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Nigerian telcos demand ROW charge review

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Telcos have demanded the removal of right of way charges in Nigeria, the latest development in a months-long battle that has seen some states hike fees by 1,200%.

The fees – imposed by the government on telcos and ISPs for fibre-optic cable installation on state roads – were standardised at N145/ metre in 2013 (US$0.38c). Fast forward seven years to January and 14 of Nigeria’s 30 states had increased ROW charges by more than 1,200%.

Gbenga Adebayo, the chair of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said the hikes have the potential to derail the digital and knowledge economies, at a critical time in the country’s Covid-19 recovery.

Last week, he told local reporters: “This is definitely going to affect the roll out of broadband and infrastructure deployment in those States and others. In our thinking, the N145 per linear metre proposed fee for Right of Way charges by the Federal Government should be implemented across board. Now, our members are faced with the issue of fibre cuts, who repairs it for us. Nobody! You will realise that the N5,000 and N6,000 fees these States want to charge on Right of Way is far much higher than the cost of deploying a fibre per linear meter.

“For instance, the fibre itself costs about N100 per meter; the excavation is about N200 per meter (though depending on a company’s negotiation power),” Adebayo explained.

The news isn’t all bad. Since 2013, five states have reduced the charges bringing lower tariffs for data and voice customers alike. However, this in itself could create a digital divide in the country at a time when connectivity will be depended upon to ease Covid-19 lockdown rules.

New insight from ABI Research suggests that telcos will be key in enabling a new digital society, as remote working, virtual meetings, and virtual teams become the post-Covid normal. The development of local connectivity to meet demand for these services could accelerate GDP growth but will require “a robust level of support” from the telco community, the report stated.

On 4 June, ACTON will host a virtual conference on the socio-economic and political impact of Covid-19 on the telecoms and ICT sector in Nigeria.

 

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