The telecommunications industry in Nigeria is one that can currently be described as self-aware and steadily adapting to the stark realities of business – changing trends, intense rivalry, regulatory uncertainties etc. There is a general understanding that to remain sustainable in the current industry, there was the need to recreate existing products, diversify into new areas for which the capabilities and resources are near, improve on general business processes and navigate through the regulatory landscape.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP some experts shared their opinions on areas to expect development in the Information and communication technology sector in 2017. Excerpts.
The managing director of WaveTek Nigeria Limited, Ken Spann
Telecommunications offers great promise for Nigeria in terms of growth, productive use of the Internet, and creating a real digital landscape for Nigeria. Great emphasis must be placed on Nigeria becoming a digital society despite the lack of power and other IT Infrastructure to support the change.
Education would be one of the primary beneficiaries of digitisation and proliferation of high speed Internet. Nigeria has yet to tap into the potential of distance learning allowing matriculation and degrees outside of the normal classroom attendance. When I taught in a M.B.A. programme in the United States, I lectured, collected homework, and even gave exams online to students I rarely saw. Universities and colleges in Nigeria could benefit greatly from distance learning as their ability to take on more students is severely limited.
Nigerian businesses would also be beneficiaries of telecommunications growth and digitisation. SMB and large businesses can have the internal infrastructure necessary to maintain a profitable business. Accounting Customer Relationship Management, Inventory, Sales & Marketing.
The country’s population of more than180 million would realise huge benefits from the growth of telecommunications. Gone should be the days to have to queue in a bank to pay a bill, get or deposit cash. More and more merchants are offering POS terminal and online payments. In the future, telecommunications and IT would combine so that consumers can view their accounts online and have online customer service as well. Parents will be able to interact with their children’s schools, teachers, online and be more involved in their educational success.
In order for all of the promises of telecommunications to be realised, government and the industry must work together with government creating an enabling environment. More spectrum needs to be allocated to proliferate broadband around the country. Agreement must be made on how to provide more fiber and to have technologies in place where fiber is not technically feasible or profitable to deploy.
NCC has become proactive in looking and releasing more spectrum to providers. The analog TV band spectrum known as TVWS must remain a shared spectrum and not auctioned or controlled by the telecom operators. TVWS, due to its characteristics of propagating signals can cost effectively provide broadband coverage to millions of Nigerians, particularly in rural areas at a very low cost.
NCC in 2015 also released the 70-80GHz spectrum to operators. This spectrum allows them at short distances to transmit up to 10Gbps. In addition, since NCC released as a lightly licensed spectrum, it is the lowest cost of all of the licensed spectrum and is an excellent alternative to the noisy unlicensed spectrum.
The telecoms sector is switching to 4G, only accessible via SIM cards or a dongle. However, WI-FI will continue to be the best way of proliferating Internet since it is available on every phone and device.Telecommunications firms that realised and exploited the value of WI-FI would be successful and spread Internet for millions of Nigerians to enjoy.
The managing director of Data Sciences Nigeria Limited, Mr Aniekan Etiebet
I would think there should be a positive outlook for the Nigerian telecoms sector in 2017. Despite recession, human capacity investments should be huge and should favour local tech capacity development companies as corporate Nigeria in both private and public sectors reduces exposure to foreign exchange (Forex), which is our major albatross.
Mobile market should rebound positively with more than four million new subscriptions per quarter resulting from network deployment and expansion activities of operators beyond urban areas as well as registered SIMs re-entering the market.
In view of the Forex constrain, the Local Content Policy should get a push driven by both policy thrust and attendant high cost of direct ICT import – alternatives particularly in the local software apps market should get positive growth.
The CEO of Niconnx LTD., Mr Peter Elofusim
I see the federal government and the GSM operators revisiting the issue of increasing the data tariff as government digs in to explore more avenues to raise revenue .Also the operators might end up taxing the OTT applications like whatspapp call, Skype call, IMO, Viber, as these OTT apps are beginning to eat deep into the revenues of the operator
Also I foresee some of the GSM operators going public especially MTN as they seek to recover funds spent in paying the penalty imposed on them by the federal government and this may be the cautious dilution of the ownership of MTN and ceding of some equity to local investors.
I also see the government licensing international gatekeeper operators as a means of taking absolute control of the cost of termination of international traffic into Nigeria.
Potentially, the federal government can earn up to $2billion annually by effectively monitoring and billing the international calls being terminated into the GSM networks with a robust technology in place. If the federal government gets the revenue assurance platforms right, they can earn a lot in foreign exchange (Forex).Today, we have an equivalent of gas flaring going on in the telecom industry in Nigeria as the government is not making money on the international calls coming into the country per month and they run into hundreds of millions of minutes per month, this is huge.
We are not talking about the government depending on the operators to supply data or record of transactions, government should be actively involved so as to have true pictures of transactions and issue invoices accordingly.
I also see the NCC licensing Value Added Services aggregators to streamline the operation of the VAS providers .This will enable the operators deal with just one or two aggregators instead of dealing with so many which is a drain on both technical and human resources.
The president of Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), Mr Sunday Folayan
Investment thrives on returns so for us to make any prediction of growth in the telecoms sector, we need to stabilise the exchange rate. In 2016, the dollar was about N200 but now it is over N400. So we see a situation where there is capital flight instead of capital investments.
Secondly, we need to fix the power system. We see a situation where the telecom companies spend huge sums of money to generate power, a development that is negatively affecting their services. We cannot predict growth accurately in the face of such developments. Until these two critical factors and some others are addressed, we may likely face a situation where the telecoms sector may move from a major income earner to a subsistence sector.