Friday, August 3, 2007

On NigComSat and NCC Imbroglio

In a publications placed by the Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd (NigComSat) in some national dailies, it stated that they had applied for the use of certain frequencies and licences to enable them provide fixed, mobile and last mile services.
However, Engr Ernest Ndukwe the Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) disagrees with NigComSat’s position saying its request for a license is against its original plan to provide transmission infrastructure for operator. He said further that the NigComSat request is totally against NCC regulatory environment. He said when NCC initiated this process, what it understand was that the satellite solution is desirable for providing long distance transmission, and assist to take the telecoms Operators to remote locations. He wondered why NigComSat will now abandon this objective to pursue a 3G Licence to provide last mile solutions.

The truth is the Memorandum and Article of Association which NigComSat claimed clearly empower it to provide end-to-end solutions alongside satellite owner is not enough to entitled it to telecom Licence.

It is still fresh in the memory of every Nigrians with the way Ndukwe handles GSM auction which led to the emergence of MTN, Econet and Nitel and of course the imbroglio of CIL (Communications Investment Ltd) which could not meet the auctioning licence at that time. We all coult still remember the transparency of how Glo later emerged as the Second National Carrier which is also transparency. There is also the auction of 2.5Ghz frequency which NigComSat now want, which was auctioned in 2003, of all those that won the bid, it is small proportion of them that was able to deploy because the technology to deploy is very exhorbitant. The fact that some group wants the job of Ndukwe does not mean we should take the NigComSat matter as if the regulatory body is not transparent anymore. Now, if NigComSat wants the 3G Licence at all costs, what will happen to those that paid exhorbitantly to be in business? What happen to their business? That is why reason should prevailed on NigComSat to concentrate on deployment of its satellite to vendors instead of being a last mile vendor.
The argument that its services will take care of the quality of service does not hold any water, it cannot provide GSM services through its satellites, and in any case if it can, what happens to the investments of the GSM Operators majority of who are foreign investors?
The Licence issued to Mubadala is in order since they are an investment company of the Government of United Arab Emirates. Records of the company performance in telecom industry is there to be seen, they excel, and it is a welcome development that they deploy their services in Nigeria. If NigComSat wants to be like Mubadala, then it has to pay as much as what Mubadala pays to win the Unified Access Licence.
What is more, The role of government is to provide overall direction to telecommunications development and ensure policy consistency. This role does not include participating in the provision of telecom services which NigComSat is seeking.
It is even worse for NigComSat to start mudfight with NCC Executive Vice Chairman, all in the name of trying to get a telecom Licence. NigComSat is established to provide satellite services as its name implies, and its purpose in Internet services is already felt with drastic reduction in bandwidth, to me, it cannot operate as satellite service provider as well as end-to-end service provider, it should leave the job of regulatory of telecom sector to NCC which NCC is clearly charged by the policy and the law to issue licences to all operators and service providers in Nigeria. This is why NITEL/M-TEL were licenced by the NCC and the two organizations also paid in full for their GSM frequencies and other licencees just like every other operator even when they were fully owned by government.
It is therefore in view of this clear understanding of both the provisions of the Policy and the Law that government did not consider it improper for the NCC to be represented on the Board of NigComSat. It is obvious that Government clearly did not intend NigComSat to be a fixed or mobile telecommunications services provider that will be in competition with other such licencees. The NCC has a duty to ensure a level playing field for all operators in line with the Act and international best practices. Lastly, How would NigComSat feel, if government allow another company to deploy the same satellite they had in Nigeria territory and allow them to compete with them, would they not want to run to government for Cover? The same regulatory body it is now fighting with both tooth and nail.


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