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Telecoms: NCC frets over N70bn interconnect debt

WORRY

The telecoms regulator is worried over rising debts among the operators, which is capable of setting

 

 

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has expressed worry over the huge interconnect debts among the telecom operators.

 

According to the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Umar Danbatta, he debt, which is now over N70 billion threatens the operators’ capacity to expand their infrastructure for better quality service. Interconnect rate is the price that telecommunications operators pay each other for calls terminating on their networks.

 

If a call originates from network A, for instance, and ends on network B, what A pays B for terminating the call is the interconnect rate. However, operators have failed to settle this cost over the years and the debt continues to pile up.

 

Danbatta, who expressed this concern at the maiden edition of the National Dialogue on Telecoms and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sectors in Nigeria held in Abuja, urged telecom operators to settle the debts in the wider interest of the industry.

 

Danbatta said the “interconnectivity indebtedness valued at over   N70 billion is a big challenge to infrastructure expansion and inimical to healthy competition” which are needed for facilitating the digital economy in Nigeria.

 

Speaking as a lead presenter during one of the panel sessions at the event themed: “National Funding and Investment Strategy for Broadband Infrastructure and Digital Economy”, Danbatta highlighted what the Commission had done in the last five years, especially in stimulating the development of resilient ICT infrastructure and the benefits these regulatory efforts have brought to the economy.

 

Situating his presentation in the context of ‘Nigeria’s Telecom Sector: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,’ Danbatta explained that access gaps in the country have been reduced from 217 in 2015 to 114.

 

“We have licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos); we have introduced innovative policies such as spectrum trading and spectrum farming; broadband penetration has increased from 6 percent to 43.3 in the last five years.

 

Also, from eight per cent in 2015, the telecoms sector contributed over 14 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as of second quarter of 2020, valued at N2.3 trillion,” Danbatta said. Danbatta, who also represented the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, at the event re-emphasized the resolve of the Federal Government, through the Ministry, to continually advance the digital economy agenda of the country.

 

In the minister’s Keynote address, read by the EVC, Pantami said the event organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) with the overarching theme: ‘Harnessing the Digital Resources for the Building of Our National Economy’ and sub-themes lined up for discussions, were apt and timely, given the increased reliance of individuals and businesses on digital platforms to carry out their activities.

 

Pantami stated that the digital economy journey started by the Ministry, following the President’s approval in 2019, culminated in the development of an eight-pillar National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) with a view to providing a more coordinated and   enhanced national policy direction for transforming Nigeria’s economy into a truly digital economy.

 

He described NDEPS as a policy document that addresses different aspects of development that require attention to have a vibrant digital economy, adding that, like Nigeria, most nations are prioritising the need to develop their digital economies because of the multiplier effect on all other sectors of the economy.

 

The Minister noted some of the challenges of the digital economy to include rapid evolution of technology and widening inequalities between the digital “haves” and “haves-not”; the need for new regulations; cybercrime and other threats; low level of digital literacy; and the need for infrastructure.

 

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