TELECOMS

Infrastructure sharing dispute in Nigeria gets political

The Senate has been petitioned over the lingering telecoms infrastructure sharing dispute that has pitted long distance operator, Traffic Network Services Limited (TNSL) against fixed wireless operator, Multi-Links-Telkom.

In what has shaped out to be one of the longest standing infrastructure sharing dispute in the telecoms sector, TNSL wants the upper law-making body to invoke its powers of "legislative superintendence" to order an investigation into the dispute that it says has defied regulatory intervention through its standing or ad-hoc committee on Communications.

South Africa's fixed line operator, Telkom SA this year acquired 75 per cent stake in Nigeria's pioneer private phone operator, Multi-Links, in a $280 million deal that resulted in the identity change to Multilinks-Telkom and appointment of an executive in Telkom Broadband division, Justin Ramayia, as Chief Operating Officer in April, this year.

CEO of TNSL, Olusegun Fatoye, in a letter dated October 2, 2007 to Senate President David Mark, seen by Technology Times alleged that Multilink-Telkom's refusal to allow his company access to spare capacity on its duct along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway to lay its cable, "has created a barrier to market entry for a young indigenous company like ours."

Both companies have been at loggerheads over plans by TNSL to share telecoms infrastructure and collocation facility with Multi-Links-Telkom, a development that has seen the telecoms sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), wading into the matter in a dispute resolution hearing held in September, last year.

Meanwhile, TNSL says very little has changed since then as the regulatory ruling delivered by NCC that both parties should comply with its earlier decision of November last year to commence negotiations on collocation/infrastructure sharing was allegedly yet to be heeded by Multilinks-Telkom.

According to the TNSL petition, it is seeking the Senate's review of the following:

- The landmark ruling in the matter of co-location and infrastructure sharing between TNSL and Multilinks-Telkom.

- The final regulatory ruling and subsequent directive remains pending and un-enforced since delivery on February 28, 2007

The entire industry and indeed international investors are awaiting the enforcement of this ruling as a clear regulatory guide and precedent for negotiating and concluding transactions on co-location and infrastructure sharing.

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