Bombs, floods wreck Airtel's BTS
By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria
Nigeria's over 105 million telephone subscribers may have to endure the low service quality being provided by telecoms firms in the country, as one of its leading service providers, Airtel Nigeria, said in Lagos yesterday that a total of 193 hub base transmission stations (BTS) have been damaged as a result of the spate of bombings orchestrated by terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, and recent flooding that has rendered several thousands homeless while damaging properties worth hundreds of millions of naira.
This development, the telco lamented, has unwittingly compromised service quality.
Osondu Nwokoro, director, Regulatory Affairs, Airtel, said the bombings and floods have impacted across Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano and Yobe states. In addition, the firm has been unable to embark on restoration and further roll-out plans owing to insecurity in the region.
According to Osondu, while 32 BTS have so been directly flooded, forty-one were affected while Lokoja Dagama, Lokoja-Okene, Asaba-Ughelli, Ughelli-Patani, Patani-Elele suffered submerged fibre optic cables with debilitating effects on service quality in Middle Belt, Southern and Delta states. He said in this case too, network restoration has been impaired while operational burden, spiralling costs and financial losses arising from there have escalated.
He said this development has greatly affected service quality as the affected BTS were mostly routing and signalling links such that connectivity between local and distant calls were disrupted.
Airtel Nigeria currently has subscriber base of 20 million, having recorded a 31% increase or additional five and half million two years after it was acquired from Zain.
Osondu disclosed that the telco’s remediation and restoration initiative has yielded dividends as a total of 112 BTS have been resuscitated at a very great cost. “We are engaging more on facility sharing. We are doing 250 with MTN while we are discussing another 100. We are also doing fibre lease with other operators,” he said.
According to him, other initiatives include engaging the services of private security firms and collaboration with the government and other security agencies to secure the telco’s infrastructure, adding that the telco was getting positive feedback from the Federal Government.
He called on the Federal Government to embark on Network Alert Declaration to compel the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) to help bring back communications during emergency situations and also restated the call to declare telecoms infrastructure critical national infrastructure and enjoy the protection status other national infrastructure enjoy.
Airtel Nigeria CEO and Managing Director Rajan Swaroop said traffic on the Airtel network has grown by 124% since the 2010 acquisition by the Bharti Airtel Group. Airtel Nigeria is the star in the 16-country African operations of the telco with head office in Nairobi, Kenya.
Nwokoro said growth of the telco is coming on the back of an investment of USD1.2 billion (approximately N192billion) spent on growing the network
He assured Nigerians and subscribers on the Airtel network that the company had taken decisive steps to mitigate the damage done to its facilities by sealing facility-sharing agreements with other telecom operators, engaging the services of highly efficient private security companies to protect its facilities as well as collaborating with security agencies to ensure maximum protection of telecom facilities across the country.