Monday , September 26 2022
How WTL is Building a Sustainable Rural Network in Nigeria to Connect the Unconnected

How WTL is Building a Sustainable Rural Network in Nigeria to Connect the Unconnected

Given your experience, how would you describe the telecommunications industry in Nigeria?

Compared to a few years before, Nigeria is moving very fast to connect the country. It is happening in several fronts. Operators like MTN and 9 Mobile are moving forward aggressively to connect the unconnected areas with 2G/3G networks and Airtel is expanding 4G connectivity. Ntel has plans to strengthen their network and expand beyond the areas they are operating now.

NCC with its National broadband plan 2020-2025 that has been commended by everyone has become the catalyst in the connectivity drive.

With a young population and Digital startups sprouting everywhere, in coming years Nigerian economy can be more digitally driven than oil dependent and that would be an excellent achievement.

 

Owing to the existing digital divides and connectivity gaps in the country, how has Wireless Technology Labs impacted telecom services in Nigeria?

WTL has been in Nigeria for several years, and we are market leaders in Voice switching technology for Interconnect Clearinghouse licensees. This particular technology helped the operators to resolve their interconnection problems between each other and improve the telephone call connectivity and voice quality problems.

WTL switches carry 100s of millions of minutes every month within Nigeria.

Recently WTL has developed the rural solutions that are needed by the local operators (like MTN, 9 Mobile). WTL is working with them directly or through their infrastructure partners to connect the unconnected villages across the country.

WTL is active now with projects in various stages for 2G/3G/4G networks whether they are Rural or Urban.

 

As one of the largest telecom markets in Africa, what can you say about Nigeria’s regulatory framework in creating an enabling environment?

NCC has done well on the regulatory front. It started cautiously but you can see clear progress in all fronts.

If you look at the connectivity side there is a clear policy on TV whitespace which is far better than most countries. There is a Right of Way negotiated with the local governments to build Fiber infrastructure faster.

National roaming policy is in place for infrastructure sharing that can bring down the costs of telecom infrastructure. Rural connectivity has kick started with local infrastructure licensees. National broadband plan is another great initiative to make Nigeria independent of the Oil economy.

We can always suggest what they could have done additionally but NCC is doing very well.

 

Currently, Nigeria’s broadband penetration stands at 41.1%, what measures can the Nigerian Government take to deepen broadband infrastructure and increase digital expansion in the country?

I’m actively encouraging all the local governments to respect the low Right of way fees. Promote FWA by assigning frequency spectrum (TDD) to local smaller ISPs at lower costs.

Helping Operators and infrastructure companies to keep their sites from being vandalized. This is a serious problem now in Nigeria. Actively encouraging FDI into Nigerian Telecom projects.

 

What are some of the challenges WTL is experiencing in Nigeria?

The biggest challenge in the country today is access to foreign exchange. This certainly will slow down the deployment of Telecom infrastructure.

The second biggest challenge is stability of Naira. This is a huge problem for local companies to purchase required equipment at a price that is viable.

 

Given the peculiarity of the environment, do you think Active Open Infrastructure Sharing can help improve coverage as well as resolve some operators’ challenges?

It certainly will help resolve some challenges. Open infrastructure sharing is a loosely used term. There are several infrastructures to share, for instance:

Passive; masts, poles, tower structures, ducts, trenches, spaces in buildings, electric power and dark fibre

Active infrastructure; radio network, core systems etc.

Each of those items pose challenges and opportunities; for example, Towers and electric power can be shared easily but the sites should have been built strong and powerful enough to share between several operators. Independent tower companies build such structures, but operators build structures for their own needs so it could be more challenging to share those.

It would be great if the local governments were to compel the Fiber companies to actively offer the trenches they are building to others to place their own ducts.

These will, reduce the investment dramatically. It will also reduce the environmental damage and inconvenience to the population when trenches are dug multiple times just to put in another duct.

Future growth anticipation and intelligent investment will make infrastructure sharing a success.

 

Recently, Nigeria telecoms sector keeps attracting foreign investors, what edge do Wireless Technology Labs have?

Nigerian telecoms need so much investment that you don’t need an edge.

WTL has a technological edge on understanding how to build sustainable rural networks. WTL sees, with the opportunities available, Nigeria as a country to invest their resources and money.

WTL is investing in Nigeria to build skilled manpower and technical infrastructure to serve its Pan African customers.

 

Do you think Nigeria is ready for the deployment of 5G?

Yes, every country is in some ways. It is more about the business case for an operator to invest than anything else. With less than 40% 4G coverage and data ARPU staying under a dollar, it is a challenge operators will face to invest huge sums of money into a new technology.

There are some advantages with 5G. It can bring prices down as the radios can carry more data.

It is the lack of fiber backbones and cost of fiber connections in Nigeria that need to be addressed before going for full scale 5G deployments.

I believe there will be more 4G deployments to fill the gap before investment goes to 5G.

 

About Bukola Olanrewaju

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