N55bn Infrastructure Decay As Telecom Firms Fold Up
Telecom facilities worth more than N55.43bn across the country are wasting as the firms that own them have folded up operations.
The Nigerian Communications Commission has identified 693 abandoned masts and towers across the six geopolitical zones of the country.
With each tower having an estimated value of N80m, a total of N55.43bn had been invested in them when their owners were offering telecoms services to Nigerians.
Recall that IHS, an African mobile infrastructure group, acquired about 9,000 telecom towers from MTN in 2014 in a $2bn deal, with each valued at about $222,222 (N80m).
According to the NCC, 48 idle masts and towers in the North-East, 66 in the North-West, 158 in the South-East, 209 in the South-West, 148 in the South-South and 64 in the North-Central regions of the country have become security threats.
“Failure to maintain these structures over a long period of time has resulted in their technical failure and constant vandalism with negative consequences on public health and safety,” the commission’s Public Affairs Director, Dr Henry Nkemadu, had said.
The industry regulator in a public notice said more than 200 of the abandoned facilities were owned by three defunct Internet Service Providers – Rainbownet, Reltel/Zoom Mobile and Starcomms.
It would be recalled that Rainbownet Limited, a private fixed wireless telephone operator, owned by a former Governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, was taken over alongside other companies by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria for failure to pay a N42bn debt.
Also, Reltel, a fixed-wireless provider, which later rebranded as Zoom Mobile, shut down operation in the country for reportedly being unable to compete with the four major network operators in the country.
Starcomms, another Code Division Multiple Access operator, which is no longer in operation, had initially reached an agreement to raise $210m from Capcom Limited in order to stay afloat.
However, the deal was not successful as Capcom reportedly could not raise the required funds to acquire the company.
The last CDMA operator, Visafone was acquired by MTN, a GSM operator in 2015.
Meanwhile, stakeholders have advised the N CC to take ownership of the 693 idle masts and towers that have been marked for dismantling across the country.
Speaking to our correspondent exclusively, the operators under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria and Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria also urged the commission to auction the equipment to willing buyers.
The Chairman, ALTON, Mr Gbenga Adebayo, said there was a need to determine the structural integrity of the infrastructure as they might have been abandoned without maintenance for a long time.
“We have advocated that the NCC should take ownership of those towers in the interest of public safety. Now, the question is whether it is economically viable to decommission them or put them to other use,” he said.
Adebayo added, the “NCC may consider taking them over, auctioning them for a nominal fee and sell to operators that may want to buy them. Before anyone can buy, they must do their due diligence of the state of health of the towers.”
The President, ATCON, Mr Olusola Teniola, stated that the infrastructure could be used for co-location services by other operators considering the huge tower gap in the country.