Telcos may be forced to increase tariff for voice calls and data over the decision of 14 state governments to increase the cost of right of way (RoW) for telecommunication infrastructure.
The telcos, acting under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) had warned that the regime of discriminatory tariff regime may become inevitable as they operate under different conditions in some states.
Chairman of the association, Gbenga Adebayo, lamented that some states have seen telecoms sector as cash cow that should be milked, adding that they come with very spurious taxes, charges and levies.
But this threat is coming barely 72 hours after the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami said he has written to state governors to comply with the national economic council’s (NEC) resolution on the Right of Way.
The states which hiked the levy are Lagos, Kano, Anambra, Ondo, Cross River, Kogi, Osun, Kaduna, Enugu, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Imo, Kebbi and Gombe.
The RoW charge is the levy paid to state governments for laying of optic fibre on state roads.
At present, the cost of RoW on federal roads is N142 per linear metre.
The 14 states, however, increased RoW fees from between N300-N500 per linear metre to between N3,000-N6,000 per linear metre.
The new management of the Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency (LASIMRA) increased RoW fee from N500 per linear meter to N5,000 per linear metre.
A single telecoms operator needs RoW covering thousands of kilometres.
The Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology to Lagos State governor, Tubosun Alake, in an interview said: “The issue of Right of Way has always been a challenge between state governments and telecoms operators who seek permission on RoW to expand their networks and infrastructure.
“There is this belief surrounding the telecoms sector that state governments see the telecoms sector as a cash-cow that they should milk dry, but that is not the thinking of government.
“In Lagos, the government sees telecoms as a critical source of infrastructure for the state, which needs smart regulation so that telecoms operators do not take undue advantage of the citizens, hence the need for balancing.
“The Lagos state government, through its agency, LASIMRA, has been equipped to enforce regulation and compliance of telecoms mast installation and digging of roads for the laying of fibre cables by telecoms operators.
“With the new management of LASIMRA, I believe they will grant RoW to telecoms operators to enable them to expand their networks and infrastructure in such a way that it will not hinder network expansion that will address poor service quality, and at the same time, it will not inconvenience the citizens that are expected to benefit from the telecoms services.”
Telcos across the country have previously blamed the poor service experience of subscribers on the refusal of federal and state agencies to grant RoW licence to lay more fibre optic cables in cities.
According to The Nation, carriers said they had envisaged heavy surge during the festive seasons and had long requested for RoW licence that would enable them to expand their networks by laying more broadband fibre optic cables.
They, however, stated that their request was rejected by the various government agencies, forcing them to maintain the available network that is not sufficient to manage the peak periods.