In its efforts to deepen broadband penetration in the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said it is focusing on ensuring that all new base stations to be built by the mobile network operators (MNOs) are 4G-compatible.
The commission said this became imperative to accelerate the spread of 4G service to 100 per cent of the country’s population with a minimum broadband speed of 1.5 megabit per second (Mbps).
President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, recently disclosed that mobile network operators had been able to convert only 7000 out of their 45,000 base stations to 4G, despite their efforts in the last two years.
4G is the fourth generation of broadband cellular network technology, succeeding 3G for faster internet access. While all the four GSM operators, MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9Mobile, claimed to have rolled out 4G across major cities in the country, access to the service is still very limited.
According to NCC, 56.4 per cent of the country’s population are on 3G, while some are still on 2G.
However, while highlighting efforts to deepen broadband penetration at a forum in Lagos, the Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, Prof Umar Danbatta, said the commission had been encouraging the operators to upgrade their 2G base transceiver stations (BTSs) to 3G, while ensuring that their new sites are 4G.
“Through effective regulatory oversight, which the commission is known for, we are ensuring that all new sites to be built by the mobile network operators (MNOs) are Long Term Evolution (LTE)-compatible. We also strive to ensure implementation of harmonised Right of Way (RoW) charges on state and Federal Government highways at the cost of N145 per linear meter to encourage faster rollout of telecoms infrastructure.
“We are also working with relevant stakeholders to ensure elimination of multiple taxation and regulations; encourage spread of 3G coverage to, at least, 80 per cent of the Nigerian population over the current 56.4 per cent of the population covered with 3G networks,” the EVC said.
He added that the commission was also ensuring that there is efficient allocation of spectrum resources through replanning and opening up of some spectrum bands as well as development of framework for the utilisation of unused broadcast spectrum known as television white space (TVWS) for the provision of affordable broadband services in the rural, underserved and unserved areas of the country.
Before now, the telecom regulator had challenged the MNOs to invest more in base stations.
According to the commission, Nigeria needs 70,000–80,000 base stations if it wants to join other countries in developing Internet of Things (IoT) technology by leveraging 4G and 5G technology.
“3G, 4G going to 5G networks are going to usher this country into smart applications, the Internet of Things or the smart world and cities we are talking about. And of course, because of the additional burden on infrastructure, the present capacity of telecom infrastructure is grossly inadequate to cater for these additional platforms or services we talk about.
“Therefore, we will need from 70,000 to 80,000 base transceiver masts to be able to provide the effective capacity that’s needed to deploy 4G going to 5G,” Danbatta had said.