…Sector urged to prepare for 5G services as 167,000km fibre deficit raises concern
Stakeholders in the telecommunications industry have said that the dearth of master plans for infrastructure locations like road networks, water, oil and gas pipelines in new town developments and others is affecting the deployment of telecoms infrastructure in the country.
They urged infrastructure managers at the Federal, State and Local governments to involve their town planners and others in master plan developments to avoid situations of constantly destroying these critical telecoms installations.
While they rallied the industry to adequately prepare for the deployment of the Fifth-Generation (5G) network in the country, they called for concerted efforts to tackle challenges, which stemmed from poor fibre infrastructure, stiff and choking regulatory barriers, which are discouraging investors and provision of other physical infrastructure.
Speaking in Lagos, at the Telecoms Infrastructure Forum on 5G Regime organised by Infrastructure Quarterly Magazine, the stakeholders noted that infrastructure is at the base of growing the 5G network and services in Nigeria, “hence efforts at providing enabling infrastructure for 5G in the country requires a multi-stakeholder approach to achieve.”
The stakeholders said insecurity and vandalisation of telecommunication infrastructure in most parts of the country lead to the loss of investment worth millions of dollars.’
“Road construction also contributes to the destruction of mostly fibre cables on Rights-of-Way and harassment/extortions by host communities. The sum total of the situation is that operators are discouraged from investments in infrastructure deployment in those volatile regions, further increasing the infrastructure deficit in the country.
“Domestic access to capital in the sector has been very limited. The bulk of capital inflow and investment into the industry has been largely private sector-led. Sources in the finance sector have volunteered information to the effect that of the total commercial loan portfolio of N 25 trillion in the finance sector in 2021, only about five per cent of this volume of funds went to the telecommunication sector as a whole. It is noteworthy that for a sector that contributed 12.6 per cent to national GDP in the same period with an aggregate capital investment of $80 billion, this figure is dismal,” they stated.
They submitted that the dearth of data centres and cloud-based systems with the capacity to manage the enormous volumes of data exchange among systems verticals as 5G services require vital infrastructure.
“Some of these are security, Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and highly confidential data requiring utmost sensitivity in its management. Data management and governance must meet necessary standards of high availability and localisation to national boundaries. Therefore, cybersecurity and secure data management frameworks must be developed to effectively combat the likely abuse, attacks and threats that would target critical national information infrastructure and other digital assets.
“Power supply deficiencies in the country place a very huge OPEX burden on the industry. The sector is majorly diesel-driven and the volatility in the global oil market greatly constrains the operational environment making it a challenge to balance the demands for quality of service, carbon emission requirements, network availability, universal access and universal service obligations. Operators in recent times have had to explore off-grid and renewable energy solutions. Power supply still remains a fundamental hindrance to telecommunication development in the country,” they noted.
To them, the overdependence on foreign telecoms infrastructure input where local products subsist, especially for fibre, remains another challenge, adding that reports from NCC have it that Nigeria with about 126.6 million Internet users rates topmost yet has a fibre deficit of about 167,000km.
They revealed that the fibre component can now be sourced locally with Coleman’s Fibre-Optic cable factory in Ogun State.