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Wednesday 18th May, 2022

Telecoms

NCC, Google Express Determination To Drive Nigeria’s Digital Transformation

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Engr. Ubale Maska, Executive Commissioner, Technical Services (ECTS), NCC (left) and Juliet Ehimuan, Director, Google West Africa (right), during the visit

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Google Global Services Nigeria have expressed determination to work together toward advancing the actualisation of auspicious national targets for ubiquitous broadband access in furtherance of Nigeria’s digital transformation policy.

This development, Digital Times understands, aligns with and gives unambiguous expression to NCC’s strategic vision plan centring on strategic partnership and collaboration with necessary stakeholders in order to achieve regulatory objectives.

The two organisations made the commitment when a delegation from Google Global Services Nigeria paid a courtesy visit to the Commission’s Head Office in Abuja recently to deliberate on viable collaborative interventions to propel digital transformation across the country and Africa.

The Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, while receiving the Google delegation, said the Commission’s expectations, initiatives, and vision towards increasing broadband penetration, quality of service, advancement of a digital economy and commitment to improving national security through technological advancement are at the front burner of its regulatory interventions.

Represented by the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services (ECTS), NCC, Engr. Ubale Maska, Danbatta while underscoring the importance of such synergy between the Commission and Google, said the Commission looked forward to making the initiatives of both parties more impactful by enhancing cooperation between the NCC and Google Nigeria for quantifiable and remarkable impact.

The EVC expressed optimism that Google’s investment in the subsea cable, Equiano, which is expected to land in Nigeria by end of April 2022, will be more impactful in driving NCC’s ongoing implementation of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP), 2020-2025, aimed at increasing broadband penetration to 70 per cent by 2025.

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“I am hopeful that Equiano will have additional landing points in the hinterlands through collaborative efforts with the licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) to reduce retail data prices significantly and thereby complementing the Commission’s efforts at ensuring affordable Internet services are available to boost the Commission’s ongoing broadband policy drive,” he said.

Earlier in her remarks, the Director, Google West Africa, Juliet Ehimuan, who led the delegation to NCC, commended the NCC for its consultative approach in formulating regulatory policies, as the engine room for optimal delivery of telecommunications services that will in turn impact the digital economy drive of the government.

She particularly applauded the Commission for its seamless, fair, credible, impartial and successful auction of the 3.5 Gigahertz spectrum for the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) in Nigeria, stating that it is evident that both the NCC and Google share a common goal.

According to Ehimuan, demands for internet services have increased the need for more capacity, and sustainable collaborations with all relevant stakeholders within the public and private sectors, and asserted that Google’s commitment of $1billion across five years in various interventions will support digital transformation in Nigeria and across Africa.

Ehimuan stated that research has proven that Africa will have an additional 300 million Internet users and Nigeria will lead in that number, given its current statistics of over 141 million internet subscribers and broadband penetration of over 40.88 per cent as of January 2022.

The Equiano cable system is the third private international cable owned by Google and the 14th subsea cable invested by Google.

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Equiano connects Portugal and South Africa, running along the West Coast of Africa, with branching units along the way that can be used to extend connectivity to more African countries.

The first branch is expected to land in Nigeria by end of April 2022.

 

 

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Telecoms

Danbatta Congratulates Pantami On His Appointment As WISIS Chair

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Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy [left] and Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has been congratulated by the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, on his appointment as the Chairman of the 2022 World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) Forum by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Danbatta described the choice of the Minister as chair of the Forum as a worthy recognition of Nigeria’s leadership role in the global digital economy ecosystem, noting that Nigeria has continued to hold a front-row seat in the promotion of information and communication technology (ICT) as a driving force for national development since the assumption of office of the Minister.

“On behalf of the Board, Management, and Staff of the Nigerian Communications Commission, I want to express our profound delight and congratulations to the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, on his well-deserved appointment by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to chair this year’s WSIS Forum,” Danbatta stated.

“The appointment did not surprise us at NCC, given the important role the Hon. Minister has been playing in driving fundamental digital economy policies, being implemented by agencies under his supervision, in order to boost the diversification policy of the Federal Government,” the EVC said.

“We are, therefore, happy to associate with the Minister on this feat, as it means greater recognition for Nigeria. The appointment is an indication that the world has continued to take notice of the giant strides of Nigeria’s digital economy under the supervision of the Minister.

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“The NCC will continue to do everything within its regulatory mandate to further support the Federal Government’s drive for ubiquitous, affordable, and accessible digital services across all nooks and crannies of the country,” Danbatta said.

Recall that following consultations with various stakeholders, the ITU recently notified the Minister via a letter, of his appointment as the 2022 WSIS Chairman.

The ITU is organising the WSIS 2022 Forum in collaboration with other agencies with the United Nations with a focus on “ICTs for Well-Being, Inclusion, and Resilience: WSIS Cooperation for Accelerating Progress on the SDGs.”

As has been noted elsewhere, the appointment of Prof. Pantami has given Nigeria, and indeed, the African continent, the unique role of coordinating the activities of the WSIS in its 20th year, following the WSIS Phase 1 meeting which took place in 2003.

The WSIS Forum 2022, which will be attended by several high-level stakeholders, including Cabinet Ministers from ITU countries, will serve as a key platform to discuss the role of ICTs as a means to bolster the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals targets.

The discourse will take place in the context of the mechanism for follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UNGA Resolution A/70/1).

The WSIS Forum also provides an opportunity to track the achievements of WSIS Action Lines in collaboration with the UN Agencies involved and provides information and analysis on the implementation of WSIS Action Lines since 2005.

The Forum aims at enhancing cooperation, partnership, innovation, exchange of experiences, and good practices in ICTs for sustainable development across the world.

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Telecoms

NCC, FIRS Set Up Joint Committee To Enhance National Revenues In Telecoms Sector

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In furtherance of their existing collaboration, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) have set up a Joint Committee of senior and management staff of the two agencies for the implementation of inter-agency strategies for enhancing national revenues in the telecommunications sector.

NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Adeleke Adewolu, inaugurated the 17-member committee on behalf of the Commission’s Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, and the Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Mr. Muhammad Nami, at the NCC’s Board Room in Abuja on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

The inauguration of the committee, comprising six officials of NCC and eleven officials of FIRS, was carried out with senior officials of NCC and those of the tax agency led by its Coordinating Director for Compliance Support Group, Dr. Dick Irri, who represented the FIRS’ Executive Chairman, Muhammad Nami at the event.

Adewolu stated that the terms of reference (ToR) of the Committee include: Review of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the NCC and the FIRS on June 9, 2020; and carrying out inter-agency interaction on the implementation of the NCC’s Revenue Assurance System (RAS), to ensure that it incorporates the needs of FIRS to the extent that RAS can remain the sole interface with telecom service providers’ networks vis-à-vis the Tax Authority’s information needs from the telecoms sector.

Given the Committee’s composition and the extensive experience and commitment of its members – which had informed their selection by the agencies – Adewolu stated that the management of NCC and the FIRS expected no less than an excellent output from the Committee, tasking them to work together harmoniously and in the overall national interest.

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In his comments, Dr. Dick Irri, who led the FIRS delegation to the inauguration, advised the Committee to take the assignments very seriously.

“I would like to task you to take this assignment as a national matter as we expect the two agencies to work in harmony, collaborate effectively and have a warm handshake that will make this synergy between the two agencies a great example of collaboration between Federal Government agencies towards enhancing fiscal governance in Nigeria,” he said.

The decision to set up the Committee was one of the major outcomes of the meeting between the FIRS and the NCC on March 8, 2022, organised at the instance of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Pantami, to discuss the request by the FIRS for data and documents from the telecoms industry for enhancing national revenues from the sector.

The inauguration is a significant achievement, as it deepens the strategic collaboration between the two government agencies in the pursuit of their statutory objectives.

It also vindicates the emphasis placed on achieving mutually-sustainable relationships with relevant stakeholders as detailed in both the NCC’s Strategic Management Plan (SMP), 2020-2024 and the Strategic Vision (Implementation) Plan (SVP 2020-2025) as well as FIRS’ strategic framework.

The activities of the NCC and the FIRS are acknowledged as pivotal to the achievement of sustainable revenue and growth projections of the Federal Government. In this regard, the telecoms sector has sustained a relatively high contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the years – ending the fourth quarter of 2021 at 12.6 per cent.

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Besides, the FIRS recently acknowledged that some telecom licensees contribute a significantly high percentage of total national tax revenue.

It is expected that the Joint Committee will enable both organisations to further optimise revenues for the Federal Government from the telecoms, digital economy and adjacent sectors of the economy.

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BROADBAND

Smile Nigeria Excites Customers With More Data, Same Price Plans

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The internet broadband market in the country is once again set to explode as the leading Broadband Service Provider, Smile Nigeria has revamped some of its data plans, thereby giving its numerous customers more value for their money.

Abdul Hafeez, Chief Marketing Officer, Smile Nigeria, noted that the revamped data plans are amazing as they benefit both the low-end users and heavy users.

Included in the data plans are most of the Bigga plans and the Unlimted plans, with the apparent icing on the cake being the introduction of a new Jumbo plan.

Hafeez enthused that Smile will stop at nothing in always availing its customers of the best data plans in the market.

He explained that the quartet in the Bigga plans series have been padded with more data while their prices remain the same with the same 30 days validity.

These are the 8GB Bigga now 10GB Bigga, 12GB Bigga now 15GB Bigga, 15GB Bigga now 20GB Bigga and 20GB Bigga now 25GB Bigga.

For the old 8GB Bigga at N3,000, the customer will get 10GB Bigga thus getting an additional 2GB of data.

The former 12GB Bigga is now 15GB Bigga, a 3GB more data at the same N4,000.

The then 15GB Bigga now comes with an additional 5GB to peak at 20GB Bigga for the same old price of N5,000.

Any new purchase of the old 20GB Bigga will ensure for the buyer an additional 5GB of data, being 25GB Bigga at the same old price of N6,000.

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Hafeez further disclosed that the Unlimited plans have had their FUPs significantly increased with a very small increase to the cost while still retaining the 30 days validity period.

The plans affected under this category are the UnlimitedLite and the UnlimitedEssential.

For the UnlimitedLite plan, the customer will now enjoy 40GB of data at N12,000 as against the previous 35GB data at N10,000. This means that at an additional cost of N2,000, a corresponding 5GB data is at the customers’ disposal.

The new UnlimitedEssential plan now goes for N18,000 with a 100GB data bundle as against the 70GB. This offers the customer an additional 30GB of data at an additional cost of just N3,000.

To cap it all, a new plan has been introduced in the Jumbo family. The latest addition is the 400GB Jumbo which is very cost-effective at only N50,000 and valid for 6 months.

Market watchers believe that this newest Jumbo family plan comes with a lot of value for the customer.

An innovative company, Smile, launched the first 4G LTE network in West Africa in Nigeria in 2014 revolutionising the way Nigerians access the internet.

The company was the first to launch VoLTE on its network and has continued with its innovation, having introduced SmileVoice, which is a free mobile app that enables customers with any Android or Apple iPhone device (including those which are not VoLTE-enabled) to make SuperClear voice calls over Smile’s 4G LTE network.

It was also the first to introduce an unlimited offering, which enables SuperFast data and SuperClear voice, all on one bundle.

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