Nigeria: NCC's Fresh Plans to Deploy Fibre Across Country


The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah, with a team of officials including the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management, Okey Itanyi, and a host of others, last weekend, stormed Vanguard premises on a courtesy visit, where the team unveiled some of its agenda to lift the nation to the threshold of strong telecommunication countries of the world.

Q: What are the things you are bringing in?

A: Unfortunately, we have not made much impact on data services. Although, we have it on GSM and CDMA services, but the capacity and reliability of such services are not what they should be. So, we are looking forward to help putting fibre in the ground. We are not operators, but regulators, so we in conjunction with our international consultants have analysed and decided on a model we are going to use. The regulatory framework for that model and all the guidelines are been worked out right now.

Although NCC has always issued subsidies for people to build fibre and broadband infrastructure but there has also not been an impact. So, my view is to invest on fibre infrastructure deployment through open access model. This actually, deals with impediments to deployment like the right- of -way issue.

For example in Lagos, it is a very serious issue. I do not know how many thousand dollars you have to pay per metre, if you want to lay fibre.

So our strategy is to go into partnership with either state governments or local government areas, which ever authority that owns the right- of- way in that particular area, in conjunction with a technology solution provider, and together, we are going to build an infrastructure.

The way we structure it is that, the technology solution provider provides funding and technology. The state or local government provides the equity through provision of the right of way and NCC comes as a development arm of government. We are not there to make money but to subsidise and augment what the solution provider is doing.

In doing so, the primary infrastructure will be build on a community based network. For example, in an area like Apapa, we will build a number of infrastructure, in Lekki, we build one but all of them will be interconnected. These particular infrastructures will be run by licensed infrastructure providers. They are not GSM operators and when we license them to run these infrastructures, we make sure that all the service providers in the telecom sector will have access to the infrastructures on an equal basis.

The advantage of this model is that it removes the monopoly of big companies holding everything, and fixing very high prices, provides opportunity for small companies to also have access at the same price with big companies.

It will also make NCC free of accusations of competing with anybody rather position it as a regulator that has come to develop and bring Nigeria to 21st century with e-economy; Bring knowledge base to our children and adults. This is part of our agenda in the 2011 budget and once we succeed, it will be as revolutionary as the GSM.

Q: How is this going to work with Glo1 and Main One already commercially launched?

A: These initiatives are shore landing cables. This will even act as distribution for them. Glo1 and Main One landed on the shores and have not gotten into the inland. So, to take them inland, this project will be a major vehicle.

It is so good listening to you and believing that it is going to work. But in most cases government gets the right framework but fails in execution. For instance you have State Accelerated Broadband Initiative, (SABI), Wire Nigeria (WIN) projects that were primed towards broadband for all. How is this going to work better than them?

I think, the function of government is to create an enabling environment. We are there to create enabling environment for the operators to function. The key is that stakeholders are coming together. There is the state or local government areas, there must be a technology solution provider company, which is completely a private company, which will provide most of the funding to build this infrastructure.

Then, NCC will be infrastructure operator. It will also be a completely private company that will run this infrastructure as a business. We in NCC are doing it for development of Nigeria. What we do is that we calculate how much to put, in the project to make it successful. So, it is not government project at all.

Government through NCC is only creating an enabling environment, so that fibre can be deployed because we discovered that the operators do not want to deploy fibre and even when they are, they are taking a long time to do it. What I'm saying now is being done in India and in a lot of countries in Europe, out-skirts of England.
(interview extract)