The telecommunication sector is not innovative enough in its attempt to reach the underserved in rural areas, the minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, has stated.

According to him, telcos need to unlock telecom services for more people by leveraging technology. He made this submission when he met with the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria, recently.

Tijani noted that the sector isn’t contributing as much in terms of Research and Development as no telecom firm could boast of a research and development centre in the country.

In a document made available to Sunday PUNCH, Tijani disclosed that an independent party needs to look into the issues surrounding the challenges faced with right of way, dig once policy, unified ducts, etc.  He announced to the telcos that he intended to form two independent think tank groups and implored the association to work with him to achieve his goal.

While discussing the USSD debt, the minister said banks should not expect free services as services rendered are cost driven.

In his recommendations to the minister, ALTON’s chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, stated that there was a need for him (the minister) to liaise with the NCC with regard to the proposed review of spectrum prices for telcos.

He said, “The HM’s liaison with the NCC to set more affordable prices for spectrum taking into consideration the developmental benefits improved broadband delivery will have on our local economy especially as studies have shown that high spectrum prices are linked to slower broadband speed and poor coverage.

“The HM’s introduction of flexible spectrum license payment terms is in line with the recommendations of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025 which will allow operators to spread payments of spectrum fees across the lifetime of the license.”

Adebayo noted that there is a need for a review of the licensing approach and pricing methodology for 5G backhaul frequencies as the current methodology means costs quickly become unsustainable for the newer wider channels required for 5G service. He said this should be done with the aim of reducing the rollout cost burden on operators.

He further stated that to unleash the innovative potential of the industry, there is a need to establish a formal process for regulatory sandboxes. He said this will serve as an avenue for Mobile Network Operators to collaborate with other sectors to conduct live tests of new, innovative products, services, delivery channels, or business models in a controlled environment, with minimal regulatory oversight devoid of standard bureaucratic processes.

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