Telecommunications regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has issued licences to 20 firms to operate as Internet service providers in the country. New Telegraph gathered that the new telecom operators were licensed between January and May this year to boost the depleting number of players in that segment of the telecoms market. With the new licensees, the total number of licensed ISPs in the country increased to 182. However, not all of them are actively providing services as the stiff competition in the industry has forced many out of business.
The newly licensed firms include Techlink Technology Solutions Limited, which is based in Kano; Houston Wireless Limited in Port-Harcourt; Pearsdc Nigeria Limited in Benin; Kajab Engineering Services Ltd. Lagos; Raglan Technologies Limited, Lagos and BUD Infrastructure Limited, Lagos. Others are OTU-B International Concept Ltd, which is based in Abuja; C7 Technologies Limited, also in Abuja; Netfinity Limited, Lagos; Bluetel Communications Limited, Abuja; V-Duplex Network Limited, Lagos; Naebass Integrated Services Nigeria Limited, Abuja; Innovalue Communications Limited, Abeokuta; Buffalo Rock Resources Limited, Abuja; Ratel Plus Nigeria Limited, Kano; Comenergy Managed Services Limited, Lagos; Gifra Wireless Network Ltd, Abuja; IMBIL Telecom Solutions Nig Ltd., Lagos; IMBIL Telecom Solutions Nig Ltd, Abuja; and VASSCN Digispice Nigeria Limited, Lagos.
The rising number of ISPs is expected to boost the country’s broadband penetration target of 70 per cent by 2025. However, locations of the new service providers show that most are still concentrated in the urban areas, as the digital gap between the urban and rural Nigeria continues to widen. The new service providers are coming amidst complaints by the old players over the stiff competition with the mobile network operators.
The ISPs have been blaming the bigger operators, especially the likes of MTN, Globacom, Airtel, and 9mobile for their woes as the operation of the mobile network operators in the retail data market with cheaper prices is said to be the bane of the ISP businesses. While emphasising the role of the ISPs in the country’s quest for ubiquitous broadband, the Chief Executive Officer of VDT Communications Limited, Mr. David Omoniyi, had recently appealed to the government to come to the aid of the business. According to him, the ISPs who could be classified as the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the telecoms market are dying by the day. “Indigenous ISPs are disappearing, more than 200 have been licensed so far by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), but less than 20 of them are operating.
They are largely SMEs and need support to survive,” he said. Omoniyi added that the implementation of the National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 required the input of every stakeholder to succeed, hence the ISPs, which play significant roles in taking the services to the last mile must be supported. “We need to carry everybody along and one way is to keep the ISPs alive. We need the majority of them around to keep employing people and to take the service closer to the people.
There is a need for targeted intervention for them to survive,” he added. Meanwhile, NCC in a recent study by the Emerging Technologies Research Unit of its Research and Development Department acknowledged that licence renewal rate of ISPs in Nigeria continued to drop, even as new firms take up the licence. The researchers, therefore, called for a regulated increase in the prices of data to save the ISPs from dying. According to the study, there is currently a regime of “artificially low data prices” in the market due to stiff competition among the operators. “To solve the issue of artificially low internet/data prices, a regulated minimum price level has to be put in place by the government and the commission, for both big and small telecom operators to compete on the quality of the network and customer services they provide,” the study recommended. In the report of the study titled: “An Exploratory Study on the Challenges and Survivability of ISP Licensees in the Nigerian Telecom Sector,” the researchers said: “In view of the critical need of internet connectivity for the digital economy and mass digitalisation of Nigeria, the role of ISPs is central also for the uptake of the internet of things (IoT). The Study, therefore, undertook a detailed assessment of the challenges facing ISPs in Nigeria, and these were found to include: competition with MNOs offering ISP services, harsh business environment, inadequate National Broadband Infrastructure.”