situation by providing voice service on their network. He noted that they may be constrained by the huge capital required to provide such service which they are unable to get in view of uninterested attitude of the country’s banks to grant loan to long term investors.
He stressed the need for ISPs to start providing different services to be able to remain in business as competition hots up. According to him, with their vast experience in internet service provision, they could go into content development. He added that while telcos provide pipes which are access they are technologically positioned to provide, ISPs should concentrate in the provision of content they are well positioned to provide that is also profitable.
He cited Yahoo and Google as examples of internet content providers in the world today that are far richer than access providers. Ajayi said that Nigeria requires content developers especially as government and organizations are putting their services online.
“ISPs have to be more creative and innovative. This is the time to leverage on their experience to remain in business,” he said.

 

 

 

 


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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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