Rising from the Telecom Executives and Regulators Forum (TERF 2023) held in Lagos, the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has released a 26-point Communiqué.
Top on the list is the need for the Nigerian government to ensure ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in the telecommunications sector.
Participants at TERF 2023 unanimously agreed that ‘Ease of Doing Business’ can be achieved through the implementation of Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) policy as a strategic tool for attracting investment
TERF annual industry event serves as a critical platform for bringing together key players and regulators in Nigeria’s telecommunications sector to address pressing issues and seek collaborative solutions.
TERF 2023 set out with several objectives, including evaluating the state of national broadband deployment and penetration, recognizing the barriers that hinder national broadband deployment, and proposing innovative solutions to tackle these sectoral challenges. The forum’s theme for this year was ‘Success Factors and Barriers to National Broadband and Digital Economy Aspirations.’
The success of TERF 2023 was made possible through sponsorship from prominent industry stakeholders, including the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria Data Protection Commission (NDPC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), Internet Xchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), Liquid Intelligent Technologies (LIT), Open Access Data Centres, MainOne, VDT, Pan African Towers, Galaxy Backbone, FibreOne Broadband Limited, and RackCentre, among others.
Mr. Tony Izuagbe Emoekpere, ATCON’s President, delivered a warm welcome address, underlining the significance of the gathering. Goodwill messages flowed in from various industry stakeholders, emphasizing the importance of TERF 2023 as a platform for constructive dialogue and collaboration.
TERF 2023 featured three distinct panel sessions, each thoughtfully chaired by seasoned ICT professionals.
The panels brought together technocrats and experts in the ICT sector and engaged a well-attended audience in insightful discussions.
The first panel, chaired by Mr. Abayomi Adebanjo, Regional Business Head and General Counsel of MainOne, an Equinix Company, delved into the ‘Impact of Data Protection Policy on the Development of the Nigerian Digital Economy.’
The second panel, chaired by Mr. Muhammed Rudman, Managing Director/CEO of Internet Xchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), discussed the theme: ‘Critical National Infrastructure Policy as a Strategic Tool for Attracting Rapid Investment.’
The third panel, chaired by Mr. Biodun Omoniyi, Group Managing Director of VDT Communications, addressed the theme: ‘Challenges of Universal Broadband And Digital Services in Nigeria – Empowering Industry SMEs.’
Following extensive deliberations across the panel sessions, TERF 2023 produced several groundbreaking resolutions.
These included the need for regulatory independence in the telecoms industry, a call for the removal of excise duty on telecoms operations, optimism about exceeding broadband penetration targets, and the sector’s increased contribution to the nation’s GDP.
Participants also stressed the importance of addressing issues like Right of Way (RoW) challenges, data protection, infrastructure sharing, and public-private collaboration to drive incentives for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
As the forum drew to a close, participants recommended continuous digital literacy training for SMEs to empower them in today’s digital era. They emphasized the importance of strong collaboration between regulators and ICT industry stakeholders and the development of technology solutions to address sectoral challenges. Additionally, participants strongly advised making TERF an annual forum for addressing issues in the ICT sector.
TERF 2023 stands as a testament to the commitment of Nigeria’s telecom industry to foster innovation, overcome challenges, and drive the nation’s digital transformation.
TERF 2023 Resolutions
After extensive deliberations by all three panels, the following resolutions were arrived at:
- Stakeholders stressed the need for regulatory independence of the telecoms industry regulator
- Participants were of the view that the initial five per cent excise duty on telecoms operations was an additional levy to the 46 existing multiple taxes imposed on telecoms operations by government at various levels, and called for the total removal of the five per cent excise duty instead of the current suspension order.
- Nigeria will surpass the 70 per cent broadband penetration target by 2025, just the same way it surpassed its 30 per cent broadband penetration target in December 2018.
- Telecoms’ Sector contribution to the nation’s GDP increased significantly to 16 per cent in the second quarter of 2023.
- Denial to Right of Way (RoW) by some state governments has become a barrier to broadband deployment in the country.
- Willful destruction of telecoms facilities and multiple taxes are setbacks to telecoms growth.
- Data identity and data protection are key in the development of any digital economy.
- The value of global digital data economy as at 2021 was $14.5 trillion and it is projected to reach N20.8 trillion by 2025.
- Participants stressed the need for proper regulation of data processing and usage in the country, in order to beef up security around data and to protect the privacy of data.
- Participants called for scalability and more investment in data infrastructure to support cloud connectivity.
- The regulator should be mindful not to stifle technology growth in the course of regulating the industry and should therefore avoid over-regulation.
- Participants advised NDPC to harmonise its operations with the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
- Africa should have a standard data regulation policy that will harmonize all data policies and regulations across African countries, to enable cross-border trade among African countries.
- ‘Ease of Doing Business’ can be achieved through the implementation of Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) policy as a strategic tool for attracting investment.
- Telecom Infrastructure must be declared as Critical National Infrastructure.
- The panelists were of the view that if the entire critical national infrastructure is vandalized, it will not only affect the telecoms sector, but also affect other sectors of the Nigerian economy.
- Panelists suggested that surveillance, awareness and enforcement of penalties, will go a long way in addressing the issue of destruction of critical national infrastructure.
- Participants stressed the need for infrastructure sharing among Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to boost universal broadband access.
- They called for the removal of Right of Way (RoW) charges to enable MNOs open up network expansion and broadband access.
- The need to protect telecoms infrastructure and declare it as critical national infrastructure, was stressed by participants.
- They called for unhindered access to ubiquitous broadband services for SMEs at no cost.
- Participants called for urgent deployment of Aerial Fibre cable across the country to avoid willful destruction of fibre and unintended destruction of fibre cables during road construction.
- They suggested the creation of community network that will create value among SMEs.
- Participants called on NCC set up inter-regulatory corporative department that will address access to infrastructure and broadband for SMEs.
- They called for Public-Private sector collaboration to drive incentives for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs.)
- Participants called on government to create enabling environment that will attract local and foreign investments in the Nigerian ICT sector. They also called on NCC to collaborate with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), to fund commercially viable projects that will enhance national development.