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Review Of Nigeria’s Telecoms Sector In 2011

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The country’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry witnessed a remarkable growth last year.

Though a bunch of challenges greeted the industry, but experts in the area arrested all situations with a firm promise to keep the ship a float amidst the tempest.

From January till about July 2011, there was normal business growth in the ICT world as it affected Nigeria.  When sometime in the year under review, the Federal Government announced the compulsory registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards, it threw many into panic due to the fear of what may befall them should they (subscribers) fail to register their SIM cards within the specified time frame (March-September) by the Federal Government.

At this point, the Federal Government had threatened through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to block all those whose SIM cards were not duly registered.

All the registration centres visited then were crowded by enthusiastic  subscribers who never wanted their lines blocked. Some heaved a sigh of relief when the Federal Government later announced September 2011 as deadline of the registration and later extended it indefinitely.

Within that time, some dealers had commenced the sales of pre-registered SIM cards to unsuspecting members of the public who did not know its, implication.

In a swiff  reaction, the Federal Government, through the NCC again, ordered the arrest and prosecution of any dealer caught selling pre-registered SIM card .

The Federal Government’s threat acted as “healing balm” as fear gripped both suspected dealers/buyers.

The NCC then, had earlier announced that its agents saddled with the exercise were ready to register all the 90 million subscribers in the country without qualms.

All the visit to the NCC’s office in Port Harcourt last year during the exercise indicated that they were not mincing words about the exercise.

Around August, Nigeria launched another satellites (Sat 2 and Satx) to the existing ones.  Many attributed it to the erudite leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan.  Players in the industry were optimistic that the lunch of Sat 2 and Sat X will go a longway  to bridge the gap between Europe and Nigeria, technology-wise. They believed that the country now had an edge over most African countries who are yet to launch their first satellite.

Here in Rivers State, an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Team that paid a courtesy call on the Special Adviser to the Governor on ICT,  Engr Goddliffe Nmekini, rated the ICT development in the state high.

According to the team, the ICT development in the state was upto international standard and at the same time, has all its takes to transform the state economically.

They also expressed hope that the ICT provision in the state will enable the younger generation to appreciate ICT earlier even as it will create employment opportunities for graduates in the state.

The month of September, brought a lot of challenges in the ICT/Telecoms industry. Around September 14, 2011, the issue of killer number (09141) ensued.

There was repeated calls warning their loved ones not to call or answer any call from any five digit number.

The atmosphere remained tensed until the Federal Government through the NCC’s spokesman, Ruben Mouka, announced that it was “unimaginable that somebody will die while receiving a call”. Before the announcement, there were rumours that about five persons have died in some parts of the country.  In the same month, Senator David Mark, hinted that the Senate has started investigations to help unearth the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the government-owned NITEL/M-Tel telecommunications.  Until the end of last year, the Senate Committee on Communications was yet to make open its findings why all the government-owned telecommunications outfits were not functional.

To add to subscribers’ joy in Rivers State, Samsung indicated interest to carry out free repairs of all its products for Rivers State residents.  The notice which came through its corporate head, marketing, Samsung Electronics West Africa, Donald Etim when he visited Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, as part of efforts of the company to celebrate its week with its teeming customers.

The Minister of Communication Technology  Mrs Omobola Johnson, tasked the Committee on National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on the urgent need to harmonise ICT policies. Johnson informed that the call became imperative so as to quicken its records in the market structure.

She also charged investors/stakeholders to increase their commitments by investing more on ICT infrastructure.

In October, the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), commenced full process of number portability in the country.  It explained that the process will boost subscribers interest due to its uniqueness.

Some oil companies operating in the state like Chevron and NNPC donated ICT equipment to the state-owned University of Science and Technology in order to boost Information and Communication Technology  (ICT) development in the area.  In a similar development, about 16 students from the state who under- took post-graduate courses in information and communication technology (ICT) at Teeside University, United Kingdom returned to the state.  The Tide was told that the students will be part of ICT development in the state as they will be made to man the ICT centre in the state.

In November, the Minister of Communication Technology, Johnson, gave insight to the certification of Galaxy Backbone certification by the British Standard Institute (BSI). Johnson said it will boost public confidence in internet technology organisation.  The Galaxy Backbone was one of the smartest ICT/telecoms developments of last year as it was certified by an international organisation.          Nigerian Postal Services (NIPOST) was not left out in the development of ICT last year as it also adjusted to meet the latest ICT training needs.  The Tide learnt that NIPOST now operates e-transfer and other packages as one of its efforts to improve on its services in a bid to compete favourably in the ICT/telecoms industry.

In December, NCC said it decided not to sanction the three main telecommunication providers in the country (MTN, Glo andAirtel) when it discovered a considerable service improvement by  the service providers.  The threat to sanction the big three after poor network was experienced throughout the country in the previous month.  The NCC’s Director, Public affairs, Mr Tony Ojobo said the commission would have thrown its weight on the big three if not for the remarkable change they made in the last quarter of the year.

The Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (Nigcomsat), also launched Nigcom Sat-1R  into orbit at the Xichang Satelite Launch Centre in South  West China.  It was a replacement of Nigcom Sat-I which was launched years ago.

The commission (NCC) established Emergency Call Centres (ECCs) in the 36 states including Abuja so as to enhance telecommunication in the country.  The ECC, as The Tide learnt, was established to also boost security networking on the parts of government as a means of check-mating insecurity in the country.

At the tail end of the year (December), there was increment in the price of recharge cards in the country. N400 MTN card was sold for N420,  while N100 and N200 cards attracted N10 each.  Subscribers were left with no choice but to purchase.

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Twitter Ban Creates Room For Local Platform Creation – Don

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Director, Center for  Atmospheric Research, National Space Research and Development Agency  (CAR-NASRDA), Prof. Babatunde Rabiu, says the ban on Twitter by the Federal Government, presented an opportunity to develop an indigenous replica of the platform.
Rabiu, therefore, called on Information Communication Technology (ICT) experts and app developers to rise to the occasion and create a indigenous replica of the platform, in an interview he granted to the newsmen in Abuja, recently.
Reacting to the ban, Rabiu said although the ban had generated lots of reactions across board, there were benefits in the development.
“This is a great opportunity to make good and cool legitimate business with a social media platform such as this.
“I feel that the ICT sector in Nigeria is ripe enough to produce and offer an equivalent of Twitter services to Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
“If some app developers can come up with something very meaningful within the coming days, it will be a development for the sector and even if Twitter comes back, it will be like a competition.
“Africa is waiting for Nigeria, with one quarter of Africa’s population, and this is where the market is,” Rabiu said.
According to him, we are technologically capable of coping with the situation and to take advantage of it.
He called on Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora to rise up to the challenge, adding that nationhood was bigger than any individual.
“We should use this opportunity to develop our country socio-economically. When we have our own produced indigenously, the tax will go to the Nigerian government, we will employ people, there may be offices in the geo-political zones or few locations of the country.
“When we develop ours, we will have Nigeria exporting this technology-driven service to other African countries and the global community as a whole.”
It would be recalled that the Federal Government suspended Twitter indefinitely on Friday, June 5, two days after the company removed a Tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, for alleged violation of the site’s rules.
A statement by the Federal Government accused Twitter of allowing the use of its platform for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
In the statement, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, also directed the immediate commencement of the licensing of all Over The Top (OTT) social media operations in the country.

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Embassy Seeks Partnership With NOTAP

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The Embassy of Sweden in Nigeria  has sought  partnership with  National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) in the areas of capacity building and workshops to advance technology in the country.
The Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Carl Grans, stated yesterday in Abuja  during a visit to NOTAP headquarters.
Grans said the Swedish community was largely represented in Nigeria and engaged in different businesses and there was need to engage in meaningful partnership.
“ There are about 35 Swedish companies in Nigeria with headquarters in Lagos and some in Abuja.
“ The biggest is Ericsson with about 230 staff and the Swedish embassy is seeking mutually beneficial partnerships to both countries,” he said.
According to him, the visit was to seek areas of interest in NOTAP where the embassy can be involved.
He disclosed that acquiring patents was very crucial to Swedish companies and urged NOTAP to continue to deliver on its mandate.
He thanked  NOTAP for its continued support and provision of an enabling environment for development of technology in the country.
The Director General (DG) of NOTAP, Dr DanAzumi  Ibrahim, while welcoming the ambassador informed him that NOTAP was established to regulate  inflow of foreign technology and register technology transfer agreements.
“ Registering technology transfer agreements between Nigerian entrepreneurs and their foreign technical partners is one of our major functions.
“ At the same time, we promote the development of indigenous technologies for a rapid technological growth of the country and to also reduce dependence on foreign technology, “ he said.
He noted that the office considered the registration of Technology Transfer Agreement under three major perspectives: legal, economic and technical.
Ibrahim said a major focus of NOTAP was  linking of research to industry needs through what he called,  the NOTAP-Industry Technology Transfer Fellowship.
“ The NOTAP-Industry Technology Transfer Fellowship trains  high level manpower on industry-relevant research projects.
“The companies involved also agree with NOTAP to support research in different sciences and technology.
“ For example PZ Cussons funded the upgrade of the chemical laboratory in some research centers in Nigeria institutions,” he said.
He insisted that unless the academia and the industry come together, the research and development efforts of the country would not lead to economic development.
The NOTAP boss said if universities come up with technologies just for academic purposes and those technologies were not taken up by the industries, it would  have no economic value.
He promised that NOTAP would continue to carry out its mandate and create a thriving environment for all businesses in the country.

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Telecoms Operators Receive Orders To Suspend Twitter

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The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), an industry group, says it has received directives from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry regulator, to suspend access to Twitter.
The President of ALTON, Mr Gbenga Adebayo made this known in a statement made available to newsmen at the weekend.
The action may not be unconnected with Friday’s indefinite suspension of Twitter’s operations, two days after the social media giant deleted a tweet from President Buhari’s account.
Adebayo noted that the association wished to confirm that its  members had received formal instructions from  NCC, the industry regulator, to suspend access to Twitter.
“ALTON has also conducted a robust assessment of the request in accordance with internationally accepted principles.
“Based on national interest provisions in the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, and within the licence terms under which the industry operates;  our members have acted in compliance with the directives of NCC.
“We will continue to engage all  relevant authorities and stakeholders and will act as may be further directed by the NCC,” he said.
He said the association remained committed to supporting the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and upholding  the rights of citizens.
As an industry, ALTON endorsed the position of the United Nations that the rights held by people offline must also be protected online, he added.
He noted that this included respecting and protecting the rights of all people to communicate, to share information freely and responsibly, and to enjoy privacy and security regarding their data and their use of digital communications.

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