Interconnect debt is a challenge to telecom infrastructure expansion in Nigeria —Danbatta

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By Ibiyemi Mathew

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Garba Danbatta, has described the huge interconnect debts owed by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) as a hindrance to telecoms infrastructure expansion in the country.

Speaking at the maiden edition of the National Dialogue on Telecoms and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sectors in Nigeria organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the EVC said the “interconnectivity indebtedness valued at over N70 billion is a big challenge to infrastructure expansion and inimical to healthy competition” which are needed for facilitating digital economy in Nigeria”.

Danbatta also expressed displeasure over the huge interconnect debts being owed by various while urging telecom operators in the country to settle their debts.

The NCC had in 2019 granted disconnection approval to mobile network operator (MNO) – Airtel Networks Limited (Airtel) to disconnect owing colleague – GloMobile –  over its interconnect debt and failure of the affected operator to pay.

Recall that NCC granted similar approval to Airtel and MTN in December 2018, to disconnect from Breeze Micro Limited; Exchange Telecommunications Limited, Solid Interconnectivity Services Limited, Niconnx Communications Limited and other exchange points under similar circumstance.

Meanwhile, the EVC told participants at the event that access gaps in the country have been reduced from 217 in 2015 to 114.

“We have licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos); we have introduced innovative policies such as spectrum trading and spectrum farming; broadband penetration has increased from six per cent to 43.3 per cent in the last five years. Also, from eight per cent in 2015, the telecoms sector contributed over 14 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as in the second quarter of 2020, valued at N2.3 trillion,” Danbatta said.