The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Communications, in collaboration with other sister agencies of the ministry and industry stakeholders in the nation’s telecommunications industry, joins the rest of the world today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2019 (WTIS-2019).
The WTIS is a global event of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which has been celebrated annually since 1969, and this year’s edition holding today (May 17, 2019) coincides with the 154th anniversary of ITU.
With the theme: “Bridging the Standardisation Gap (BSG)”, the WTIS-2019 will allow ITU membership and other key stakeholders to focus on the opportunities for participation of developing countries in ITU’s standards-making process; empowering local experts in the standardization process at the national, regional and international levels; and promoting the implementation of international standards in developing countries.
Setting standards is a fundamental pillar of ITU’s mission as the specialised agency of the United Nations overseeing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). ITU standards help to accelerate ICTs for all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is instructive that at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference which held in Dubai in 2018, ITU Member States, including Nigeria, approved an update of Resolution 123 (2007) to promote the increased participation of developing countries in ITU’s standardization process with a view to bridging the standardisation gap in the telecoms/ICT ecosystem.
Participants at the Plenipotentiary Conference also invited member states, permanent mission representatives in Geneva, industry members, small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly from developing countries, the academia, United Nations sister agencies, partners and stakeholders, as well as the general public to organise activities in their countries to mark WTISD-2019 and encourage you to involve all sections of society to help bridge the standardisation gap.
NCC Entrenches Standards, Monitors Compliance:
Accordingly, the NCC, as the national regulatory agency for the country’s telecommunications industry has been at the forefront of enthroning compliance to standards by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and other licensees in the industry.
Through its Technical Standards and Network Integrity Department and the continuous enforcement activities of the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department, the Commission has continued to raise the bar of ensuring standardization in the nation’s telecoms industry.
In its regulatory activities, the NCC places great premium on setting standards that are in line with the globally-approved ITU standards as well as ensuring compliance with the standards set by the telecoms equipment vendors/manufacturers, the user licensees and the end users who use terminal devices to receive telecommunications services.
The Commission has also put in place a sound equipment type-approval process that guarantees that ICT/telecoms equipment brought into the country for service provisioning are in line with international standards and are not constituting any health hazards to the individual service users and the environment at large.
In other words, the Commission has made it clear to all that it is a violation of the Nigerian Communication Act 2003 to supply communications equipment that is not type-approved or which does not meet applicable technical requirements or standards. This means any licensee can only use or supply communications equipment for a telecoms network in Nigeria if the Commission has approved the equipment type.
NCC’s Increased Collaboration on Equipment Standardisation:
In February this year, the NCC, in collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and other government agencies set up two committees to combat the cases of fake and substandard mobile devices that manufacturers bring into the country without recourse to the Commission standardisation process.
The two joint committees set up are the Project Steering Committee (PSC), comprising the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), the Federal Ministry of Communications and the NCC; and the Project Delivery Team (PDT) which draws representation from the Federal Ministry of Communications, the ICRC, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the NCC.
The committees, with specific terms of references, are to work together to ensure the implementation of Mobile Devices Management Systems (DMS), a Public-Private Partnership project, aimed at combatting the proliferation of fake, counterfeit, substandard and cloned mobile communications devices in the telecommunication industry.
While inaugurating the committees, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said the move was in line with the mandate of the Commission, as enshrined in the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003, to type-approve all devices used in the telecommunications industry and to ensure that all devices used in the telecommunications industry are in line with agreed standards and specifications.
In line with the Commission’s 8-Point Agenda and with particularly reference to the first item on the Agenda – Facilitating Broadband Penetration – the NCC has continued to implement initiatives aimed at sanitising the industry of substandard communications equipment, and to ensure continue digital access to Nigerians across the country.
In deepening broadband access to Nigerians across the 774 local governments areas (LGAs) in the country, the NCC has initiated the licensing of telecoms Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos), who will fast-track broadband access and take services to several unserved and underserved areas of Nigeria consistent with the principles of the Open Access Model. More remarkably pertinent to the digital transformation march is the fact that in 2018, the Commission was able to increase the number of InfraCo licences to six.
The six InfraCos so far licensed to drive the deployment of broadband infrastructure across the nation’s six geo-political zones and Lagos, include Raeana Nigeria Limited for the South-South Zone; O’dua Infraco Resources Limited for South-West Zone; Fleek Networks Limited for North-West Zone; Brinks Integrated Solutions for North-East Zone; MainOne Limited for Lagos Zone; and Zinox Technologies Limited for the South-East Zone. The remaining licence for North Central Zone is being processed.
In addition, the Commission is in the process of disbursing subsides to the licensees based on the attainment of milestones in the deployment of infrastructure in the respective zones – the NCC under Danbatta’s leadership already made provisions in the 2017 and 2018 budgets for subsidies to the InfraCo licensees. The NCC’s InfraCo approach is in line with the digital transformation agenda of the Federal Government.
Deepening Wireless Connectivity in Era of Emerging Technologies:
Presently, apart from achieving and surpassing the 30 per cent broadband penetration target set for 2018, the NCC had also recorded successes in improving broadband penetration in the area of spectrum auctions. These include auction of six slots of 2×5 megahertz (MHz) in the 2.6 gigahertz (GHz) Band, re-planning of the 800 MHz band for Long Term Evolution (LTE), licensing of two slots of 10 MHz each in the 700 MHz band, as well as the opening up of the E-band spectrum 70/80 GHz band for both last-mile and backhaul services. Other regulatory instruments employed by the Commission in this regard include the Spectrum Trading Framework; National Mobile Roaming (NMP) as well as the Active Infrastructure Sharing Framework, which is at its final stage of conclusion.
It is also noteworthy that, the Commission, in the fourth quarter of 2018 and in consonance with the 3rd and 5th items of its 8-Point Agenda focusing on Optimising Usage and Benefits of Spectrum; and Facilitating Strategic Collaboration and Partnerships, collaborated with the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) to discuss the prospects and challenges of Next-Generation Networks (NGN) such as the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, among others.
The collaboration provided an avenue for regulators, operators, investors as well as other stakeholders to examine and constructively exchange ideas on the main demand areas for next generation of services, spectrum licensing reforms and the requirements for 5G and other emerging technologies that are to revolutionise the telecom system and users.
The foregoing serves as precursor to the country’s preparedness for the imminent deployment of 5G services due to commence globally by 2020. This has the potential to positively impact the sociopolitical and economic lives of Nigeria as well as the country’s growth and development.
Focusing on Pervasive Digital Future:
While the NCC has been able to facilitate broadband penetration beyond national target of 30 per cent penetration – broadband penetration currently stands at 33 per cent – the EVC/CE has expressed the Commission’s readiness to work with the Federal Ministry of Communications, mobile operators and other relevant stakeholders to further deepen the frontier of pervasive broadband accessibility in the coming years.
Accordingly, the EVC/CE of NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta has projected that in the coming years, the Commission – through sustaining its culture of effective regulatory excellence – expects to see all new sites to be built by the mobile network operators (MNOs) are LTE-compatible; the implementation of the harmonised Right of Way (RoW) charges on state and federal government highways at the cost of N145 per linear meter; elimination of multiple taxation and regulations; and the spread of 3G coverage to, al lest, 80 per cent of the Nigerian population over the current 56.4 per cent of the population covered with 3G networks.
Other projections by the EVC of NCC include the upgrade of 2G base transceiver stations to 3G; spread of Fifth Generation (5G) network to, at least, five per cent of the population; spread of 4G/LTE services to 100 per cent of the population with a minimum broadband speed of 1.5 megabit per second (Mbps); and finally deployment of, at least, on Access Point of fiber with a 10 gigabyte per second (Gbps) capacity in all the 774 local government areas of the Federation through the InfraCo project.