By Celestine Okafor (Editor-in-Chief) @CeleOkaf11
The Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has said the NCC is irrevocably committed to the implementation of various regulatory initiatives and programmes, in collaboration with all stakeholders in the telecom ecosystem, towards bridging identified gaps and shortages in critical telecom infrastructure in the country.
The overarching objective, he said, is to fulfil Commission’s mandate and support extant and emergent policies and strategies of the Federal Government focused on providing ubiquitous, accessible and affordable broadband services in Nigeria.
Prof. Danbatta, stated this during an in-house interview which took place at the Commission’s Head Office in Abuja recently. The EVC emphasized the centrality of infrastructure to telecom service provisioning by asserting that availability of broadband in sufficiency was non-negotiable and irreducible in the nation’s strategy towards delivering pervasive telecom services.
Danbatta also put the efforts of Government in context towards addressing infrastructure gaps, and commended both state and non-state actors for the vision, diligence and continued dedication to the implementation of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025, an initiative of the Federal Government, being driven by NCC and conceived to address infrastructure gaps in the telecom and ICT sector. The EVC said he was gratified that the new plan particularly took into consideration, the identified gaps and challenges in its precursor, the National Broadband Plan 2013-2018, which implementation the NCC was equally central to.
According to Danbatta, one of the identified gaps to robust connectivity was the fact that inadequate infrastructure remained a bane to achieving desired broadband penetration to boost access to services that will enhance economic growth and development. He emphasised that the Commission recognises the importance of infrastructure expansion and this explains its unequivocal commitment and desire to see the licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) work speedily and with precision to cascade fibreto the hinterland, in order to enhance robust telecom service provision. He said the InfraCo licensees, expectedly, also prioritize stipulated licensing conditions to ensure expected milestones set by the Commission are achieved.
The EVC stated that Commission’s target for licensing the infraCos was to ensure the deployment of fibre infrastructure needed for pervasive broadband penetration across the 774 local government areas (LGAs). This, he said, will ensure access to telecoms services in the hinterlands of the country, and by so doing address the challenges of access confronting the unserved and underserved areas of the country.
Danbatta also placed on record Commission’s desire for inclusiveness as seminal to erecting sustainable telecom architecture. This, according to him is critical in ensuring the achievement of Federal Government’s target on digital access and financial inclusion.
One visible area of beneficial financial service riding on telecom infrastructure is the provision of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) for financial transactions across various financial institutions’ platforms. This feat, Danbatta asserted, has brought ease to financial transactions, even as he recalled that NCC is providing support for e-payment initiatives and policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), including the e-Naira project, which is the digital currency issued and regulated by the apex bank.
“So, the Commission is committed to ensuring inclusiveness by ensuring the provision of affordable and pervasive accessibility to the Internet as emphasised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations (UN). We are aware that until commensurate infrastructure is deployed in the country, the country may not hit the required target necessary for the desired economic development,” the EVC added.
Additionally, Danbatta stated that the Commission has recorded remarkable progression with respect to contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is besides facilitating investment, enhancing Quality of Service (QoS) to enhance consumer quality of experience and stakeholder satisfaction in line with the expectations of the Strategic Management Plan 2020-2024. He assured that Commission will heightened efforts in all areas of the Plan as streamlined in new Strategic Vision Implementation Plan (SVIP) 2021-2025, including facilitating strategic collaboration and partnering through which it has forged quantifiable strategic alliances with its ever-expanding array of stakeholders.
Concerning NCC’s pioneering strides in the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) network in Sub-Saharan Africa, Danbatta explained that the rollout of 5G network in Nigeria will require more infrastructure for the service to reach all parts of the country. He called for concerted efforts and unwavering commitment of all stakeholders for the nation to achieve steady, timely and accurate deployment of 5G services because of its benefits to individuals, businesses and the growth of the country. NNL.