Of the 756 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) licensed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), only 188 are active, as of March 2022, even as stakeholders tasked the commission with sustaining the sector.
Research by LEADERSHIP showed that reasons for ISP inactivity range from anti-competitive issues; low internet access in the northern region of the country due to security problems; Right of Way (ROW) challenges and completion of normalization with state governments; multiple taxation; deployment of customer premises equipment (CPE) compatible with all service providers; the lack of a Corporate Governance Code of the company to the lack of a code of practices for the provision of Internet Services.
Meanwhile, stakeholders who spoke to LEADERSHIP at the Telecom Sector Sustainability Forum, organized by Business Remarks Limited, in Lagos, called on the NCC to create an enabling environment for ISPs to thrive.
Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) President Ing. Gbenga Adebayo said that the big four operators (MTN, Airtel, Glo and 9mobile) have taken over the ISP business in Nigeria.
Adebayo, who was represented by ALTON’s chief operating officer, Gbolahan Awonuga, said: “The big operators are selling wholesale and at the same time retailing. This is affecting smaller carriers like ISPs. If the big operators who are supposed to be doing the wholesale are also doing the retailing, what will happen to the smaller operators who are supposed to be doing the retailing? This legislation is not working well for smaller operators and if we are not careful, smaller operators will be thrown under the table.”
However, Adebayo has tasked the NCC with enforcing strict regulation, adding that the environment is hostile for smaller operators.
“Out of more than 700 ISPs, who have been licensed to operate, we have about 188 active members. If the big operators cry that they can no longer sustain their business, how much more so the small operators? Several ISPs are on the verge of closing their stores if this problem is not fixed. We need to brainstorm together and find ways to ensure we all keep our businesses,” she added.
Along the same lines, WTES Projects Ltd COO Chidi Ajuzie said that Tier 1 ISPs have a lot of money, adding that they have the ability to take over the business from Tier 2/3 ISPs. “Technically, this is what happened and this is why we have less than 200 active ISPs in Nigeria, of which 60 percent of them are struggling,” Ajuzie added.
Ajuzie, however, asked ISPs to look elsewhere to keep their business. Urged ISPs to leverage open access deployments and partnership, reduce legacy CAPEX and OPEX, expand service footprint, consolidate multi-vendor maintenance, reduce risk and high cost, and maintain integration for broadband from end to end, among others.
In response, Executive Vice President (EVC), NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said that the NCC is working tirelessly to address the challenges that have affected the operation of ISPs in Nigeria, adding that “policies and regulations are being analyzed deliberate.” on the Commission to ensure that ISPs and other smaller players in the industry prosper.”
Danbatta, who was represented by the NCC, Zonal Comptroller, Lagos, Mr. Yomi Arowosafe, said that the commission has formulated the National Digitization Policy as well as the National Broadband Plan 2020-2025, which can only be facilitated through the provision of Internet services. , adding that its implementation can make Nigeria compete favorably in the world economy.
The EVC said some of the measures the commission has embarked on to continue promoting fair play and orderly development of Nigeria’s communications ecosystem as well as boosting the industry’s competitiveness include; provide the necessary regulatory frameworks and interventions in terms of policies, guidelines, determinations, etc., that will promote fair play in the telecommunications industry, encouraging and demanding greater openness and transparency in the activities of the interested parties within the industry to ensure healthy competition practices among competing licensees.
He reiterated that the digitization of the economy can only materialize when ISPs are fully encouraged, adding that the commission is focusing on ensuring an enabling environment is created through the development of regulatory instruments that address ISPs’ concerns. in particular and the telecommunications sector in general.
However, Danbatta applauded Business Remarks Limited for organizing the Forum which was attended by members of NCC, Skymax Integrated Network Limited, IPNX, eStream Networks, WTES Projects Limited, MangoNet Integrated Technologies, FibreOne Broadband, Dotmac Technologies, ICSL and members. from the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).