The Nigeria Communications Commission, in keeping with its mandate, creates opportunities to interact with its licensees on industry issues and new trends via stakeholder fora, with a view to gathering relevant information that would further advance the development of the industry, while improving regulations and service delivery to telecom consumers.
On June 1-2, 2023, the Commission held the first `Talk-To-The Regulator ` Forum (TTTR) for the Year 2023, in the South-South, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. The TTTR Forum in Yenagoa which was originally scheduled to hold in 2022 but was postponed due to the dreadful flood disaster that hit Bayelsa and some other states in the year.
The ‘Talk-To-The Regulator` Forum is a common platform for non-discriminatory interaction on a one-on-one basis, between the licensees and the Regulator on several industry issues, pertinent to the licensees and of national interest.
In his keynote speech, the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, Nigeria Communications Commission, Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, FNSE, FRAES, FAEng, FNIEE seized the opportunity to commiserate with the people of Bayelsa State and the entire nation on the worst flood disaster recorded in the history of the nation., praying that such natural disaster shall not plague our dear nation again, and equally believe that the state has made adequate preparations for any future occurrences.
Recall that that the Nigerian telecom industry has witnessed milestones in more ways than one, including the rapid growth in technology, which is redefining service delivery, and creating wide and high expectations from all stakeholders. To keep up to date with developments in the industry, the Commission has equally taken measures to improve regulations to accommodate the rapid and continuous development.
According to Prof. Danbatta, some of the interventions and responses of the Commission includes but are not limited to: Facilitating the Roll-Out of 5G Service provision; Introduction of Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) Licence to bridge the gap between unserved and underserved areas.
He stated that the Commission is currently reviewing the scope and structure of its existing licenses to make them more robust and to accommodate some of the identified new industry trends.
“In line with the Nigeria National Broadband Plan (NNBP 2020 – 2025), the NCC is providing industry leadership to facilitate the achievement of 90 per cent Broadband penetration by year 2025, and well above 50 per cent at the end of 2023. Currently, over I50 million Nigerians have access to internet, while over 80 million can access high speed internet,” he said.
In his own address, the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management Nigerian Communications Commission, Adeleke Adewolu Esq., informed the audience that this forum is in tandem with the Commission’s strategic objective to facilitate strategic collaboration and partnership with critical stakeholders in the industry.
“The essence of the forum is to create awareness about the activities of the Commission as a Regulator and also obtain feedback from critical stakeholders on how the industry affects their daily lives as well as the role of the Regulator in enhancing same. It also serves as an educational platform where misconceptions about the Commission and its processes are explained,” he said.
Adewolu opined that the exponential growth of the telecommunications sector in Nigeria is largely attributable to effective policies, legal and regulatory framework implemented by the Federal Government the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
“This Forum is thus an opportunity for Critical Stakeholders to share their respective challenges, experiences and also suggest viable solutions to the Regulator. Constant engagement with the Regulator is the path towards regulatory efficiency as it preserves the integrity of the regulatory instruments issued by the Regulator whilst securing the buy-in of all Stakeholders.
“Recently, the Commission issued a regulatory framework for the licensing of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) in Nigeria as well as the requisite licence for such services and this has witnessed significant interest from prospective investors. New Market Entrants in this category can leverage on the growth and infrastructure in the telecommunications industry and it is particularly attractive to investors due to its low cost of entry in terms of capital expenditure.
“This forum is therefore an opportunity for Stakeholders to seek clarifications from the Regulator especially as it relates to understanding regulatory obligations, obligations to the consumer and their collective responsibility to the sustainability of the industry. I encourage you to garner as much as you can from this forum,” he added.
The Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management of NCC said the Nigerian Communications Sector has proven to be pivotal to the growth and development of the national economy. The sector has continually ensured that the digital economy agenda of the Federal Government is established on solid foundations. It has also proven to be the catalyst for entrenching the activities of both the public and private sector in the digital space, seamlessly.
He said the Nigerian Communications Sector is indeed the pace-setter sector as far as the expansion of the frontiers for national development is concerned. This was further underscored by the recent deployment of the Fifth Generation Technology (5G) services in the Country which we believe will ensure that Nigeria maximises the benefit of the 4th Industrial Revolution whilst being sufficiently prepared for any attendant risk that may occur.
“A market study has shown that the deployment of 5G Technology Services will result in $13.2 trillion in global economic value by 2035, generating 22.3 million jobs in the 5G global value chain alone. Thus, the Commission has played an effective role in placing the nation at a vantage position in order to reap these benefits,” Adewolu further stated.
The Director, Licencing and Authorization, NCC, Engr. Mohammed Babajika buttressing the above assertions, said that the Commission recognizes that technological advancements, in the industry such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Network as a Service (NaaS) and Internet of Things (IoT) are redefining service-delivery and therefore in line with global trends, it is currently reviewing its license categories.
He said the Commission has also finalized the framework for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) and is currently in the process of licensing MVNOs. The licensing of MVNO will improve the telecommunication output of the country, enable the expansion and availability of quality mobile coverage and close the gap to the unserved and underserved population in Nigeria.
“The Commission therefore hopes that Licensees will take advantage of this Forum to seek clarifications with respect to any issues such as: license obligations, renewal processes and procedures and emerging trends in the industry. I would like to assure you that the Commission will take your recommendations on-board (as has been done in the past) and will ensure that ideas gleaned are implemented to impact the industry positively,” Babajika added.
Also, the Zonal Controller, Nigerian Communications Commission, Port Harcourt Zonal Office, Venny Eze while welcoming the audience said the TTTR is coming at the heels of the licensing of the 5G network, and the effort by stakeholders to ensure the availability, accessibility and affordability of telecommunications services to all Nigerians.
“This event, is the second, in the series of the Nigerian Communications Commission`s engagement with licensees, in the South-South, having held similar forum, in Port Harcourt for the licensees in the South-East and the South-South geopolitical zones in 2021, with a brief hiatus in 2022, due to unforeseen circumstances.
“Today`s event, provides a veritable platform for interaction between the regulator and the licensees, on one hand, and other industry stakeholders, on the other hand. It is a rare occasion that would enable the Commission to identify the challenges confronting the industry from the pragmatic point of view of the industry players.
“In other words, licensees are expected to engage the regulator, through robust discussions, with a view to identifying the various challenges affecting their operations, while making suggestions, requiring regulatory interventions, within the mandate of the NCC. As it were, this forum, would afford the Licensees, an opportunity to be educated on topical issues of concern, which would help them comply to the licensing terms and conditions, in the various license categories,” Eze added.