The liberalization of telecommunications sector of the country’s economy some nine years ago has witnessed a lot of transformation and challenges mostly associated with developmental stage in evolution of telecommunications in any society especially; one with infrastructural challenges such as is the case in Nigeria.
The sector has managed to surpassed such problems as government ownership of a monopoly telecommunications company, government funding of telecom infrastructure development, slow pace of network rollout, long waiting line for services and consumers limited to only one service provider among others. Today, Nigeria has become one of the fastest growing markets in the world for mobile communications.
It was not all rosy for the operators and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) the regulatory body in the first phase in development of the sector as they had to address problem of interconnectivity, effective competition, monitoring, compliance and enforcement as well as consumer education.
Having addressed these teething problems to greater percentage of success, telecommunications sector is now preparing to face the next frontier of the developmental process.
The next frontier
The question that arises is what are the expectation of both consumers and operators for the next frontier in this developmental process? This was explained by Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, executive vice chairman, NCC, that Nigerian operating companies are paying rather high bandwidth charges for satellite links in the country. This he said has discouraged extensive use of the satellite as alternative medium for long distance transmission requirements.
These high charges have prevailed in spite of the fact that the Nigerian business represents over 60% of the African business portfolio for a number of the International Satellite Organisations.
He emphasized the need to open up discussions on how to drive down the charges perhaps, by consolidating the requirement on a national basis and using that to negotiate better bandwidth prices.
“This is especially critical at this time when satellite can be employed to bridge the gap, while the roll out of the terrestrial alternatives is being implemented,” he said. This issue will be addressed in the next frontier as Glo 1, MainOne and West Africa Cable System will soon come on stream to complement South Altantic Undersea Cable (Sat-3). These initiatives are expected to provide enough bandwidth that will reduce the cost and over dependent on satellite.
National fibre optic ring project initiated by Globacom has reach 80 percent completion as well as those of MTN, and Zain will as reduce the high cost of network rollout even as NCC has expressed its readiness to ensure that such important transmission facility is shared by operators.
Outsourcing is one of the features in the next frontier of development in telecommunications sector. However, some operators have adopted and are currently implementing outsourcing as the way to go in the emerging next phase of development in the sector. Outsourcing is the transferring of certain business functions from internal staff to outside contractors. Outsourcing commonly is applied to non-core functions, such as accounting, information technology, human resources, facilities management, fleet management, parts manufacturing, payroll, press relations, and real estate management for reasons that include lowering costs, avoiding liabilities, and allowing management to focus on the core business. Outsourcing also is an excellent way for management to shift or even avoid responsibility.
A recent report published by Analysys has emphasized the benefits of judicious outsourcing of business processes by telecommunication companies. According to the report, telecom companies need to have a relook at their outsourcing policy, and be open to agreements with third party outsourcing firms in areas that were formerly considered "core" concerns. By redefining their outsourcing outlook, companies can leverage the benefits of cost cuts, flexibility, and profit growth.
There are some key factors that telecom companies must consider in shaping their outsourcing policies, such as their market positioning, strategy, internal expertise and current efficiency. The Analysys report looks into the possible benefits that can be derived from outsourcing, and also the risks involved in handing over management of business processes to a third party. There is also evidence that outsourcing can help operators to achieve significant cost savings.
Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has indicated its preparedness to implement Number portability in the sector as part of next phase in the development of the sector. Number portability is a telecommunication network function, which allows subscribers to switch services, service providers, or locations without changing their telephone numbers. Near-term number portability is typically implemented by existing telecommunication services such as remote call forwarding. Long-term number portability can be implemented under the advanced intelligent network (AIN) platform. Portability is possible in fewer countries with respect to cellular service. There are restrictions, however. For example, it is generally not possible to port a number across landline and cellular domains. Neither can numbers be ported across countries.
The Dominican Republic is the most recent country out of over 30 that have implemented number portability; it did on September 30, 2009. It is the second country in the Caribbean to launch NP after Puerto Rico, and the fourth country in Latin America to have fixed and mobile NP. Brazil and Mexico launched its NP last year, while Panama has had fixed line NP in place for several years but does not have mobile NP.
The benefits of number portability are seen not necessarily in the amount of people porting to other operators but in the fact that operators are obliged to up their game and focus on quality service and customer retention. That obliges them to keep investing in their networks.
José Magana, analyst with Pyramid Research, reiterated that view, saying that experience in other markets shows that few numbers end up being ported and the benefits lie elsewhere.
"Even though number portability may not end in a lot of numbers being ported, it moves competition to other things like efficiencies and offering good quality services, offering better handsets. We’re positive that the DR’s move into number portability will be important and benefit customers," Magana said.
In the extraordinarily competitive telecom sector, customer satisfaction is the ultimate metric of success. The surest path to a strong business bottom line is assuring that customers receive the highest appropriate Quality of Service (QoS) across multiple applications and delivery mechanisms. At the same time, however, isolating and resolving technical problems across a complex telecom infrastructure, and evaluating them in the context of the customer experience, is no simple trick.
As a result, service assurance evolves as a discipline along two paths. First, within service management, growing from rudimentary root cause analysis—based on element managers and low-level network interfaces—to a more sophisticated, integrated and mature function of Operations Support Systems (OSS).
Second, service assurance will grow in relevance across the organization, developing gradually into a key business intelligence source which delivers performance and service delivery analytics to even the highest level of the organizational hierarchy.
Just as it has grown and matured, the essential theory and implementation of service assurance will see significant change. The automation of fault management, for instance, will become important when networks reached a level of maturity and complexity that rendered simple readouts useless. An analysis layer will be required, and the fault management sector born.
Similarly, it becomes clear that the robustness of network architectures meant that network fault events will not always translate directly into degraded network performance. Performance management, as a subsection of service assurance, should be created to distinguish performance-impacting faults from those requiring a prioritized response—from lesser faults.
These two systems—fault management and performance management—have come to represent different views of network integrity and, considered as a whole, comprise a fairly comprehensive view of network robustness.
Are operators prepared?
Having gone pass different operating and environmental challenges in the course of service delivery, telecommunications operators have shown some level of preparedness for the next frontier in the developmental process of the telecommunications sector. Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations have revealed that most of components in the next phase are initiated by operators, such as undersea cable initiative, outsourcing and collocations of infrastructure. More so, industry watchers are of the view that the most important aspect in the next level rest on number portability which assert some level of responsibility on the operators that will require performance management and service assurance.
They however, expressed optimism that most of the operators in the country have their parent company or its affiliate operating in countries that have reach the level at which the country’s telecommunications sector is moving to, which will afford them the opportunity of adjusting their operations fast to meet with the expectations of the new frontier.
NCC @ ICTEL EXPO, Pledges Robust ICT Infrastructure for Economic Growth
Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has said that the Commission will continue to promote and facilitate expansion of robust broadband/Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure across the country for the rapid development of the nation’s digital economy.
Danbatta gave the assurance in a presentation titled “Communication Technology for Service Delivery in Health, Education, Tourism, the Creative Industry and Agriculture” delivered during the first virtual and sixth edition of Information Communications Technology and Telecommunications Conference and Exhibition (ICTEL) EXPO 2020.
He said the Commission, not only successfully achieved but surpassed the 30 per cent broadband penetration target in 2018.
Danabatta observed that through various policy initiatives, broadband penetration has further increased to 42.02 per cent as of July, 2020, noting that this has laid a solid foundation to drive the national efforts at achieving the new 70 per cent broadband penetration target set in the Nigeria National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025.
Represented by Efosa Idehen, director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, Danbatta said in line with this commitment, the Commission has commenced the review of the framework for engaging infrastructure companies to cascade fibre optic deployment to the hinterlands of Nigeria to ensure pervasive access to broadband services in the country.
He stated that with the support of the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, NCC is resolving the perennial problem of high cost of Right of Way (RoW) with the support of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) to hasten ICT infrastructure that will enable socio-economic activities across various sectors.
According to him, as the world is becoming increasingly digitised; there will be no sector or facet of human life where ICT will not be required for optimal service delivery and improved conditions of living for the citizens.
With regard to the health sector, Danbatta said ICT is playing a very important role in the manner health services are now delivered, adding that the new Internet speed and low latency of 5G technology are expected to further enhance the possibilities of telemedicine and remote surgery.
Similarly, the EVC said the educational sector has also greatly soared on the wings of ICT, as there has been a surge in online learning in many institutions around the globe due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, while illustrating the symbiotic relationship between ICT and educational sectors.
Danbatta said “the relationship between ICT and the educational sector has been mutually beneficial. He assured the stakeholders that the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to enhance the capabilities of the educational sector even further.”
According to him, the agricultural sector has also benefitted from ICT, as several agro-based apps have been designed to ensure that stakeholders in the sector are able to provide and improve on essential agro-services.
These developments have helped to boost food production and security, just as a lot of digitisation is also holding sway in the creative industry, enhancing its growth thereby enabling job creation and greater contribution to the Gross Domestic product (GDP).
NDPR to Safeguard Personal Data of Nigerians -DG NITDA
Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has disclosed that the motive behind the issuance of Nigerian Data Protection Regulations, (NDPR) by the Agency was to safeguard the right of natural persons to data privacy, fostering safe conduct for transactions involving the exchange of personal data, enablement of Nigerian businesses to be globally compliant and competitive and to create jobs for Nigerians.
Mallam Abdullahi revealed this Friday while delivering the keynote address at the 6th annual conference of Institute Internal Auditors of Nigeria, (IIAN) with the theme:, “Agility and Resilience” which was held on zoom conference platform.
The Conference aimed at preparing participants across Internal Audits, Internal Controls, risk management, revenue and Government assurance and other business professionals to learn how to leverage on new technologies and procedures towards actualisation of the organisation’s goals and objectives.
The NITDA DG who was represented Director e-Government Development and Regulations, Dr Vincent Olatunji stated that since inception of the Agency in 2001, it has been playing a catalytic roles to spur the infusion of technology into nation’s work processes reiterating that the Agency plays “critical roles in capacity development, provision of working tools for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“NITDA also has an existing arrangement with the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to aid the office in the discharge of its activities.”
Mallam Abdullahi said, “The Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) was issued on 25th January, 2020 by my predecessor, DrIsa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
“As part of his think-tank then, our thinking was that Nigeria needed to quickly provide a regulatory framework for the processing of personal data.
“This was even more pertinent in consideration of the global implications of non-performance.
“Businesses where losing bids because investors felt there was no data privacy regime in Nigeria.
“The Agency’s implementation of the NDPR has been innovative and impact oriented. For the first time in data protection implementation, auditors became recognised as Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO)”.
He maintained that NITDA has 72 licensed DPCOs among which are members of this “august body,” adding that “this posture is not as a result of lack of professionals in the IT industry, rather, we have made conscious efforts to carry every relevant stakeholder along in our developmental regulatory strategy.
“ I hope this noble institute would repay NITDA’s generosity by imbibing ethical and professional principles on your members for better implementation of the Regulation.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, New Capital Cooperatives Society Mr. Benedict Anyalenka while commending the organisers of the conference affirmed that data privacy and protection should be a requisite skill needed for development of the Information Technology Sector as it would create platform for protection of information against unauthorized usage.
Anyalenka, however, called for proper awareness on the importance of data privacy among organisations and stakeholders across the country to safeguard citizens’ data.
FG Reveals Plans to Deploy Technology in the Health Sector
As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government of Nigeria has announced plans to deploy information and communications technology (ICT) in the country’s health sector.
This is part of the plans to achieve transparency and accountability in health care delivery across the country.
Dr. Ngozi R. C. Azodoh, director, Special Projects, Federal Ministry of Health, who represented Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire, Honourable Minister of Health, revealed this while speaking at MTN Nigeria’s Revv Programme masterclass on Thursday, September 17, 2020 .
The virtual session themed ‘Bridging the healthcare divide through technology and partnerships’ had in attendance health sector experts including Chief Executive Officer, Hygeia HMO Limited, Obinnia Abajue; Chief Operations Officer and Co-Founder, Afya Care, Kola Oni; Managing Director, Ingress Health Partners, Dr. Orode Doherty and Chief Executive Officer, Tremendoc Limited, Ugochukwu Chikezie. The session was moderated by the General Manager, Business Development, MTN Nigeria, Omotayo Ojulatayo.
According to Azodoh, the federal government has put structures in place to utilise ICT as part of efforts to standardise the healthcare system.
“The government is working hand in hand with state governments across the country to maintain transparency and accountability, adding that ICT and other forms of electronic platforms are currently being improved and expanded following the federal government’s COVID intervention”.
She also shared that the ministry is willing to support small businesses in the sector imploring the participating SMEs to seize the opportunities provided by The Revv Programme.
“I want to ask everyone who is listening to write to the MTN Revv team and say this is one thing I want the Federal Ministry of Health to do to help my business then we can engage on how to proceed,” she enthused.
In her parting remarks, she also commended MTN Nigeria for providing a platform for SMEs to expand their capacity. “I must commend MTN for this excellent initiative. It has been very productive for me and an opportunity to transfer knowledge.”
The Revv Programme is an initiative from MTN Nigeria to help small businesses rethink and retool their operations in order to withstand the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic using a four-pronged approach that includes masterclasses, access to market, productivity tools support and advisory initiatives.
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