THE Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)has concluded the process that will lead to the disbursement of subsidies to the six licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos).
Sources in the Commission said at the weekend about N3billion has been set aside for disbursement.
This is part of the digital transformation agenda, which the regulator said it has put in place for actualisation, stressing that the subsidy will augment the InfraCos’ capital expenditure (capex).
Its Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, who spoke when he received a delegation from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja, reiterated the Commission’s determination to make affordable and dependable broadband services ubiquitous.
Led by its Acting Country Director, Mr. Thomas Hardy, the USTDA team was received by the NCC board members and its senior management team, including board Chairman, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, who urged the agency to work with the Commission to tackle the deployment challenges being faced by some InfraCo licensees in the Southsouth geo-political zone due to the riverine, swampy nature of the region.
While providing updates on the Commission’s broadband infrastructure development project, especially the licensing of InfraCos each in the six geo-political zones and Lagos, which is carved as the seventh zone, Danbatta said the scheme has a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement with a subsidy component that is being worked out for the licensees to fast-track deployment in their respective zones.
“The licensees are expected to play some roles and NCC too is to play some roles to encourage broadband infrastructure deployment by the licensees. Currently, we have seen the licensees’ capex, we have negotiated the capex and we have arrived at percentage of subsidies based on the negotiation that we have had with them. However, the subsidy will be paid to them by the Commission upon attainment of reasonable milestones by the licensees in their zones of deployment,” he said.
The already licensed six InfraCos include MainOne Limited for Lagos Zone, Raeana Nigeria Limited for Southsouth Zone, O’dua Infraco Resources Limited for Southwest Zone, Fleek Networks Limited for Northwest Zone, Brinks Integrated Solutions for Northeast Zone, and Zinox Technologies Limited for the Southeast Zone while the remaining seventh licence for Northcentral Zone is being processed.
Danbatta explained that the InfraCo idea is an initiative of the Commission designed to allow licensees deploy their infrastructure for a period spanning five years and providing wholesale services to other licensees to drive last-mile connectivity to people in the rural, under-served and un-served areas of the country.
He said: “We are trying to build an intra-city and inter-city networks that will be able to connect citizens all over the country irrespective of where they are and what their circumstances are. To that extent, we have decided to provide access points in all the 774 local government areas in the country, trying to provide access to close to 190 million Nigerians, a lot of whom live in rural communities.”
The EVC, however, emphasised that while the Commission is adopting fixed and wireless broadband approaches to its broadband infrastructure development, InfraCo model is open to the use of combination of terrestrial, sub-terrestrial and aerial fibre optic deployment options and the use of television white space (TVWS) spectrum to provide connectivity in rural areas.
Hardy, who commended the NCC for achieving and surpassing the country’s broadband penetration target of 30 per cent last year, said the agency’s mission was to see areas where the agency can help to support the digital transformation goals of the country, by working with the NCC and other organisations “to open up opportunity for greater trade, greater economic development and closer bilateral cooperation”.
“As a small foreign sister agency of US with a long-standing history in Nigeria, we support economic infrastructure projects; help in the telecoms, energy and transport sectors where countries have identified their priority development goals in the area of infrastructure development and through US companies, we develop an independent analysis of ways to meet your infrastructure goals,” he added.