NCC: 40 million rural dwellers ‘disenfranchised’ from mobile revolution

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

About 40 million Nigerians, especially those in rural areas across the 774 local government areas of the country are still disenfranchised from enjoying the mobile telephony revolution in the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said.

The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, who spoke after declaring open the 84th Edition of Telecom Consumer Parliament at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Conference Centre, Abuja, said the NCC was doing everything possible to bridge the 198 telecom access gap which translates to about 40 million.

He said the regulator, working with industry players is deploying a modern technology solution in three locations to tackle the problem headlong instead of following the present mechanism which would take over 20 years to achieve.

Danbatta said NCC besides approving a wide range of palliatives to improve availability, accessibility, and affordability of telecom services to consumers, has gone some step further to partner with some stakeholders on the deployment infrastructures for the good of the industry.

Prof. Danbatta said: "The NCC in partnership with stakeholders deployed base transceivers to stations in those areas that do not have access in order to bridge access gaps. We are doing this at the rate of about 10 per annum, and going by the number of access gaps, it is going to take the NCC close to 20 years to close all access gaps.

"The rural population does not have the time to wait; they are not going to be patient for 20 years without access to telecoms services. Therefore, there is need to find ingenious ways to close these gaps within shortest period of time.  And fortunately, technology presents itself with various options in solving this problem in shorter time.

"There is a Rural Technology Solution which we have deployed through a pilot scheme in about three locations in the country and we are very happy about the outcome of this pilot deployment.

"In partnership with those in possession of these technology here in Nigeria, to reciprocate the deployment beyond the pilot, so that we can close those access gaps and then see what happens.  But by my estimation, we can through rural technology solution bridge the gaps in about three-four years.

“When you want to bridge gaps, you have to have spectrum and of course the spectrum belong to operators, we are leveraging this important resource to facilitating partnership between the owners of the solution with the operators and NCC is right there ensuing that the partnership becomes operative.

"I am happy to report that most of the operators are disposed to this as well as the owners of the technology solutions."

Danbatta also said about 36 million redundant telephone lines have been withdrawn over the past few months to maximize the use of scarce available telecom infrastructure.

Justifying the action, the EVC said: "Those are lines that are redundant. We always give statistics about active lines. We have noticed that the teledensity is growing, steadily growing for six –seven months and has exceeded 150 million mark now.

"It is expected of NCC that resources that are not being put into use are withdrawn so that this can in turn be a sign to all operators so that they can put them in good use and activate them."

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