Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman NCC, is credited for the development of regulatory template that has spurred the inflow of huge investment capital into Nigeria’s telecommunications sector as well as internal growth of the sector at a speed unmatched anywhere else in the world. From a little over 450,000 connected telephone lines in 2001, Nigerian Communications Commission [NCC] closed the 2016 fiscal year with about 152 million active lines.
The phenomenal growth of Nigeria’s information and communications technology [ICT] sector has earned Nigeria the enviable record of the world’s fastest growing telecomm market for five years running. The massive internal capacity building that has lifted the Nigerian ICT market to one of the top three in the world has been powered by massive inflow of private sector investments into the sector.
Compared to a little over $50 million private sector investments in 2001, the sector recorded more than $68.2 billion in cumulative investment as at July, 2016. Foreign direct investment contributed $35 billion of the investment capital.
The investment climate that attracted such capital inflow into the ICT sector was created by out of NCC’s commitment to regulatory excellence and operational efficiency. Its leadership is credited with a regime of transparency and firmness that has succeeded in changing the high risk environment label that intending investors placed on Nigeria in 2001.
The transformation of the Nigerian market into an investor’s haven has won the country a pride of place within the global community. The commission was the winner of European award for best practices in regulation, 2016 presented to it in Brussels with sixty three countries in attendance. NCC’s regulatory template has become a global model, which other countries are asked to study in order to develop their ICT markets.
Limited internet access and the cumbersome dial-up technology used to be a major drawback on Nigeria’s competitiveness in the global investment market. Not more than 100,000 users, including multilateral institutions, governments, embassies and others had access even to the dial-up internet connectivity. The advent of faster internet connectivity and its massive roll out is by far one of the major accomplishments that NCC’s leadership has to its credit.
The number of internet users in Nigeria has swelled to over 97 million, as internet connections have become readily available in offices and homes on a verity of facilities – smart phones, iPods, modems and laptops. The developments have demystified and boosted internet banking and online transactions that used to be the exclusive preserve of the rich and leading corporate organisations.
The next milestone, already within reach is broadband revolution of which the Open Access Model deployment has been launched. This is NCC’s programme of action that would make broadband connectivity pervasive by 2018. In the build up to 2018, NCC issued a wireless broadband spectrum of 2.3GHz band to Bitflux Consortium through a public auction in 2016.
Also last year, the commission offered 14 lots in an auction of 2.6GHz of which MTN won 6 and paid the bid deposit of $16 million each. The INFRACOs licence for the Lagos and north central zones covering Abuja has been processed. Licensing of INFRACOs for north-east, north-west, south-east, south-west and south-south is in process. There are also other frequency assignment initiatives from the commission aimed at deepening broadband penetration in Nigeria.
In charting the course for the continuing growth and development of the ICT market in Nigeria, Danbatta has since unveiled an 8-point agenda for the sector covering 2015 – 2020. Top on the agenda is broadband penetration through deployment of fixed and mobile infrastructures. Improvement of the quality of services is also top on the agenda and optimising usage and benefits of Spectrum will get a good attention.
Danbatta has also specified promoting ICT innovation and investment opportunities as part of the agenda with a view to improving Nigeria’s ability to compete in the global economy. He will also pursue strategic collaboration and partnership in the sector during the period while protecting consumers against unfair practices is equally captured under his agenda.
Promoting fair competition is another point on the agenda, through which the NCC boss intends to facilitate new investment, job creation and consumer satisfaction. Also the need to sustain the regulatory excellence and operational efficiency that has earned the commission global respect and recognition was not left out of Danbatta’s 8-point agenda.
Danbatta clearly demonstrated an effective regulatory response last year in respect of the complaints from subscribers about the menace of unsolicited text messages and calls from mobile network operators. These amounted to undue customer disturbance and impacted negatively on consumer quality experience in the telecomm market.
Sanity has been restored in respect of unsolicited marketing messages after the commission mandated network operators to dedicate a short code for subscribers to opt-in to the ‘do not disturb’ service, which is available on the network and to create a sufficient awareness of the option.
In pursuit of consumer satisfaction, NCC has also introduced mobile number portability to cushion subscribers’ anxiety to change networks. This leads to indiscriminate purchasing of SIM cards, which is no longer necessary under mobile number portability. Subscribers can now switch from one network to another and still retain their GSM numbers.
Danbatta made the list of Top 10 Magazine’s top 10 CEOs of the year, 2016 in recognition of his numerous accomplishments in the ICT sector regulation, his stewardship in office and the ability to place NCC as one of the best telecom regulatory institutions in the world.