Telecoms in 2020: NCC reviews InfraCo project for effectiveness

TECH DIGEST – The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on July 26, 2012 held the first industry consultation on Broadband Initiative with the theme “Demand as catalyst for broadband services in Nigeria”.

The purpose of the consultation was to engage the industry stakeholders on the future direction of the Next Generation Broadband Network (NBN) in Nigeria.

Thereafter, the NCC conducted one-on-one sessions with select operators/industry stakeholders between the 15th – 22nd July, 2013 on the strategic objectives for the deployment of nationwide optic fibre infrastructure for broadband, as well as to seek their input on this initiative.

TechDigest recalls that a second round of industry stakeholders’ workshop was subsequently held on 15th November, 2013 to discuss stakeholders’ feedback on the revised model for the deployment of the nationwide broadband fibre infrastructure in Nigeria.

So, upon launch, the industry model took into account feedback from the first and second rounds of industry stakeholder’s session, and was designed to be complementary to the existing industry structure.

What is InfraCo model?

InfraCo means Infrastructure Company, and it is one of the initiatives of the telecommunications regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to actualize the National Broadband Plan. Under the plan, the NCC is required to license new classes of telecom operators to fill critical infrastructure gaps and enable broadband services on a wholesale basis that is wholesale wireless and metro fiber companies.

Specifically, optic fiber InfraCos licensees for six geopolitical zones of the country and Lagos, were meant to enable retail operators leverage shared infrastructure to expand their reach and lower the cost of broadband services.

Today, six InfraCo licences had been issued by the Commission. They include;

Raeana Nigeria Limited (South-South Zone);
O’dua Infraco Resources Limited (South-West Zone);
Fleek Networks Limited (North-West Zone);
Brinks Integrated Solutions (North-East Zone);
MainOne Limited (Lagos Zone) and
Zinox Technologies Limited (South-East Zone).

A lot has happened including the inability of the licensees to access over three billion naira (N3 Billion) lying idle at the NCC. TechDigest’s investigations show that the National Assembly shares in the blame for their inability to come up with a resolution empowering NCC to disburse the funds.

How is NCC handling the situation?

In the year under review, the NCC began a strategic review of InfraCo framework and their funding options.

To this end, the Commission constituted a committee to review the framework for the licensing of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCo) and recommend sustainable funding options for effective implementation of the proposed national fibre project.

It should be noted that the constitution of the committee was sequel to the requirements of the new Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP 2020-2025) and reports of relevant committees set up by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which include the Inter-Ministerial Review Committee on Multiple Taxation on Telecommunications Operators over Right-of-Way (RoW) and the Technical Sub-Committee on Right-of-Way for Deepening Broadband Penetration in Nigeria.

These requirements and reports relate to the imperative of reviewing the InfraCo framework to cater for the delays in take-off, change in exchange rate, supply chain and other challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Commenting on this, the EVC said, “The InfraCo project is dear to the government because of its ability to enhance robust and pervasive broadband infrastructure to drive service availability, accessibility and affordability.”