Published 22 Sep,2020 via The Nation - The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), increased skilled level of attackers and others pose regulatory challenges, writes LUCAS AJANAKU.
With over 25 billion devices projected to be connected by 2025, increased use of the public cloud, increasing reliance on technology and digitisation (now fuelled by the pandemic and working from home), the risks mobile phone users face are enormous and regulators strains in the leach.
But the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it has taken measures to stay ahead because criminals could take undue advantage of these emerging trends to hurt the subscribers.
Its Chief Executive Officer, Prof Garba Danbatta, who hosted an interactive session with senior media chiefs from mainstream and online media community in Abuja, said over the past five years, it has prioritised balanced regulation that took the interest of all stakeholders into consideration.
He said continuous subscriber identity module (SIM) registration audit is an area that will occupy front burner to the Commission as he starts another five year second term in the Commission. This priority is not misplaced because the security implications of untidy SIM card registration in the era of identity stealing, SIM boxing and other criminal activities.
Incidences of banditry, kidnap-for-ransom and armed robbery will also be contained with proper SIM card registration as it will be easy for law enforcement agents to track down the criminals.
Danbatta said the creation of Emergency Communications Centres (ECCs) in more states of the federation to connect citizens in distress with the various security agencies is another regulatory intervention designed to cater for emerging issues in the country.
The place of broadband infrastructure is not lost on the Commission as the nation braces for era of machine learning, AI, IoT, 5G and others, initiatives such as licensing of counterpart-funding licensed Infrastructure companies (InfraCos) to facilitate digital transformation of the economy has been embarked upon by the Commission.
He said the diligent implementation of NCC’s Strategic Vision Plan (SVP) which focused on the Eight-Point Agenda helped to lift broadband penetration from six per cent in 2015 to 42.02 per cent by July. The sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) increased from 8.50 per cent in 2015 to 14.30 per cent in the second quarter of this year while in financial terms, he said the sector contributed N2.272 trillion to GDP in Q2 2020.
He said 217 access gap clusters were identified in the country affecting 40 million citizens without access to telecoms service five years ago.
“But today, we have reduced the access gap clusters to 114 with 15 million of the 40 million digitally excluded Nigerians now having access to telecoms services. “We e are committed to addressing the remaining access gap clusters, which are areas outside the frontier of economic viability to ensure the remaining 25 million Nigerians have access,” he said.
He said there were 47,000 kilometers of fibre optic cables laid across the country, adding that five years after, as a result of regulatory focus, there are 54,725 kilometres of fibre cables laid across the country through the efforts of some private companies in the sector.
“In line with the Federal Government’s target, additional 120,000 kilometres of fibre are being planned over the next four years. In this regard, the NCC is working on last-mile connectivity to different parts of the country through leveraging the 40 terabyte capacity of five submarine cables on the coastal shores of Nigeria,” he said.
He said the licensing of six InfraCos to deploy fibre infrastructure across the six-geo political zones will also help to galvanise increased connectivity.
“This will also bring about a reduction in cost of data from N1000, per gigabyte of data to around N390 with broadband penetration target of 70 per cent to cover 90 per cent of the population within the next five years as contained in the new National Broadband Plan (2020-2025),” he said.
He nonetheless said there cannot be pervasive broadband with only 37,000 4G enabled Base Transceiver Station (BTS) of the total 50,000 BTS currently in the country. “We need more next-generation technologies as we work through addressing infrastructure deficit occasioned by the spike in data usage in the country,” Dambatta said.
He said the 5G trial conducted last year and its eventual safe deployment in the country will increase data speed and boost efficiency in service experience for the consumers.
On capital importation, the EVC said in 2015, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the telecom sector stood at $1 billion but declined to $212 million by 2018, noting however that through regulatory efforts, the FDI in the sector has picked up again reaching $930 million according to recent figures from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Danbatta also talked about the various consumer-centric initiatives his leadership has put in place to strengthen consumer protection and empowerment. These include the declaration of 2017 as the Year of the Consumer, the introduction of the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) 2442 Short Code, introduction of the NCC toll-free Number 622 and the stringent provisions of Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) registration Guidelines and the issuance of direction on forceful subscription among others.
Such initiative also include the constitution of a multi-sectoral committee on e-fraud , revision of the consumer complaints and service level agreements (CC/SLA) for prompt resolution of consumer complaints by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
He reiterated NCC’s commitment towards delivering on its mandate of ensuring quality of service to the consumers, driving investment and boosting healthy competition in the industry as enshrined in the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003.
Danbatta lauded the role of the media in the reportage of the telecom sector over the years and urged the practitioners to continue to be objective and constructive in their coverage of the activities of the Commission and that of its Licenses.
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