Nigeria and other parts of the global to improve in quality service delivery says, NCC

ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, in his statement writes on the impact of increasing cases of fibre cuts on

telecoms services. Good customer experience, high bandwidth capacity, network reliability, resiliency and improved quality of service delivery are some of the demands on telecommunications network service in Nigeria and other parts of the globe.

These qualities sometimes, determine the acceptance of various services including voice, data, streaming and fintech on the respective mobile cellular network technologies such as 2G, 3G, 4G and lately 5G.

In order of this, fibre optics network technology is generally accepted in the telecoms industry as the fastest and most widely used medium of backhaul transmission that offers the required capacity and capability to meet the required telecoms needs of customers in the industry today.

Fibre optics provides enhanced features and advantages that are superior to copper-based and wireless backhaul transmission solutions.

Moreover, most network operators in the industry have deployed hundreds of kilometers of optical fibre network infrastructures across the length and breadth of the county in their bid to deliver a high standard of network quality that satisfies and delights the needs of their customers.

However, besides the superior and attractive features of the optical fibre technology upon which the telecoms operators have leverage on to extend network coverage to many parts of the country, its deployment and effective maintenance to ensure that the full benefits of the technology are maximized has to be characterised with persistent fibre cut by various activities, posing many challenges to the players of the industry in meeting the network quality expectation of both regulators and the customers.

Nigeria’s telecoms operators have deployed 96,198 km (terrestrial fibre and submarine cable) fibre optics cables as of December 2022.

The cases of fibre cuts It was gathered that the spate of attacks and theft on telecoms facilities is increasing.

Some of the operators put the rate at over 35 per cent, almost yearly.

In separate fora late 2022, the NCC decried the increase rate of vandalism on telecoms facilities that includes daily 40 fibre cuts, stealing of oil panels and other valuables at operators’ sub-stations.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said over 50,000 cases of major destruction to telecoms infrastructure and facilities have been reported across the country in the past five years, raising alarm over the implication of these incidents to the quality of telecommunications services in Nigeria.

It was gathered that MTN alone suffered an average of eight fibre cuts daily across Nigeria.

Earlier this February (2023), it suffered 14 cuts in different places in one day in Lagos.

A document sighted showed that some construction companies, including Crainberg, CCECC, Julius Berger, CGC, FERMA and KOPEC were fingered in the various damages to telecoms infrastructure, especially fibre optics cables.

The document showed that these cuts were largely noticed in some cities including Eket, Enugu, Agbor-Asaba, Ashikwue, Okapanam, Ikolaba, Abuja, Lafia Owerri and Lagos.

In 2020, Airtel Nigeria cried out that road construction projects in Lagos and other parts of the country were negatively impacting its network performance due to the high level of cuts they give to its fibre cables.

Airtel also said that between July 2019 and February 2020, it experienced 1022 fibre cuts, responsible for a drop in the quality of services.

The firm recorded 405 cases of fibre cut as a result of road rehabilitation activities by construction workers while 617 cases were due to vandalism.

Industry experts noted that telecom service providers are losing huge revenue through the high cost of fibre cable repairs, frequent replacement of repair tool kits and high cost of fibre optic cable replacement.

Effects TOUCHING on the on the network, vandalism impacts the quality of voice and data services being rendered to subscribers, which sometimes, leads to an outright network outage in area/town/regions and a slow pace of network expansion. Also, low browsing/download speed, high drop call rate, low call setup success rate/congestion, and voice quality degradation (Clipping Voice) are the other key impacts or effects of fibre cuts on subscribers.

They also have a ripple effect on the business community, which needs Internet connectivity to transact their businesses. Fibre cuts have dire effects on national security as well as the output of businesses, particularly those whose progress runs largely on the wheels of telecommunications.

It is a fact that the telecommunications industry is highly competitive in a market of ostensibly endless promotions to switch providers, customer loyalty cannot be guaranteed. So, if the competitor’s appeal for new customer promotions don’t persuade customers to jump ship, unreliable or slow service due to fibre cuts will certainly do.

As revealed by Harvard Business Review, it is five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. So, customer retention should be among telecom companies’ top priorities at this critical time of their businesses.

Fibre cuts can also lead to a bad image. Multiple research studies confirmed that image affects customer acquisition and retention. Generally, customer service experts asserted that the better perceived a company is, the easier it is to attract and keep customers.

The worse a company’s image, the harder it is to get new business and retain existing customers. Negative sentiment builds up over time and can ultimately affect a telecoms company’s bottom line, especially in a country where customers hate telecoms glitches.

In revealing that the number of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is estimated at over 40,000. This figure is grossly inadequate to meet the communications needs of over 220 million active mobile subscribers in the country.

Furthermore it was gathered that about three per cent of Nigeria’s BTS are shut down at any point in time, due to vandalism, resulting in a loss of about $50 million to $100 million every year Citizens’ sense that the infrastructure ownership AT a recent telecoms’ forum, the NCC called for community ownership of telecommunications infrastructure to save needless economic losses across the country.

Danbatta made the call during a Village Square dialogue with the theme “Protection of Telecom Infrastructure for Improved Quality of Service: The Role of Residents,” held in Danbatta Local Government Area of Kano State.

The person who re-presented the Director of Technical Standards and Network Integrity Department, Bako Wakil, Danbatta stressed the need for the community members to safeguard the telecoms infrastructures to ensure efficient and effective consumer services.

Danbatta, who said that the available statistics showed that the telecoms operators experience daily cable damage and stealing of generators, inverter batteries, and diesel among others, insisted that until the community, traditional and religious leaders rise to take ownership of the facility, there may not be an end to activities of the vandals.

He said that the protection of telecoms infrastructure was the responsibility of all, henceforth the need for the community members not to hesitate in reporting any suspicious act of vandalizing telecoms infrastructure is the interest of all.

The urgent task of passing CNI bill TELECOMS expert, Kehinde Aluko, warned that mobile operators might be compelled to slow down on investments in the country if there were constant threats to infrastructure, amidst the raft of multiple taxes and regulations, power constraints and the generally unfriendly business environment.

Mr Aluko implored that the government to pursue a logical conclusion, legislation with a policy that will accord the status of Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) to telecommunications infrastructure, to ensure adequate protection.

“This will bring about competition and ensure that national growth objectives are achieved,” he stressed.

The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, also added that telecoms infrastructure should be seen as critical equipment, like the oil pipelines and power facilities.

Telecoms executive, who preferred anonymity, called on the Police, National Security Advisers to the President, and other security agents to assist the industry in the protection of (CNI) that ICT infrastructure.

“This will help improve QoS and reduce the costs of repairs in the industry to a nominal level,” he added.