WATISE: Stakeholders Urge Government to Address Telecoms Infrastructure Deployment Challenges


L-R: Soye West (Head of Operations Lagos and Ibadan) Huawei, Onyinyechi Ntuka (Specialist, Database Applications) Commercial IHS Nigeria, Michael Chukwuka Oduh (Associate Director, Field Control & Network Services) Technical Quality Management IHS Nigeria and Kayode A. Olaniyan (Senior Manager, Public Policy & External Relations) Corporate Services IHS Nigeria at WATISE 2023 Maiden Edition


The inaugural West Africa Telecoms Infrastructure Summit and Exhibition (WATISE) placed a spotlight on the pressing need for a dependable telecommunications infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of essential services and products within a connected ecosystem in West Africa.


This event, themed ‘The Future of Infrastructure, Connectivity And Services: A New Interdependent Ecosystem of Partners,’ was hosted by TechnologyMirror, an ICT and Telecoms news website, with the support of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and IHS Towers Nigeria.


In the keynote presentation titled ‘Telecoms Infrastructure Challenges: The Pains of Inter-Related Players of the Ecosystem and the Consumers’ Quest,’ Engr Spencer Itive, CEO of RS Engineering Global Limited, emphasized the critical importance of government attention to safeguarding telecoms infrastructure for the digital economy’s success. He expressed concerns about the lack of genuine commitment from the government, which has resulted in recurrent attacks on telecoms infrastructure across the country.


Itive underscored the complex web of partnerships now connecting telecom companies, technology giants, governments, and a thriving startup ecosystem, noting that these collaborations are poised to redefine the boundaries of possibilities in telecommunications.


In the second presentation titled ‘Infrastructure Gap: Leveraging Connectivity and Technology to Transform Enterprise and Socio-Economic Life in West Africa,’ Rachael Orumor, CEO of Sens Orbit Nigeria, highlighted how over 20 million businesses across Africa use technology to engage with clients and customers. She discussed the driving factors behind digital transformation in West Africa, including increased infrastructure investments, growing tech awareness, and supportive regulatory environments.


Orumor also addressed the limited access to education, particularly in rural areas lacking high-speed internet and reliable mobile service, emphasizing the necessity of greater attention to telecoms infrastructure in these regions. To harness connectivity and technology for socio-economic transformation in West Africa, she stressed the need for infrastructure investments to not only maintain existing infrastructure but also expand the reach of telecommunications.


During the panel discussion, Mr. Mike Ofili, CEO of Coloplus, a tower infrastructure company, discussed the challenges associated with returns on investment in infrastructure. He noted that such returns were primarily achievable in major cities due to relative stability and established markets. He pointed out that most telecoms infrastructure is concentrated in major cities due to issues like vandalism, insecurity, and high right-of-way (RoW) charges experienced throughout the country.


Ofili acknowledged the high RoW charges even in major cities, particularly Lagos, but mentioned that operators could maintain infrastructure deployment due to higher returns from the state. He also discussed the hurdles faced by operators when expanding into rural areas, including the significant costs associated with laying fiber cables.


In conclusion, he emphasized the need for a more balanced distribution of data centers and telecommunications infrastructure outside major cities to achieve broadband penetration goals. However, challenges related to navigating communities and addressing diverse demands from local populations make this task complex.


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