…as Nigerians yearn for the return of landlines

 

By Justus Adejumo  |

 

Even with indications that NatCom Consortium, which acquired the beleaguered national telecommunications carrier, Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (Nitel), may soon commence operations, some industry stakeholders have expressed reservations over its ability and readiness to bring life to the comatose network based on the belief that the company may have done much to roll out.
With the level of years of inactive operations of Nitel, there has been weak faith about the possibility of the new investor to commence operations as soon as possible due to evident challenges the industry has been inundated with over the years.
However, the nostalgic feeling of many Nigerians on the use of landlines may soon be a reality when the acquired NITEL is put on stream by NatCom, the new investor. According to the industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), NatCom has expressed its readiness to revive the land phone use NITEL was known for before the inception of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) in 2001.
Speaking with the President of the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS), Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo, said there are high expectations among Nigerians to start enjoying more quality and affordable telecommunications services.
“I am very optimistic that NatCom will soon begin to roll out its services across the country. With what the company has already put in place, I think NATCOM services will commence before the end of this year. The manpower and infrastructure it needs are already in place and they are being deployed.
The era of landlines which offers quality and clear services will soon be unveiled. With this move, telecommunications services, especially in the area of broadband, will be more affordable to Nigerians. People will soon begin to enjoy the landlines in a better, accessible and affordable platform that will give subscribers value for their money and peace of mind. ” Ogunbanjo said.
Also commenting on the development, Mr. Stephen Bello, a former Commissioner with Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said NATCOM has a long way to go before it can have relevance in the telecom industry market.
“I don’t see NATCOM making much impact between now and three years. That is if they can start operation now. There are many hurdles before the new company because of the nature and state of the acquired beleaguered Nitel. There is nothing much the new company can ride on.
Almost all the infrastructure of Nitel is obsolete. So, for NATCOM to have a fair share in
the market, it would take some time, he said.”
When *BH* contacted the Director, Brand & Advertising of NatCom Development & Investment Limited, Jenika Mukoro on phone, there was no response. There was also no reply to the text sent.
With the Chairman of Skye Bank Plc, Mr. Tunde Ayeni, as one of NatCom main promoters, there is a strong belief that among analysts that finance which is crucial for the revitalization of the Nitel and Mtel would not be a challenge.
However, some industry observers are of the view that the stiff competition that has pervaded the telecom industry would be a major challenge the new company would have to contend with when it comes on board.
Shortly after successfully acquiring Nitel, there was an air of pessimism about the new investor’s capability to turn around the moribund telecoms company because of the deteriorated state of the infrastructure across the country.
With much focus on broadband service, NatCom is targeting Nitel’s Sat-3 undersea cable as a unique selling point (USP). The undersea cable strength that the company may rely more on is also having competitors like Glo-1, WACS and MainOne. Natcom Consortium in 2014 emerged as the winning
bidder for the assets of Nitel and Mtel.
As part payment of its $252.5 million bid price, Natcom Consortium made an initial part payment of $75.7 million, and the balance of 70 percent within a stipulated period fixed by BPE. On the whole, Nitel was acquired for $252.5 million. The company was required to roll out telecoms services in
Nigeria within the next three years.
While optimism about NatCom hitting the market this year is peaking among some industry observers, others are however expressing little hope about the possibility of NatCom successfully deploying telecom services as soon as possible. The reason for the reservations of the expectation is hinged on the market challenges all existing operators have been battling with in the past years.