Some telecom stakeholders stated on Thursday that the return on infrastructure investment could only be realized in major cities with relative stability and a ready market.
Mr Mike Ofili, Chief Executive Officer of Coloplus, a tower infrastructure business, backed up the statement at the West Africa Telecoms Infrastructure Summit and Exhibition (WATISE) in Lagos, which was organized by Technology Mirror.
The event was themed “The Future of Infrastructure Connectivity and Services: A New Interdependent Ecosystem of Partners.”
According to Ofili, most communication infrastructure is concentrated in major cities due to the risk of vandalism, insecurity, and exorbitant right-of-way prices across the country.
He explained that this explains why, outside of the three big cities of Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, many Nigerians are still on 2G networks.
Right-of-way charges are also high in major cities, particularly Lagos, although operators are able to sustain infrastructure deployment with higher state returns.
When asked why operators had to slow their growth into rural areas, he stated that most telecoms had to spend through the nose to build fiber links.
“I can tell you that 90 per cent of the data centres in Nigeria are in Lagos and I don’t know how you want to achieve 70 per cent broadband penetration in Nigeria with almost all the data centres in Lagos.
“It is very difficult to lay fibre cables across many communities in Nigeria, you cannot cross any community without paying different people.
“You cannot build towers without going through different communities of people demanding all kinds of things,” Ofili said.
He explained that if one did not meet the demands of the communities, they would either not allow you to deploy or vandalise your equipment.
“There are many states that operators cannot go to lay fibre because they will need heavy security.
“Operators have lost many of their engineers to insecurity in the North while trying to deploy infrastructure.
“To deploy infrastructure in some communities that are considered important, operators have to negotiate with the people and align with them” Ofili said.
In his remarks, Mr Spencer Itive, the Managing Director, RS Engineering Global Ltd., said that the government had not paid enough attention or prioritised its declaration of telecoms infrastructure as critical national assets.
According to him, the consistent attack on telecoms infrastructure across the country underscores this.
“We are yet to see the commitment of the government with regards to protection of telecom infrastructure.
“This is why every community sees the deployment of infrastructure as a favour to the telecom operators,” Itive said.
On the future of infrastructure connectivity, he said that all stakeholders in the sector had to understand that no single entity could meet the multifaceted demands of the digital age in isolation.
“A complex tapestry of partnerships now weaves together telecom companies, technology giants, governments and a thriving ecosystem of startups.
“These partnerships will redefine the boundaries of what is possible in telecommunications.
Also speaking, Rachael Orumor, the Chief Executive Officer, Sens Orbit Nigeria, said that over 20 million businesses across Africa use technology to interact with their clients and potential customers.
According to Orunor, the factors driving digital transformation in West Africa are increasing investment in infrastructure, growing awareness of the benefits of technology and a supportive regulatory environment.
She noted that however, there was limited access to education, especially for people in rural areas, who do not have access to high-speed internet or reliable mobile service.