World Telecom Labs (WTL), a global telecommunication equipment vendor has urged the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to enforce the use of excess spectrum by telecom networks in rural areas to increase connectivity.
WTL urged the NCC to incentivise operators to use their unused spectrum for new shared networks in rural Nigeria where there is little or no coverage at the moment. These networks would be built by a neutral service provider and used by existing operators.
With more than 12 years’ experience working with operators of all sizes across Nigeria, World Telecom Labs has helped to build Nigeria’s telecoms infrastructure. However, it said it was disappointed to read the GSM Association (GSMA) estimates of mobile penetration in Nigeria of 49 per cent rising to 55 per cent by 2025, whilst only four per cent have 4G mobile broadband growing to 17 per cent by 2025.
According to the GSMA, the total amount of spectrum assigned to mobile in Nigeria is 470MHz, far in excess of the sub Saharan Africa (SSA) average of 268 MHz.
“Some inefficiencies may exist in the utilisation of spectrum, as around a quarter of the spectrum assigned to mobile is being used by a few service providers that jointly account for less than two per cent of the mobile market,” said GSMA.
Leigh Smith, managing director of WTL, said, “Plenty of spectrum has been allocated but unfortunately a lot of it is being wasted because it is lying fallow in the hands of small and inactive license holders. I would encourage the NCC to adopt a “use it or lose it” approach. Our vision enables neutral third party networks to be deployed where mobile network operators (MNOs) refuse to go, this would increase the overall footprint.”
WTL said allocating the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) money to the capital expenditure (CAPEX) cost of such networks would reduce the risk. National roaming and infrastructure sharing would enable people to use the network of other service providers in Nigeria where their own service provider does not have a network or has limited network coverage.
In effect, operators share their infrastructure thus eliminating the need to lay duplicate infrastructures in areas where this is not commercially feasible. WTL said it was already working with wholesale operators in five countries in Africa to build rural networks and, with infrastructure sharing being widely considered across the continent.
The company firmly believes that the removal of the Capex cost of building a rural network would encourage previously reluctant operators to start offering services in these areas. It also believes that infrastructure sharing would be of great benefit to Nigerians with increased coverage, improved service levels and competition driving down costs.