by Emeka Mojekwu (Consumer Affairs)

mastsFollowing the liberalization of telecoms sector in Nigeria and the successful auction of GSM licenses in 2001, it was observed by mobile operators that the existing infrastructure in the country could not support their operations. When compared with other countries, it was observed that Nigeria lacked the necessary infrastructure required for the deployment of telecommunications services. Operators therefore embarked on the accelerated roll-out of core telecoms network which comprised of the infrastructure needed to support their operations in the country.

It is also worthy of note that, with just over 15,000 base station sites currently on ground to service a population of over 160 million people, there is still not enough telephony towers and masts sufficient to meet Nigeria's communication needs. It is pertinent to note that network service cannot be provided in an area if telecommunications infrastructure (Mast) isn't located in that area or at least within its proximity. NCC has however taken laudable steps to ensure that telecom Consumers are adequately provided for especially with regards to erection of telecom masts and health hazards involved below are some of the challenges faced in the telecom industry:

Power is one of the biggest challenges facing telecommunications operations in the country. The cost of providing power for base stations.NCC is working assiduously to solve these challenges. We’ve been able to solve the power challenge through the use of generators. But these are environmentally-unfriendly and make telecom operations very expensive. Multiple Regulations and Multiple Taxation are problems we face in the industry. The unfair taxes and billing levied on Telcos was a drawback to the success recorded so far in the telecom industry. Government agencies at federal, state and local government levels are condemned for taking the industry as ‘extractive’ with multiple taxes and levies.

The major contributor to the Quality of Service challenge has always been network capacity constraints. The operating companies have not been able to expand their networks fast enough to meet the ever-growing demands by subscribers.

Other issues such as major deterioration in the public power supply situation; security challenges; theft of equipment; transmission cable cuts; delay in securing approval for sites for new base stations; harassment by some government agencies especially at the state level, also contributed in various degrees to the problem."

The problem of multiple regulations in the telecommunications industry was frightening investors out of the country; there had been jitters in the telecommunication industry and the investment world, particularly those who want to invest in the country, as a result of multiple regulations.

Nigerian Communications Commission however ensures the siting of masts and towers shall take cognizance of provisions of the Act and be guided by provisions of the Collocation and Infrastructure Sharing Guidelines of the Commission in such a way as to minimise their number, protect and promote public safety, and mitigate adverse visual impacts on the community.

All masts and towers sited in cities shall conform to the guidelines and standards of the Commission concerning all matters on radio frequency, and all towers sited within residential areas must conform to the set back stipulated in the Guidelines under Subsection 5 below and Section 9 (9) to mitigate the effect of heat, smoke and noise pollution arising from generating sets.