7 January 2013

Nigeria: Top ICT Predictions for 2013

A lot of things did shape the ICT sector last year and some of them may also dominate the scene in 2013.

NITEL for grabs or for keeps

The liquidation of moribund Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) may be carried out this year. The Federal Government announced last year that it would liquidate NITEL but it failed to carry out because of personal interest of an highly placed government official, according to those who are in the know of the affairs.

But many of the industry stakeholders have recently stepped the campaign against selling NITEL. They say government should rather spend on it and revive it so that it could work efficiently. They say NITEL's valuable assets should not be given away for a rock bottom price government officials put on it. And it seems they are gaining the attention of government as a source at the ministry of communications told this reporter that government may not liquidate NITEL again. But what it is, the moribund telecoms operators will either be sold this year or government may decide to keep it.

MNP for March

Mobile Number Portability (MNP) may begin March, according to Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The implementation of MNP has been postponed severally with mobile telephone subscribers eagerly awaiting the whistle to allow them migrate from one network operator to another without losing their original numbers. But NCC said this year is it.

The Commission had fixed June 2012 for MNP implementation, but shifted the date to September on the grounds that it needed time to conclude the harmonization of subscribers' data collected during the SIM card registration exercise and appoint an MNP operator.

Mr. Tony Ojobo, director, Public Affairs, NCC, said that all the necessary things required for the test run of the implementation MNP is ready and that the test run has begun last December.

Ojobo added that the test run will afford the consultants the opportunity to address any hitches that may arise in the process for a full launch in first quarter next year.

Mobile number portability (MNP) enables mobile telephone users to retain their mobile telephone numbers when changing from one mobile network operator to another.

MNP is implemented in different ways across the globe.

The two providers in an MNP transaction are called the 'Recipient' (new provider) and the 'Donor'(old provider).

The international and European standard is a 'Recipient-Led'. The customer contacts the new provider who then makes arrangements with the old provider.

Recipient-Led provision has been criticised by some consumer groups because of the possibility of Slamming.

NCC had licensed three service providers to implement number portability in the country; they are Interconnect Clearinghouse, Saab Grintek, and Telcordia.

Fashola vs telecoms operators continues

The mast war between the Lagos State Government and the telecoms operators will continue this year as the state has turned a deaf ear to plead and threats of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON).

The telecoms companies hinted that it may sue the Lagos State if their telecoms masts should be pulled down unjustly by one of its agencies.

The Urban Furniture Regulatory Unit (UFRU) a department under the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning is sealing telecommunications Base Transceiver stations (BTS) and switching centres, saying those who erected did not comply with the urban renewal laws of the state. Banks operating in the state are affected too.

UFRU's Managing Director, Mr. Joe Igbokwe at press conference last year warned that no installation, operating within their regulatory mandate will be spared once they begin to exert the full weight of their lawful responsibilities on recalcitrant telecom or other operators.

But the operators would have none of that. They threatened legal action against LASG and even threatened to jerk up tariffs.

But NCC warned them against their planned introduction of discriminatory tariffs in states they said are hostile to them like Lagos and some states in the north where gunmen attacked their base stations.

Smart phones for rock bottom prices

One thing that is surely going to gladden the hearts of most Nigerians is they are going to purchase smart phones for cheaper prices this year, according to some industry experts. They argue that as more smart phones are pushed into the market, the prices of old ones will certainly fall.

SIM card registration issue may not be solved

There may not an end to the continuing SIM card registration which has caused so much embarrassment to government officials. The uncertainty of the end of SIM card registration was the first major event that bemused every Nigerian in the ICT and telecoms sector in 2012. The embarrassment may remain with them throughout the year as NCC has no plan in sight to bring the registration to a close.

Fierce competition among telecoms operators continues

This is what all Nigerians know too well: that their telecoms service providers will do anything to retain them, especially now that NCC is introducing number portability.

Consumers are eagerly waiting to see what they would be treated to in terms of service and promos this year.

Some companies may lose frequencies, NCC says NCC said it will undertake a more efficient implementation of assigned spectrum to ensure optimal usage and by this, the commission will go tough on the 'use -it -or -lose -it' policy to prevent assigned spectrum from lying fallow.

Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman of the commission said that frequency as a scarce resource needed to be efficiently managed to ensure optimal allocation and usage.

Senate continues debate on NIGCOMSAT Bill

The Senate Joint Committee on Science Technology and Communications may act on the what they gathered at the public hearing on the Nigerian Communication Satellite Corporation Bills (NIGCOMSAT) to pass the bill this year. There are strong indications that the Joint Committee co-chaired by Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice (LP Ondo) and Senator Gilbert Emeka Nnaji (PDP Enugu) may okay the bill this year.

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