Telecom operators in Nigeria have blamed the concentration of infrastructures in major cities on the challenges of vandalism, insecurity, and high right-of-way charges across the country.
The Operators stated this on Wednesday during the West Africa Telecoms Infrastructure Summit and Exhibition (WATISE) organized by Technology Mirror in Lagos.
According to them, with the multiple challenges, returns on investments in infrastructure could only be achieved in cities where there is relative stability and a ready market.
They added that this explains why in several parts of the country outside the three major cities, many Nigerians are still on 2G networks.
Noting that the Right of Way charges are also high in the major cities, especially, Lagos, they are able to sustain infrastructure deployment with higher returns from the state.
90% data centres in Lagos
Highlighting some of the challenges that have prompted operators to slow down their expansion into rural areas, the Chief Executive Officer of Coloplus, a tower infrastructure company, Mr. Mike Ofili, said:
- “I can tell you that 90% of the data centres in Nigeria are in Lagos and I don’t know how you want to achieve 70% broadband penetration in Nigeria with almost all the data centres in Lagos.
- “It is very difficult to lay fibre cable across many communities in Nigeria, you cannot cross any community without paying different people. You cannot build towers without going through different communities of people demanding all kinds of things. If you don’t meet their demands, they will either not allow you to deploy or vandalise your equipment after you have left
- “There are many states we cannot go to because to lay fiber in those states, you will need heavy security. In fact, we have lost many of our engineers to insecurity in the Northern while trying to deploy infrastructure.”
Ofili, however, noted that to deploy infrastructure in some communities that are considered important, the operators have to negotiate with the people and align with them.
Critical national infrastructure
Also speaking at the Summit, the Chairman/Managing Director of RS Engineering Global Ltd., Engr. Spencer Itive, said the government has been paying lip service with the declaration of telecom infrastructure as critical national infrastructure to ensure its protection.
According to him, this lack of commitment from the government has led to a consistent attack on telecom infrastructure across the country.
- “We are yet to see the commitment of the government in protecting telecom infrastructure. And this is why every community sees the deployment as a favour to the telecom operators. In a certain community, before we could deploy, we had to meet their demand of settling them with 200 litres of diesel,” he said.
Speaking to the theme of the Summit, “The Future of Infrastructure Connectivity and Services: A New Interdependent of Ecosystem of Partners”, Itive said all stakeholders in the telecom sector have to recognize that no single entity can meet the multifaceted demands of the digital age in isolation.
- “A complex tapestry of partnerships now weaves together telecom companies, technology giants, governments, and a thriving ecosystem of startups. These partnerships are redefining the boundaries of what’s possible in telecommunications,” he said.