At 52, 125 Million Nigerians Still Lack Access to Telephone
Nigerians who have Access to Telephone are just 35 million.
The population of the country is about 160 million. However, this is an improvement from a meagre 400,000 inefficient Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) lines as at 2000.
Fifty-two years after the country got its independence, millions of Nigerians Still don't have Access to basic things of life.
Though the nation's telecoms industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said the number of subscribers now is about 105 million, many of the lines are inactive.
Also, many Nigerians out of the acclaimed over 100 Million subscribers have at least two lines each. Many others have three lines each while some others have all the lines (four GSM lines plus the three functional CDMA networks) each.
This is because of bad quality of GSM network that the operators have not been able to solve. So, if 35 Million is multiplied by three it gives the NCC 105 million. It then means in reality that over 125 Million Nigerians in hundreds of villages and cities across the country have remained unconnected to any form of telecoms services.
The Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria, Rajaan Swaroop, had said that millions of Nigerians, especially in the remote areas are yet to enjoy the largesse of the GSM revolution in the country.
There is Still need for massive investments, infrastructure upgrade, coupled with resounding legislations to make headway as far as rural telephony is concerned, Swaroop said. He said that the company would continue to invest billions of dollars in the country to penetrate the rural areas.
A telecoms engineer and the immediate past President of Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engineer Titi Omo-Ettu, was probably the first that drew the attention of Nigerians to the fact that many of their compatriots are Still not connected to telecoms networks.
At a Broadband for All Nigerians' Stakeholders' Forum in Abuja in 2010, Engineer Omo-Ettu, said 78 Million active phone lines released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) then, only reflected the numbers of SIM cards sold out by the telecoms operators as many Nigerians have more than two SIM cards.
Many rural dwellers are Still without phones as the telecoms network covers only 30 per cent of Nigeria and GSM has Still not reached millions, according to Engr. Omo-Ettu. He said the country can actually bridge the widening communication gap between the many Telephone users in the urban areas and the few who are in the remote and rural areas.
This, he told the audience, could be easily achieved if the government works on broadband in the country. In achieving the government's Vision 20:2020, he said, broadband is indispensable as it is capable of delivering Nigerians, especially the ones in the rural areas, from the shackles of poverty.
Omo-Ettu, later said efforts by operators towards improving rural telephony in the country was in the right direction but.
He said: "What is faulty is inability of developing economies to change their thinking and management response in deference to technological changes.
"To continue to approach it as if nothing has changed in technology and world trade is what we may have been doing wrong. You do not throw money at problems again. You make problems solvable by turning them into business and calling businessmen to come and work."
The telecoms engineer said that Telephone operators are investors and not patriots and no one should regard them as such.
"An operator will only do a business that makes profit and comply with the laws of the land when government makes those laws. If a government does not react to changes by amending the laws in the right direction, and making interventions when they are desirable, there is little operators will do beyond making pronouncements that we all love to hear," he said.
To address the problem of rural telephony, the federal government awarded a rural telephony contract few years ago. The project involved the deployment of fixed wireless telephony in 218 local government areas across the country. Two Chinese companies were to do the project with a $200 Million (about N26.6 billion) concessionary loan from China.
But the Chinese firms failed to deliver on the project and the government transferred the first phase of the project to five indigenous telecommunications companies; namely, Key Communications Limited, Suburban Broadband Limited, Voicewares Network Limited, Gicell Wireless Limited and Hezonic Limited, in 2009.
In the new arrangement, Key Communications won the Ibadan Zone with a $38 Million bid, while Suburban Broadband bid with $140.5 Million to manage the Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna zones.
Voiceware Networks bid with $30 Million to manage the Enugu Zone, while Hezonic and Gicell Wireless bid with $30 Million and $20 Million to manage Enugu and Bauchi.
But most of them may have abandoned the project due to Lack of funds from the federal government, Daily Trust has learnt.
However, it could be said that in the last 52 years, especially in the last 11 years, that telecoms/ICT sector has fared fairly well.
The introduction of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Fixed Wireless Mobile Telephony in Nigeria in 2001 has saved thousands of lives, created many jobs and eased communications within families, work-places and across nations.
Also, apart from bringing foreign direct investment (FDI) into Nigeria, it has helped show to many hitherto hesitating foreign and local investors that the country has a large market. The inflow of FDI the country got because of expansion of telecoms facilities this year alone was $25 billion. In 2009, it got $18 billion.
Last year, a report by international research firm, Pyramid Research, informed that the sector had added close to 4.5 per cent to the nation's Gross Domestic Product since the advent of GSM.
Experts said if the major players in the sector like MTN, Globacom, Airtel, Etisalat, Starcomms, Visafone, Multilinks among others do not relent in their investments efforts, the place of the sector in the next 10 years would be a very high one. This is even as huge potentials are yet untapped in the industry.
A senior analyst with Pyramid, Mr. Badii Kechiche, said Nigeria will for a long time continue to be one of the most competitive telecoms markets in Africa, with more than double the average number of operators in any other African country.
Mr Adrian Wood, a former chief executive officer of MTN Nigeria, said Nigeria has done pretty well in terms of telecommunications. The sector, he said, had recorded some giant strides in the last 11 years. But he stressed that a lot Still has to be done. For instance, he mentioned the provision of broadband which would make internet available almost in every workplace, household, government offices, as well as in schools. He also said that many local businessmen should invest heavily in the sector so that more fully indigenous telecoms operators could come up.
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