Stakeholders in the telecommunications industry has commended the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) for setting the pace for growth and development of the industry.
This assertion was made at the celebration of the 20 years anniversary of the association held in Lagos.
Speaking with Business Remarks at the sideline during the event, a Telecommunications engineer and the retired telecom consultant to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Titi Omo Ettu stressed that the telecommunications industry is an industry built by its own players.
According to him, this industry has also recorded high turnover of failed investments. Unfortunately people don’t know those that failed, he maintained that it is mainly because discussions rally round the successful ones.
Omo-Ettu, who also doubles as the Chairman of Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) disclosed that ALTON has gone through lots of problems but for the fact that some strong Nigerians has shown unwavering commitment, the industry is worth celebrating.
He pointed Gbenga Adebayo, the ALTON chairman as one of such people whose deed is worthy of emulation. “Otherwise we probably won’t be celebrating anything. This is my first industry outing since I retired 2014.”, Omo-Ettu added.
Engr Omo-Etty who was duly honored and appreciated at the event was awarded the special industry pioneers award.
Going forward, Omo-Ettu decried the fact that the Ease of Doing Business initiative came so late because the business environment has been hostile .
“The government has not been able to build a good environment for investment. Many of them just want to share profit. Telecommunications is business that needs lots of investments before one can reap its benefits.
“However, Nigeria can boost of a very strong regulator, NCC. The commission has always been strong and independent. My appeal is that the independence should not be curtailed or oppressed”, he addressed.
Also, a business leader and the former human resource and corporate service executive at MTN Nigeria, Mrs Amina Oyagbola who was presented with an industry achiever’s award described telecommunications as an essential infrastructure in a country.
To attract foreign investments and boost the nation’s economy, Oyagbola hinted that government need to give necessary attention to this sector as well as make the environment suitable for growth and sustainable.
“We really need to do what is expected to ensure we are part of the digital revolution, jump start its development in order to take its rightful place in the world”, she said.
Mr Yunusa Bello who represented the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of ntel communications, Babatunde Omotoba was crowned with the special recognition award.
“We are very excited that we are contributing our own quota to the development of telecommunications industry. Teledensity is now over 100% and broadband over 32% as compared to 20 years ago.
“The telecommunications industry has contributed to our social fabrics and significantly enhance productivity of corporate bodies and economy at large.
He posited that the industry can do more and to look more into providing solutions to the challenges threatening telecommunications growth in Nigeria.
On his part, the Chairman of ALTON, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo paid tributes to the founding father of Nigerian telecom industry, narrating how Nigeria has moved 20 years ago from four cellular mobile networks with limited coverage and 26,500 connected lines, one national operator with 500,000 connected lines (One telephone line per 400 inhabitants), 35 Internet service providers (ISPs) with approximately 17,000 customer base.
He said the telecom sector contribution at that time to GDP has moved from less than one per cent in 1999 to 11.4 per as at second quarter 2019.
“We have moved from less than $50 million marginal private sector participation and foreign direct investment (FDI) to over $68 billion private investment today,” said Adebayo.
The ALTON chairman noted that from inception, PTOs battled absence of policy document articulating sector growth path and development objectives; Ineffectual regulatory framework establishing sector regulator; and costly access charges, yet unsatisfactory levels of service provision.
Others include: Limited opportunity for private sector participation; Wide gulf between service demand and service supply; no competition/total dominance by state-owned monopoly entity; and waiting time for telephone was 24-48 months from NITEL.
He said his members addressed the peculiar early challenges including issues of signaling protocol issues, interconnectivity, billing issues, multiple regulation and taxation issues of right of way and protection of the overall interest of private investors in the sector, which NITEL as the incumbent did everything possible to frustrate their existence.
ALTON was formed in 1999, then known as the National Association of Telecom Operators (NALTO) and incorporated in the year 2000 as ALTON), a corporate body, duly registered under the laws of Federal Republic of Nigeria as an Incorporated Trustee, and officially recognized by the government and the NCC and other regulatory agencies as the industry body for all providers of telecoms subsidiary services in Nigeria.