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Stakeholders at WATISE urge government to protect telecoms infrastructure

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Stakeholders at WATISE urge government to protect telecoms infrastructure

Stakeholders at the West Africa Telecoms Infrastructure Summit and Exhibition (WATISE) held in Lagos on 18 October 2023, have called on government to pay close attention to the protection of telecoms infrastructure service in all regions across the country.

The Summit, distributed by the African Media Agency (AMA), focused on reliable telecommunications infrastructure for players in West Africa’s industry to deliver essential services and products in an interdependent ecosystem.

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The event, which has as its theme: ‘The Future of Infrastructure, Connectivity And Services: A New Interdependent Ecosystem of Partners’ was also hosted by TechnologyMirror, an ICT and Telecoms news website with support from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and IHS Towers Nigeria.

In the lead presentation with the topic: ‘Telecoms Infrastructure Challenges: The Pains of Inter-Related Players of the Ecosystem and the Consumers’ Ques’t, Engr Spencer Itive, a telecoms engineer and Chief Executive Officer of RS Engineering Global Limited, harped on the need for Government in the region to pay close attention to the protection of telecoms infrastructure for the region’s digital economy quest to be achieved.

According to him, the government had been paying lip service to the declaration of telecom infrastructure as critical national matter, stressing that the lack of commitment from the government has led to a consistent attack on telecoms infrastructure across the country.

“We are yet to see the commitment of the government in protecting telecom infrastructure and this is why every community sees the deployment as a favour to the telecom operators,” he said.

Itive said a complex tapestry of partnerships now weaves together telecom companies, technology giants, governments, and a thriving ecosystem of startups noting that these partnerships would redefine the boundaries of what is possible in telecommunications.

On the future of infrastructure connectivity, he said all stakeholders in the telecoms sector had to understand that no single entity could meet the multifaceted demands of the digital age in isolation.

Speaking in the second presentation, with the topic: ‘Infrastructure Gap: Leveraging Connectivity and Technology to Transform Enterprise and Social-Economic Life in West Africa’, Rachael Orumor, Chief Executive Officer of Sens Orbit Nigeria, said that over 20 million businesses across Africa use technology to interact with their clients and potential customers.

Orumor, who is based in the Republic of Benin, said that the factors that are driving digital transformation in West Africa are the increasing investment in infrastructure, growing awareness of the benefits of technology and a supportive regulatory environment.

While delivering her paper virtually, she noted that there was limited access to education, especially for people in rural areas, who do not have access to high-speed internet or reliable mobile service stressing the need for more attention for telecoms infrastructure in the region’s rural areas.

According to her, to leverage connectivity and technology to transform enterprise and socioeconomic life in West Africa, infrastructure investments must ensure the proper functioning of existing infrastructure while expanding telecommunications reach.

She said that lack of reliable telecoms infrastructure reduces economic opportunities noting that many businesses now rely on online tools and platforms to operate, and workers who do not have access to these tools may be at a disadvantage.

During the panel discussion, Mr Mike Ofili, Chief Executive Officer of Coloplus, a tower infrastructure company, said that returns on investment in infrastructure could only be achieved in major cities where there was relative stability and a ready market.

He said the concentration of most telecoms infrastructure in major cities was because of vandalism, insecurity, and high Right-of-Way (RoW) charges experienced across the country.

Ofili however, noted that RoW charges were also high in the major cities, especially Lagos, but operators were able to sustain infrastructure deployment with higher returns from the state.

Speaking on the issues that prompted operators to slow down their expansion into rural areas, Ofili said most telcos had to pay so much to lay fibre cables.

“I can tell you that 90 per cent of the data centres in Nigeria are in Lagos and I don’t know how you want to achieve 70 per cent broadband penetration in Nigeria with almost all the data centres in Lagos.

“It is very difficult to lay fibre cable across many communities in Nigeria, you cannot cross any community without paying different people,” he said.

”You cannot build towers without going through different communities of people demanding all kinds of things,” Ofili said.

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