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Monday, 05 November 2012 00:00
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Why poor quality service may never cease

Last week, Airtel Nigeria invited ICT journalist for an urgent meeting designed to address critical issues in the telecoms industry that bothers on the quality of service.

Director of Regulatory Affairs and Special Projects, at Airtel,Mr. Osondu Nwokoro while giving a blow by blow account of the difficulties that mobile operators encounter in the pursuit of quality service delivery exposed one of the many incidents in the industry that indicated that poor quality service may never be a thing of the past.

Lekki Concession Company,(LCC) the company that got the concession contract for the construction and operation of the Lekki Toll Gate while performing its own social function damaged the optic fibre cable of Airtel Nigerian Limited.

The cable that was damaged carries traffic, which include voice and data from Lagos through the Epe axis of Lagos State to Benin City in Edo State,Abuja and some parts Northern Nigerian. The implication of that act is that subscribers of Airtel as well as those of other network that may need to connect through that route are unable to do that.

A better understanding of that act is appreciated when compared to the blowing up of the Third Mainland Bridge by dynamite. Business, commercial and social activities between the Island and the Mainland is therefore severed. The result is a huge loss of revenue.

According to Osondu, Airtel was expected by LCC to pay a Right of Way fee, which unfortunately had been paid by Airtel to the Lagos State Government before the concession agreement that gave that part of Lagos State road to LCC was signed.

Airtel refused and personnel send to effect repairs on the damaged cables meant armed resistance from LCC.

Airtel, Osondu said has parted with over N100 million to Lagos State Government for Right of Way for the Lekki-Epe axis route for the laying of its fibre optic cable.

This probably was the first that a mobile operator came out name another organisation is making it difficult for it provide quality service to its subscribers.

Airtel is not the only operator that has had its services crippled by damage caused on its telecoms facility in the country.

Mobile Telephone Network(MTN) has suffered similar attack in several parts of the country, with the northern part of the country being the place where they have had the worst attack on its facilities by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram.

During the presentation of an update report on its ongoing network modernisation and optimization, the company’s Corporate Services Executive, Mr. Wale Goodluck and General Manager, Corporate Communications, Mrs Funmi Omogbenigun, at press conference in Lagos said that there are consistent bombardments of its facilities in the north by the sect.

The duo noted that beyond attack from the Boko Haram sect, the current flooding in some parts of the country have grossly affected its base station saying that most of the base stations are submerged in water thereby forcing the company to begin the construction of steel structure for its generating plants.

Before the flood came telecoms infrastructure in the country have been under constant from communities, local governments, state government and some government agencies as well as  some private corporate organisations which have the permission of the government to carry out constructions on areas where operators have their cables.

According to Airtel, 85 of its installation sites fell victim to terror attack and flooding thereby affecting operations of 234 sites across the regions where the terror attacks and flooding occurred.

Also 32 sites were damaged by floods, affecting operations of 41 sites across the region, and 53 installation sites were impacted by terror attacks, hitting operations in 193 sites across the Northern part of Nigeria.

The states affected are Adamawa, Gombe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe and Kaduna while those worst hit by the terror attacks are the cities of Lokoja, Asaba, Ughelli- Patani and Patani-Elele.

The disasters resulted in spiralling costs of maintenance in affected locations to thrice the normal rate, consequently leading to colossal financial losses and dipping revenues.

Investigations revealed that those who are involved in the bombing of base stations in the north are experts who know which facilities in the base stations have direct link to service disruption.

According to a source, those involved in the act of bowing down base stations have acquired satellite phones thereby making it difficult for security operatives to track them when they are on the run even as they remain in contact after disrupting telecoms services in the north.

It would be recalled that in September, telecoms services were disrupted in Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe and Kano states following the bombing of telecoms base stations by suspected terrorists.

The base stations,which belonged to MTN, Globacom, Airtel were affected in the multiple attacks that jolted Borno, Bauchi, Yobe and Gombe States.

As a result, the quality of service in the affected states suffered as interconnection of telecoms infrastructure was severely limited.

The bombing occurred few months after the Industry Working Group(IWG) set up by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) held its first public stakeholders to address the challenges that the operators are facing in quality service delivery.

It was also few months before the bombing that the NCC fined four of the operators for their inability to meet up with Keep Performance Indicators (KPI) that were laid down for them by the regulator.

Key focus of the IWG was the need to tackle problem of double taxation, which was prevalent across the country as well as declaring telecoms infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI).

 However, government was yet to look at the challenges of the sector as reflected in the outcry of the operators and the IWG event as its agency and some state government continued in their clampdown of base stations in across the nation.

 The Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo,in interview described the clamped down base stations in the country as attempt to destroy an industry that has contributed immensely to the growth of the Nigerian economy.

Recently, why calling for conceited efforst to protect and ensure further growth of the industry, executive vice chairman of the NCC, Dr, Eugene Juwah said, “We have seen how businesses have thrived with the availability of Information and Communication Technology.

“We are all full of admiration for the huge private sector investments that the industry has witnessed, rising from about $500,000 in 2001 to over $25bn as at present, and how it has transcended to the nation’s economic environment.

“By this, we mean the contributions of telecoms to the economy by way of job opportunities, human capacity development, improved business transactions with associated cost savings and most importantly, its contribution to the nation’s GDP profile where it has taken over from the financial sector.”

He acknowledged that the challenges facing the industry were numerous and enormous, with finance being a major one saying that protecting existing infrastructure is a challenge yet to be adequately achieved.

Investigation showed that despite the challenges, which may put quality of service a bit far away from subscribers, some operators have bent on salvaging the situation.

For instance, MTN is about to complete its network modernization and swap-out exercise that will result to upgrading all electricity power generating sets in its 10,000 base station to hybrid generating set.

About 900 sites in the Enugu and Port Harcourt region of the country have been swapped. The network optimization exercise will affect over 4,000 base stations out of over 10, 000 across the country.

Also Airtel Nigeria said it has taken decisive steps to mitigate the damage done to its facilities by sealing facility-sharing agreements with other telecom operators, engaging the services of highly efficient private security companies to protect its facilities as well as collaborating with security agencies to ensure maximum protection of telecom