Nigeria Telecoms Rights-of-way Issues

Wired LinesWire line and wireless carriers both require access to rights-of  way and support structures(e.g. poles, towers, conduit) in order to build and maintain their networks.In addition, wire line carriers generally require access to in-building wiring in multi-unit buildings in order to supply services to end customers.

If access to any of these infrastructure elements is denied or is subject to onerous or restrictive conditions, competition will be impaired and customers may be denied a full choice of service providers and services. Denial

or delays in obtaining such access have, in the past and presently lead to delays in the construction of networks and the provision of services. Consequently, access issues have assumed an increased importance in a competitive environment. 

The NCC has the authority under the Telecommunications Act of 2003 to grant Nigerian carriers access to public rights-of-way to construct transmission lines and to make regulations setting standards for the height of transmission lines. The NCC also has the power to order a Nigerian carrier that has support structures to grant access to those structures to another service provider. The NCC does not have any direct authority over access to buildings. However, the NCC has the authority to impose conditions on access to in-building wire by means of rules applicable to the carriers which either own or use such wiring.

In some circumstances, a service provider may have to apply to another authority (e.g. the Nigerian Transportation Ministry or a state or local government public utility board) to obtain a right of access to rights-of-way or support structures. Service providers must generally negotiate terms of access to a building with the building owner.

The NCC currently has limited statutory powers to address all of these issues; the fact that they can address some of them is inadequate to achieving the overall objective. We will look to develop an enhanced regulatory framework in these areas along with other stakeholders, particularly amendments to the Act to remedy these issues such as those being proposed would consolidate the acquisition and just use of the right of way for all network operators. The current regulation on right of way as provided in the Act is not far reaching enough to guard against vandalism and other challenges facing the network operators in their bid to secure their fiber optic and other facilities.

The NCC will also involve the State government and other organizations in its regulatory framework to create an enabling environment for the network operators which provides them an end to end indefeasible right to use dark fiber facility to enhance their quality of connections and network expansion speed.

We envisage that a successful addressing of the above issues via our policies will have several benefits

-Reduction in commercial charges by operator’s resulting from a reduction in operator’s overheads

-. Increased access for the consumer

-Increased usage by the consumer resulting in a greater demand for telecom products thereby fuelling commerce

– Increased revenue for government directly/indirectly, the former as a result of operator’s increase profit margins, the latter from the commercegenerated.

Network Interconnection and Access to Facilities of Dominant Carriers

Interconnection is essential to the functioning of the many different types of national and international networks operating in Nigeria today. The proliferation of IP-based technologies will, if anything, increase the need for network interconnection, if Nigerians are to have access to the wide range of new applications that can be delivered over IP platforms.

We will establish the NCC Interconnection Steering Committee (CISC) to assist in the development of interconnection standards and arrangements. CISC will be an industry working group which includes carriers, service providers, equipment manufacturers and other public stakeholders. The CISC will study specific interconnection-related issues and report back to the NCC with recommendations.

One anticipated recommendation, would be the requirement of Nigerian carriers to provide advance notice of proposed changes to network interconnection standards so that competitors will not be disadvantaged and network enhancements may be implemented smoothly.

NCC in its regulation will mandate minimum interconnect of facilities to deal with the funnel effect currently being experienced in the Nigerian telecom networks. This effect currently results in reduced completed calls and increased charges for the consumer. Interconnect charges would also have to be reviewed downward and subsidies provided for operators that employ the use of interconnect service providers, this would encourage all operators to route their traffic through stable, proven interconnects which would have the effect of predictable service provision outside of each operator’s local network.

We believe that proper addressing of the interconnect issues above would enhance the internetwork connections for mobile communications users. It would also result in a lower termination cost for the far end operators and incidentally result in lower connection charges for the consumer.

By Prince Uchendu