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An industry expert should be made ICT Minister —Teniola

Mr Olusola Teniola is the President of the Association of Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ATCON). A seasoned telecoms guru and a member of many telecoms associations in Nigeria and abroad, Teniola heads (ATCON) an important association in the industry. In this interview with Bode Adewumi, he speaks on industry issues, the role and what the association is pursuing in the immediate and near future. Experts

You have been a stakeholder in the industry for a long time, what is your overview of the sector since your incursion?

It is our strong belief and observation that the industry’s growth is factored on the recent interventions made by the Nigerian Telecommunications Commission (NCC) in ensuring a conducive environment for further investments to be made to support the growth witnessed in the past. With continued dialogue in between ATCON, ALTON and government, there is every possibility of further growth appearing in 12 to 24 months time.

 

What and where do you think the government could make that enormous difference?

Government should begin to address power; multiple taxes, multiple regulations and making telco’s facilities achieve critical national infrastructure status. If we can achieve just these, there will be a noticeable improvement in investor sentiment to fund more network expansion programmes in preparation for the 5G and Internet of Things (IoT).

 

The NCC has been trying, what do you think they should differently?

It is our wise opinion that NCC should approach the President to secure in law or exercise more Executive Orders that supports the growth of the ICT industry as a way to diversify the economy and increase the level of broadband penetration as an urgent matter of expediency.

 

Your association is in the forefront of industry issues, can you tell us the things you have done in the last few years to make the industry better?

Advocacy is an opportunity for us in the industry to voice our concerns and influence policy decision making. At ATCON, we have over the past years been recognised as the only voice that takes in the views of all players and it is to this that I am proud to be a part of.

We strongly believe that convergence is here to stay and that it is time for the government to recognise this and put in place a supervisory institution that addresses digitialisation, communications, broadcast and ICT under one ministry.

 

Don’t you think an expert should be appointed as supervisory Minister?

A professional and politically aware expert is preferred. Simply having a technocrat is not enough for the stage Nigeria is at the moment.

 

Besides, do you think the ICT hubs being touted could be of help without any meaningful intervention from the government?

The hubs are best described as experimental places and safe places for ideas to fail safely and for those that succeed to be nurtured for growth via a supportive venture capital environment and not necessarily through government grants.

 

Many Nigerians are talking about the advent of the 5G, but would you say we are ready for that considering that we just lapped onto the 4G?

We have stated before that Nigeria needs to fully deploy 4G capability in a manner that is ubiquitous and accessible by at least 70 per cent of the Nigerian population before venturing into 5G per se. Otherwise, our attempts will be clustered deployments of 5G in areas where no relevant use case exists. The key is to focus on addressing all the issues that prevents full rollout of fiber to the magnitude that NCC has suggested the country requires, which is 120,000 km. We look forward to NCC’ plans on this matter. Remember 6G is now being discussed in other climes.

 

Broadband penetration is still a problem, so, where do we go from here?

The major issue this portends for Nigeria is subpar GDP growth and the potential to create a divide in our society of the haves against the have not’s. This is something the Nigerian Broadband Plan warned against. We have only two of our members that are willing to invest in any meaningful CAPEX programme and this is worrying, when you consider that the industry still needs at least another $70bn to get us to an infrastructure base that can fully turn our nation into a knowledge society. The government clearly has its work cut out for it.

 

Where do you see the industry, your association in the next few years?

ATCON is going to be 26 years old in December 2019 and the industry has a long way to go. In every civilised society, there is a thriving telecoms industry. Nigeria will be no different

 

Broadband penetration is still a problem, so, where do we go from here?

The major issue this portends for Nigeria is subpar GDP growth and the potential to create a divide in our society of the haves against the have not’s. This is something the Nigerian Broadband Plan warned against. We have only two of our members that are willing to invest in any meaningful CAPEX programme and this is worrying, when you consider that the industry still needs at least another $70bn to get us to an infrastructure base that can fully turn our nation into a knowledge society. The government clearly has its work cut out for it.

 

Where do you see the industry, your association in the next few years?

ATCON is going to be 26 years old in December 2019 and the industry has a long way to go. In every civilised society, there is a thriving telecoms industry. Nigeria will be no different

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