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Bail out struggling telecom operators, Nigerian govt urged

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THE president of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria has called on the federal government to bail out the Code Division Multiple Access telecoms operators in the country.

Gbenga Adebayo, who spoke against the huge decline in the active subscriber base of the CDMA operators by 1.08 million in six months, said the bail-out would enable major operators like Starcomms, Multilinks, ZOOMmobile and Visafone to deploy infrastructure better.

He pointed out that the major problem bedeviling the CDMA networks in Nigeria was low access to capital.

“Stakeholders must begin to find ways to support the not-so-strong operators. This is not necessarily talking about consolidation, but some kind of relief that can be granted to them to deploy infrastructure better. This is like a bail-out from government.

“You need to identify that some of the players who are currently not so big are people that actually blazed the trail in telecoms development in the country. And therefore, there is a need for government to actually recognise what I will call the pioneer status of these operators and allow them to survive.”

The CDMA operators in Nigeria lost about 1.08 million active subscribers between January and July this year.

According to the December 2009 to July 2010 subscriber data made available by the Nigerian Communications Commission, active mobile CDMA lines which stood at 7.7 million in January 2010, dropped to 6.6 million by July. This means that 1.08 million active lines have become inactive.

According to the data, the number of CDMA lines increased from 7.77 million in January to 7.79 million in February, but dropped to 7.66 million in March. It however, increased to 7.74 million in April.

However, the active subscriber base recorded a sharp drop from 7.49 million in May, to 6.83 million in June, and rose again to 6.69 million in July.

The highest drop was experienced in June when the figure dropped from 7.49 million in May to 6.83 million.

Although, statistics on the total connected CDMA lines were not available for the months of January and February 2010, the figure stood at 10.3 million in March with 7.66 million active subscribers. The total connected CDMA lines stood at 11.5 million as at July.

However, the GSM subscriber base recorded exponential growth from 83.4 million total connected lines in March 2010 and an active subscriber figure of 68.7 million to 91.6 million and 72.2 million respectively as at July.

Commenting on the decline in active CDMA subscribers, the Chairman of the Teledom Group, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, said: “No subscriber will leave what is better for what is good and what is best for what is better. When you see reduction in the active CDMA subscribers, then it means they must be enjoying a better service on the other network.”

Issues such as limited coverage, non-availability of service, quality of service, data services, tariffs and other value added offerings could be behind the huge decline in the number of active CDMA subscribers.

He lamented that subscribers were being forced to cope with multiple mobile phones because of poor network coverage by the CDMA operators.

OKORO CHINEDU in Abuja, Nigeria


  1. Well, the best thing the Nigerian government can do is to create its own mesh/redundant fiber optic backbone throughout the country and Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTX) can be aerial for fast and cheap deployment(s) just as Japan has which has made them the envy of the tech world, enbling them deliver up to 100MB/s to homes and up to 1GB/s to businesses at low rates. This is a far better way to spend money to build infrastructure, create revenu for the governmnet by leasing the backbone to businesses as well as for government secure communications, create jobs, while also creating a level playing field for all telcos especially those who cannot afford to build out their own nationwide fiber backbone. I hope the government is not waiting for private entities to take this initiative for them. If the government cannot show that the country is worth investing in, why would private corporations?

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