Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta has listed some of the critical steps taken by the Commission in conjunction with the supervising Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy towards mitigating the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on service delivery by network operators.
Danbatta who spoke on Friday at the first-ever virtual edition of the Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP) organised by his Commission, noted that despite the pandemic and the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 virus, the Commission on its part, have not relented in its efforts at ensuring that the quality of telecom services is sustained during and post Covid–19 period.
According to the EVC, one of the critical steps taken by the Commission to ensure that quality of service is sustained by telcos was the development of e-platforms where all licensing requests, consumer complaints and base transceiver station (BTS) investigation requests are channeled and also provided designated e-mail addresses to be used for such requests throughout the pandemic period.
He disclosed that another step the Commission took was approving and encouraging resource sharing such as fibre optics cables and ancillary resources, among network operators, aimed at ensuring that there was no destruction to service provision in the event of fibre cut and related incidence.
“The Commission also secured Right of Passage (RoP) for all telecommunications officials and staff for easy movement during the lockdown and movement restriction in order to be able to service their base stations and keep them active to provide services for telecom consumers who increasingly rely on their networks to work from home.
“In the same vein, the Commission also secured Right of Passage for suppliers that are involved in supplies of fuels, food and other essential services to telecom operators during total lockdown,” Danbatta stated.
He disclosed that with the intervention of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, state governors are now aligning their Right of Way charges to N145 as approved by the Federal Economic Council (FEC), reducing below N145 per linear of fibre laid by the operators in their states.
“Other state governors pegged their RoW charges below the N145 set by the FEC while some state governors have totally waived RoW charges in their states.
“All these are aimed at encouraging network operators to deploy telecoms/broadband infrastructure faster in their states with a view to deepening digital access.
“As Covid-19 evolves, a new world order where more activities are conducted online and robust broadband access is central is emerging. In effect, most of the state governors have appreciated the centrality of robust broadband infrastructure as work-from-home measures by government persists,” he further said.
The EVC noted that the Commission is hopeful that with the reduction in RoW, which will automatically result in reduction in capital expenditure (CAPEX) by the network operators, telecom companies will sooner or later reciprocate the gesture by making their services, especially, data services more affordable to Nigerians.
He recalled that one of the issues presented to the Honourable Minister when he assumed office was the need to strengthen telecom infrastructure protection, an issue he said the Honourable Minister acted on speedily by obtaining presidential approval directing Security Agencies to protect ICT and telecom facilities as critical national assets.
“It is pleasing that this action helped to safeguard telecom infrastructure for the greater role telecom has to play with the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic,” he stated.
Danbatta noted that while the regulator and the supervisory ministry have left no stone unturned towards ensuring that telecom service providers provide good quality service despite the covid-19 pandemic, it is equally important that network operators improve the quality of experience of the consumers particularly as everybody tries to navigate the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
The EVC said that the theme of the Virtual Telecom Consumer Parliament: “Impact of Covid-19 on Telecoms Service Delivery” is timely and could not have come at a better time than now.
“The focus of this parliament also provide us with an opportunity as industry stakeholders, to have a quick look at how the pandemic is impacting our service delivery in the telecommunication industry, which currently provides the digital platform for the economy to remain afloat,” he said.
He urged all stakeholders attending the forum to undertake an objective assessment of the impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on telecom networks and service delivery to consumers as well as come up with suggestions that will enhance the delivery of Quality Service to esteemed telecom consumers during and post Covid-19 period.