Essays of Titi Omo-Ettu

 

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and the Power of Numbers
Monsters that are called Loans

Hurdles In-plant
Journey to PENTASCOPE

Harnessing the Potential of the Internet and Applications on Mobile Devices 
The Challenge of Bharti
Of House of Reps, NCC & SIM Card Registration
The Business Opportunities of Mobile Services
Home may be where the problem is :Aftermath of 2.3 GHz court verdict
Opportunity of a Tragedy
Time to Listen!
2/11: Will The Senate Stick or Twist?
Who is dominating who around here?
'F'ings just gotta change
3G Network Systems: The Choice & Challenge ahat Await Nigeria
2.3 GHz verdict: It was Them not Us
Big tree, small axe

 

 
 

 


Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and the Power of Numbers
 

August 26, 2013 - Some guys might have started calling Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg several names. Latest information reveals that one Indian blogger has matter-of-factly said Mark is a braggart while another analyst in California has described him as 'a dreamer' or simply as a noise maker for boasting about his ambition to network the world's 5 billion inhabitants. The Independent reported yesterday that one commentator called the initiative "a canny business move dressed up to sound like charity".

Of course Mark Zuckerberg, 29, might have talked in superlatives. But the bottom line is that he understands the power of numbers and if you review the disparity of numbers across the world on internet access and its growth, you will find merit in his ambition and why it is do-able

While explaining his mission, Mark said 'The goal of Internet.org is apparently to make web access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected'. The man who has also published a research paper entitled 'Is Connectivity a Human Right' went on "Connecting the world is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it." 

A similarly strange call was made in
Pathway to connecting the Last Man
(http://www.cyberschuulnews.com/Pathway_to_connecting_the_Last_Man.html ) paragraph 17 where the author says Let's Democratize Technology. There (in 2010) the author was actually arguing the obvious that there is business to do in giving access to everybody (the Last Man) and that it is do-able. 

To start with, the technology companies Mark Zuckerberg has been able to draw into his project are not pushovers of this world and none of them would have acquiesced without getting the firm backing of their shareholders. Shareholders, believe it, are not patriots, neither do they believe in NGO's. But when NGO's can make the difference in the bottom line, they dash for it. 

The entire strategy is there in one of the focal points of the project namely Making Access Affordable: which expands into 'Partners will collaborate to develop and adopt technologies that make mobile connectivity more affordable and decrease the cost of delivering data to people worldwide. Potential projects include collaborations to develop lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones and partnerships to more broadly deploy internet access in underserved communities. Mobile operators will play a central role in this effort by driving initiatives that benefit the entire ecosystem'. 

Like him or hate him, Mark Zuckerberg has said nothing that nobody has ever said. All that he is saying is that the world has numbers and that numbers matter. To me, what excites is that it is coming from a young man of 29 who has done what nobody has ever done. 

Let's inter-connect all citizens of the world and see how good the world is to live in. 

 

 

Monsters that are called Loans
by
titi omo-ettu

 

September 22, 2012 - It is very difficult to contribute to discussions on the implications of the loans which the Federal Government said it has been sealing in recent times. This is because loans in themselves are not the evils that are waiting to happen but our experiences are full disappointments and outrage over the management of loans taken by governments in the past for supposedly public good but which did no good and that should guide any rational analysis.

 

Yes we can say politicians are preparing for elections and there must be a rash of loans that government must disburse. But what were the juntas preparing for when they were in power that made them go for wasteful loans? And what lessons must we learn from the nature of current overall management of the economy which seems so much like management of currency, regardless that we parade very senior experts in that sector?

 

Maybe we really have to go to the fundamentals of a liberalised industry to make any meaningful analysis of the loans specifically for the communication technology sector. $100million is such a huge amount that officials should be  willing, infact anxious, to explain the benefits derivable to the citizens even if only to buy their goodwill. But a take-it-or-leave-it attitude is not only undemocratic, it should be unacceptable. That is where the recent $100million Chinese loan purportedly being taken for 'Galaxy Backbone Project' belongs, until it is explained.

 

 

Lest we get caught unawares, this kind of loans are what is required to commence a reversal of the little progress that Nigeria made in telecommunications in the past two decades. In fact if government starts to directly construct telecommunication infrastructure again after all the debacle of NITEL, then it is this particular government that is bringing that policy summersault to the communication technology industry  since it was liberalised.

 

THE MISSING LINK, Sir Maitland's Report of 1985 which recommended Full Liberalisation of the telecommunications sector of developing economies as panacea for closing the gap between the poor and the rich of the world did not leave much room for incompetent implementation of its recommendations. It said emphatically that poor countries that desired to migrate into prosperity had to liberalise faithfully and competently.

 

Sir Donald Maitland's insight on the subject was recognised and exploited by ITU at a time when almost half the world's inhabitants lived in countries with less than one telephone line per 100 people. The Report kick-started the growth of information and communication technologies (ICT) as we know them today.

 

To date, all countries which migrated into prosperity, or are about to do so, are those which implemented the recommendations as prescribed by the Report (also popularly called Maitland Report). Nigeria, not being one of them, however implemented a favourable flavour of Liberalisation which allowed her to manoeuvre if and whenever the vicissitudes of corruption demanded. Nigeria is at that signpost now. By professing Liberalisation and working towards it, Nigeria moved faster than several other poor countries by doing very well in providing mobile telephony. But that is where the good story ends.

 

The recommendations situate growth of telecommunication within the private sector. What it did not say is that it could also apply to other sectors of the economy because it regarded telecommunications as central to the economy and it needs no saying that a success achieved in telecommunications can be repeated for other sectors.

 

It is the half hearted implementation that did not enable Nigeria to repeat what it has achieved in telecommunications industry in other sectors. And the fact of what politicians (and 'militicians' before them) see as the blow on corruption that makes full liberalisation detestable in the energy sector. And officials go about deceiving our people with meaningless models that they falsely call privatisation.

 

Industrial growth is about world trade and economics. It is about packaging and managing loans. A bulk of these loans is usually thought out by those who offer them in un-liberalised markets while it is usually thought out by the beneficiaries in liberalised environments. It becomes bogus and monstrous when Nigeria permits other countries to determine the loans that its economy needs.

 

We will not quarrel with using foreign loans for true development but not when the process is managed as if our own economic managers prefer to continue to manage our currency when their counterparts are managing the economies of their countries.

 

The most stunning is that the bodies and organisations, professional and trade associations, that should be asking questions for the government to answer are not doing so. Everybody seems complacent and dumb.

 

Meaning that a people, indeed, get the government they deserve.

 

Hurdles In-plant
A Bartholomew who planted mines in the field and walked himself into them
 

 

August 30, 2012 - Nigeria's internetwork of corruption, poor public power system, unemployment and insecurity has manifestly overwhelmed present leadership and the recent disengagement of a federal Minister is a reminder that all will not be well until fundamental changes are made in the polity. 

That reads like talking in parables. 

Prof Barth Nnaji is a brilliant guy.  Why he has aggressively presented himself for public office is one puzzle I have failed to resolve in all of 13 years of reading him. And that also puts to question what qualifies people for public appointment in our land. 

But before we go on, regardless that Prof Barth Nnaji has thrown in the towel, it is important we draw attention to the substantive issue of the impending waste which spending $23.5million to hire 8 persons under the MANITOBA contract for Power Transmission maintenance is  bound to land us in the same station that PENTASCOPE landed us on NITEL a few years back. Correct me if I am right. 

The first time we trained the radar on Prof Barth Nnaji was in 1999 when words sneaked out that the famous professor of robotics was scheming that President Obasanjo gave him one of either the energy sector or telecommunications sector to manage as Federal Minister. 

As we opened a dossier on him, words came also that President Obasanjo had said matter-of-factly that he would not use him. The reasons adduced by General Obasanjo were vintage the old man and it was clear he would truly not use the applicant. So we closed the book. 

All we knew after that was that the Professor returned to his base in USA only to return shortly to chair a company called Geometric Power Ltd. That gave him a chance to show Obasanjo that what he was not allowed to do for the public sector he could do in the private sector. 

In 2007 when Obasanjo vacated government, the Prof was back to Yar Adua's handlers to tell them he was still available. This time all he wanted was to be Minister of Power so that Nigeria would end years of chaotic power supply. The information then was that President Yar Adua initially laughed him off saying his Geometric Power Ltd spent close to 8 years without producing any kilowatt of electricity for anybody anywhere. The President was however ready to do something for him in lieu of being Minister. And he did. 

Speaking to Aba Business community on June 19, 2008, Prof Barth Nnaji told them in an Enyimba Lecture that 'The Aba IPP (i.e. the Geometric Power Ltd Project) is galloping to completion. In roughly 10 months time, the entire project will be commissioned and it will herald a new era for Aba which it(sic) will have reliable electric power like any other city in the developed world'.  

It never did. 

In that same lecture, he recounted his frustration to the Aba businessmen thus: 

'We began the journey to build a power project unlike any other in sub-Saharan Africa. It's a project that required the construction of 188 MW power plant, over 110km overhead lines, 4 brand new substations, a 27km gas pipeline, an estate to accommodate up to 250 workers, 5 access roads to the power stations and sub stations, and a 4 story office block at the total cost of approximately $385 million or N42.6 billion. 

We cannot say that this project has been easy. We have had to contend with the challenges of being a pioneer sector power developer in Nigeria. We have had to withstand so many due diligences by lenders, some of whom did not see the value in investing in Aba. We have had to present Aba to the international community as a “diamond in the rough” and the adequate electricity supply will put a smile to this great entrepreneurial city. Many have wondered how we can mitigate the risk of building a power plant in the Niger-Delta region and we have explained that Aba is not in the Niger-Delta region. At the same time, we have had to contend with threats of youths and traditional rulers who have brought the negative aspects of the Niger-Delta conundrum to Aba. We have had to spend tremendous amount of time and resources on getting the youths and some of these traditional rulers to appreciate the fact that Geometric Power is bringing money from outside to build facilities that will add value to their business and their lives rather than the situation in the Niger-Delta where oil is exploited and taken away from the soil of the Niger-Delta region'. 

 

We were not really keen on him any longer since he was not considering telecommunications (our own area of interest) for his experiment. But his file left an open end which was a good document to complete even if only for posterity. Besides, power was also central to our problems in Telecommunications sector so a cursory interest in a continued profile of him might not be out of place.  

In 2008 when I was Vice-President of Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, COREN and Chairman of the Council's Technical Committee, the Council invited Prof Barth Nnaji to address us on his concept of a Future of Reliable Power in Nigeria. By that I mean he was to present a paper at COREN's Annual Engineering Assembly while we would take it up from there by picking his brain and supporting him to help Nigeria with his plans. 

The three months leading to the Assembly was harrowing to get the Professor to come and talk to us. He was so 'busy' he did not read letters, emails, and could not be spoken to on telephone. Yet he did not answer Yes or No to our request. It was an experience in tracking down a naturally aloof personality who, strangely, also wanted to be a public servant. His Aides were particularly spectacular. It was like you needed to have the Barth Nnaji DNA in you to qualify to work around him. And all of them were homogeneously arrogant. One week to the event we had to, in frustration, step his name down for another speaker. 

Two days to the event a telephone call came from one of his assistants who wanted to know if his principal could still be our Guest Speaker and we politely turned the offer down. 

Shortly after, Dr Goodluck Jonathan became Acting President, Prof Bath Nnaji also became Special Adviser to the Acting President, and Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP). That was to later convert him to Minister of Power when President Goodluck Jonathan became real. 

The greatest surprise came when at his screening in the Senate mid-2011, he told those 109 distinguished Senators that it would take 4 years for any noticeable change to be felt in power supply under his watch and they went ahead to  pass him as Minister of Power. It was at that point some of us gave up hope that Nigeria would ever get it right on power under this government. 

In February 2012, the Nigerian Society of Engineers invited Prof Barth Nnaji to be the Distinguished Guest Speaker at the Inauguration of the Association's 26th President in Abuja but the famous Professor did not show up. And no explanation was given for his absence. That did not prevent the brand new President of the nation's body of engineers from saying the power reform in Nigeria was on course. 

All efforts to make this famous professor share his mind with industry professionals with whom he could fine-tune his thoughts and plans have, to the best of my knowledge, not yielded any result. Yet many who are familiar with the subject did not quite believe he has much valuable solution which he has used his robotic credentials to sell to many uninformed analysts, especially the media. 

His grand design for Power reform in Nigeria is largely the privatisation of operating entities of PHCN and in particular a photocopy of the PENTASCOPE Agenda which BPE used to send NITEL to sleep permanently. His concept of liberalisation is at best feeble and his model of deregulation needed substantial modification which only a listening ear can earn him. And above all, his Geometric interest (Blind Trust or not) makes the field a mine for him to implement the model which makes service providers depend on public money in any manner. Surprisingly all Nigerians are just looking like what Hubert Ogunde, of blessed memory, called 'Won j'oko s'ile regede bi aguntan ti abore mu b'orisha odo' meaning 'everybody sitting in helplessness similar to the goat which the Chief Priest is about to present to the goddess of the river'. 

Public service cannot be given to those who have no nerve to tolerate the public. It is not about being brilliant but about making things work using people. You don't do engineering management and spend all your time quarrelling with your tools. If it is not good for Geometric Power Ltd., it certainly cannot be good for the country called Nigeria. If you hire 8 persons from wherever in the world for $23.5million (N3.8billion) and you frustrate the workers who those 8 persons must use to deliver the goods, you might just not get there no matter how brilliant you might have been. BPE took us through the PENTASCOPE journey and it is again taking us through this Manitoba pilgrimage. This is a BPE whose 'track record' we know very well. 

And in any case how can the Manitoba Model solve Nigeria's power Transmission problem except that it may at best help Geometric to reduce its burden - a gameplan which has now stalled at least temporarily, if not, very unfortunately, permanently. 

It is a pity we are passing through this moment of our life, the worst in the history of Nigeria that we have PhD's everywhere and on every subject and yet we cannot provide electricity for our citizens. And one of our best brains has been consumed simply because we mis-deploy him. 

Who should bury his head in shame? 

All of us?, some of us?, or just one of us? Certainly not Prof Barth Nnaji.

Also available here 

 

Journey to PENTASCOPE

 
July 24, 2012 - PENTASCOPE is an imaginary destination in cyberspace. It has never been caught on Google Search and it may never be. Its first coming was when on March 18, 2003, Nigeria chose to hand over its ailing telecommunications monopoly to foreign contractors and, as usual, officials in the corridors of power, supported actively by those who held real power, packaged a burden in the form of a travel bag and they headed for PENTASCOPE.
 
Busybodies like yours truly went out searching for PENTASCOPE in cyberspace and returned with a report that it never existed. If it did not exist on the web, we wrote, it could not have existed. But NITEL was handed over to it all the same. The remaining, as they say, is history.
 
Last Monday another journey began, this time for Nigeria's comatose public power subsystem and another packaging has been pulled through. It is a revisit to PENTASCOPE
 
There however is a difference between the present version and the old. This time google search produces several hits.
 
Mr. Tortoise has just commenced its journey to PENTASCOPE and he is asked when he would return.
 
He said 'not until when I am thoroughly and completely finished'

 

Copy & Paste from Other Journals

Power reform not working
because they copied the wrong things we did in telecoms - Omo-Ettu

by DAYO OKETOLA, SATURDAY PUNCH, April 28, 2012

 

 

In this interview with DAYO OKETOLA, the President, Association of Telecommunications Com-panies of Nigeria, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, says the increase in electricity tariff is not justifable because it is not based on improved quality of service

 

How did you read the recent increase in electricity tariff in the country? 

I wish I could continue to pretend that we should ignore the increases and move on. But the truth is that they are not justifiable and therefore should not be acceptable to Nigerians. The nominal figures of the increases are not the issue here. It is the baseless insult that it constitutes to our collective intelligence that I'm talking about. Any increase should be based on a measurable positive change somehow. It is still the same incompetent management that presented a massive fraud of our oil resources in the false name of 'fuel subsidy' that is also at work in this instance. My take is that we should oppose it if only to show that we are not fooled by the antics of the authors. 

How do we go about that? 

 It is a job for the National Assembly. Let me tell you one thing. If you study the theory and practice of privatisation in advanced economies across the world, you will observe a template which contains a component of the requirement for increase in tariff at the eve of completing privatisation. The folks at Bureau of Public Enterprises are merely implementing such templates which are, in reality, appropriate for mature economies and not for an emerging economy like Nigeria's. And you know when you hire people on the basis of their dissertation in a master's or PhD programme at the University but without cognate experience, you hear them saying there is no other way than using such standard international solutions. You forgive them because some of them are acting in true ignorance and inexperience. What they lack is cognate experience and we are all suffering as a result of that malady. 

They did the same thing in year 2000 when BPE commenced the privatisation of NITEL and they argued that tariff per minute should move from 80k to N1.80k.We merely just ignored them at the time and allowed it to pass because we knew it was useless to our liberalisation march and we did not want any distraction from them. If a tariff was projected to hover at anything from N21 per minute after privatisation, how do you use that to justify increase from 80k per minute to N1.80k per minute? It did not make sense. They merely cheated our people and of course they mismanaged the accrued surpluses. It was part of what Pentascope came to loot. It makes sense really to do such things as tariff increase pre-privatisation in mature, stable economies but not in Nigeria here where we are privatising from a ground level position. 

But the Minister of Power said they needed to prepare the ground for post-privatisation days. 

 That is what I am saying. He is wrong and he should be told to quit his job if they cannot liberalise the industry with a justification of increase based on improved quality of service. It is a pity the minister has been going on in a manner that makes his capability for the job examinable and I bet you Nigeria has nowhere going in this power reform motion without movement under his watch. 

 You seem to be saying you still do not have hope in the reform process. 

 The day the minister of power told the Senate that he needed four years to guarantee steady power supply, I knew the model he wanted to tow and I said he would never take us to anywhere. Just look at his antecedents and you will not see a track record of understanding either the problem or the solution. It is amazing how our system picks people for an all-important task like this. 

 So, where do we go from here?

 

 Nowhere really, I'm sorry to tell you. Until we do it right we shall go nowhere. You don't get to the correct station by accident all the time. 

 What is it you think they are doing that they should not do? 

 I cannot answer that question because it is not my function to do it. Besides, I don't posses the skill to know the actual problems. But I have a few things to tell them from what was done to bring telecommunications out of the doldrums. If they were smart, the things they should be doing is to sit some people down and pick their brains on what was done right and what was done wrong in telecommunications. My reading is that they have been doing only the things that we did wrong in telecoms. And they are manifestly and unduly arrogant to absorb alternative ideas. 

For example, in telecommunications, we separated the liberalisation of the industry from privatisation of NITEL. In their own case, they have muddled both together, either in genuine ignorance or in the naive objective of visitng deliberate corruption on the economy. Also, we asked the government to stop giving us money, but to start receiving revenue from our industry and we delivered. They are asking government to keep paying huge bills while they ask us, the citizens, to augment that with our scarce resources even when there is no performance. We did not adopt a liberalisation policy and that gave us stress in telecommunications. I would have wanted them to learn from that and take their time to construct a workable programme of implementation. But they seem to be deaf and dumb even to such counseling. 

We played into their hands by allowing them to commence the privatisation of NITEL at the time they did when the industry was yet to stabilise and they therefore destroyed NITEL. We regret it but we have put that behind us. All Nigerians have paid very dearly for our error but we should not allow them to continue manufacturing suffering and deliver it to us, especially now that Nigerians have started asking questions. Our study in those days showed that privatisation amidst unstable industry was dangerous. Then we did not even see privatisation as evil. But we know better now not because it is bad but because our officials are bad.These people will plunge us into total darkness and that is the reason I am expressing my frustration publicly. In the past, Nigerians were naive enough not to ask questions but all that changed with last January outburst of our people. We therefore have no moral justification to keep quiet in the face of this nonsense and darkness. Going by its antecedents, a relationship with BPE calls for extreme caution. That agency caused significant dislocation to the progress of the telecoms industry. Many would not know that the prevention of NITEL from investment in broadband fibre construction in the early days of its privatisation led to several years of setback for the industry even up till the moment. And it was caused by BPE. But it is clear the power sector reformers are dependent wholly on BPE for their compass. 

 What about all the reorganisation that is going on in PHCN? 

 I wait to be pleasantly surprised that they are getting it right. What is going on in PHCN is 'scapegoating.' Of course, some people must pay a penalty for all these mess and I think the PHCN folks are today's scapegoats. They deserve it though.

Taken from
http://www.punchng.com/business/power-reform-not-working-because-they-copied-the-wrong-things-we-did-in-telecoms-omo-ettu/

 

'New ICT Policy Must Seek To Protect Investments'
by CHIMA AKWAJA , LEADERSHIP NEWSPAPER, Mon, 12/03/2012

 


 
Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), in this interview with CHIMA AKWAJA, proffers suggestions on how to implement broadband regime, the new ICT policy and what government should do with NITEL.


 
In recent times you have been rallying the telecom industry and talking of protection of ICT infrastructures, why? 


Our mandate is to protect the investments in the telecom industry in Nigeria. It is all embracing in the sense that we do all things by working more with the government, investors and with technology such that if people are making investments, their investments would be protected. It is a project that anybody who is making investment, regardless of wherefrom, regardless of who he is, we want to work in such a way that his investment is protected. If you are our member you would be part of the think-tank and those who are donating their resources towards the achievement of that goal. 


Our belief is that once the industry is good and investments are protected, then the field is good for everybody, including our members. A component of the implementation of that mandate is that we must be forecasting what should happen in several years. We must be planning how we want the industry to be and work towards achieving that goal. 


We must have the intellectual preparedness to understand the need for studies and we must carry out studies, and use the studies to forecast what would happen in the future and so, forecast the problems we are likely to face and find solutions to them. One of the results of forecasting is that if we have broadband access in the country, the more it reaches the last man, the more rapidly our progress in economic and also political life. 


Our crusade is to make technology useful to our grandmothers in the village, just like they breathe air. We want technology to serve their purpose. It should not be an issue, and for it not to be an issue, some of us must provide the work. In the process, we found out that the answer to future development, having benefited from digital technology, is investment in broadband internet access.  
 
Two years ago ATCON came up with a broadband initiative to address the broadband imbalance in Nigeria; meetings were held within and outside the country. Why the shift in the idea of the association? 


When I came in as President, I called my colleagues and explained my point of view. We projected from the past and we looked into the future and then we decided that we would do a plan. The plan was to hire some consultants to carry out a study of what is happening all over the world and look at our peculiar circumstance in Nigeria and advise on how we could implement a broadband internet access regime. 

We also decided that we would synergise with other interested parties. I became very useful here because I knew those who were interested in terms of investment; I knew some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who were interested in terms of social service, that is, Civil Service Organisations (CSOs). I knew those who should be interested because they were in government, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), for example. 

There is an organisation called Forum of Partnership Institutions. It is a forum of six Nigerian universities who were working to ensure that the universities have internet network. We identified and approached them. Fortunately they were interested in the programme. We also got an NGO called Fantsuam Foundation in Kafanchan and we approached them. 

All three of us decided that we should sit down, jointly hire a consultant and tell the consultant to do us a paper and we would look at the paper, modify it to suit our objective and then move on from there. That was how the paper called Framework for Broadband For Nigeria (BB4NG) came about. When we had the document, we decided also to take it to Nigerians to peruse and comment. 

We sent it to organisations that had the knowledge. We did an exercise of approaching some people in the economy: the banks, telecom operators, government, etc. We identified almost 35 different interests (about 110 people) and we invited all of them. I saw university professors, military people, investors, teachers, market women, telephone consumer associations. 

They agreed to the document and it was there that they said Nigerians were now demanding that broadband internet access become a fundamental right,which was a unique demand. I think Nigeria had changed prior to the January 2012 fuel subsidy troubles because that demand was made in July 26, 2010. We presented it to them and afterwards presented it to the federal government to say that this is the roadmap. 

In that roadmap, we also identified the role that each one us would have to play. The role government, investors, advocacies, students, academics, etc. would play were tabled there. We did a review of our own content of the BB4NG. To begin to implement our own is also to articulate our own roadmap. 

After this, we decided that we should hold a Broadband Investment Summit and invite emerging investors, existing investors, service providers and other interests. Again we had about 165 people purposely selected; media, investors, etc., and we sat down for two days and four recommendations came out. 

First, we should demand for broadband policy so that we could have a focus. We also said we would sensitise the industry to believe that if we have access to every Nigerian, the cost of access would be so cheap that it would just be like breathing air. Though we know that it is difficult to do, we would make that attempt to sensitise Nigerians in such a manner that they would realise that if broadband access were available to everybody then the cost of access would be very close to nothing. 

But at the moment, we are still running the industry with the mindset that everybody could not afford the cost of access which would continue to be very high. We therefore decided that we would run a programme called Broadband Expansion Programme (BEP), which is our implementation number two. Implementation number three is that we should approach government, both the communications technology ministry, and the NCC and ask them to sit down and plan together with us. 

It is the ministry that would determine the policy we are choosing. It is the regulator that supervises where we are going, we want to synergise with the two of them. We want to look into their vision and we want them to also see our vision. Our vision may be too radical but there is nothing too radical in it if we were able to carry people along. 

We have approached the NCC and the ministry. In few weeks we would have a meeting with the NCC and look at the direction each of us want to go and this would make our investments easy to implement. It would also make them see things that they cannot see because they are not investors; they are not in the field. If we don't explain things to them, they probably may be planning in a wrong manner and we don't want them to go before we start criticising them.  


 
Do you think government will say no? 


It is not possible. If we don't prepare those who are going to use it and we just keep on writing memo to government it is going to be difficult. That is the total concept and I'm happy that I'm starting it to the point of implementation before I leave office. I came to start it. I'm not a second term person; in fact, I can even be more useful from the outside. I have laid the necessary infrastructure, prepared all the frameworks that we could build on. 
 
The Federal Government has held Broadband Investment Summit for Nigeria at ITU 2011 in Geneva. With what ATCON, NCC and the Communications Technology Ministry are doing, have we succeeded in briningg the right investors into our broadband market? 
What would raise our economy is local investment. Foreign investment is very necessary to the extent of partnerships, to the extent of dollar value entering but our economy would grow when our people are there working. Economy is about productivity, it is about people working. It is about non-existence of unemployment.

 
taken from
http://leadership.ng/nga/articles/18904/2012/03/12/%E2%80%98new_ict_policy_must_seek_protect_investments%E2%80%99.html


'We need to rally round Minister to deliver on mandate' - Titi Omo-Ettu
eWorld, Volume 7, September 2011 Edition 

 




The President of Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu in his reaction to the new Minister of Communication Technology's mandate as she recently unveiled called on the industry to rally around her to ensure that she succeeds in the task ahead.





What is your take on the appointment of the new Minister of Communications Technology?


To the extent that Government has realised the need for a restructuring of our industry and responded, I think the creation of the Ministry of Communications Technology is good for our industry. My attention is more on the Ministry, not on the Minister if I must clarify. If by appointment you mean the pedigree of the new Minister, I think it is very good. She strikes me as cerebral and intellectually ready. And from what I have read in the media about her first outing with news people, it seems she has hit the ground running. I read that she has done a few things in the short time she has been in office. I would not have asked for more.


Did the appointment meet your Association's expectation?


As industry players, Government appointment needs not satisfy us. It only needs to be good. It behoves us to assist government to make our industry strive and progress in the belief that government has chosen who it thinks can deliver its mandate to the people. In this particular case the appointment is good because someone who knows the subject has been appointed and the remaining is for us to work with her. My take is that our attitude of having mindsets and thinking government must only be right if it does our mindset needs a fine-tuning. 


What do you think the new Ministry and minister should concentrate on to move the industry and the country forward?



From what I read in the media recently she has articulated them, and very nicely too. She might not have used the popular words we are familiar with, but that is what makes her intellectually ready and compliant. A Minister needs not be a conformist or an activist. He is more of a politician. If he is a politician that knows the subject and compliant, we say it is a round peg in a round hole and that is the best model but by no means the only model. 


The minister recently said she would focus mainly on access and use ICT to enhance productivity. How would you score her focus?


Excellent If that is what she said. What better thing would a Minister of Communications Technology have said? Our attitude is to hold her to that mandate and help her to succeed so that we can succeed and our industry and our investments can flourish. We would be wrong to be putting a Minister on a scale and dissecting her every word to pick holes when we should be spending time supporting her to take us to the place we have prescribed for our industry. Let me tell you this, it was not a particular government that took our industry to where it is, it is the attitude of players in the industry who adopted the 'must work' attitude. 


Both NITDA, NCC will still operate separately in the new structure. NBC will be under the Information Ministry and not under Communication Technology. What is your take on this structure in the era of convergence?

  
It is not exactly as we had canvassed. That should not be a headache for us to move on. It is no different from the situation we had in 1992 when an NCC (Nigerian Communications Commission) was established in response for our request for an NTRA (Nigerian Telecommunications Regulation Authority). But we accepted it and made it work for us. We kept fine tuning it until we got a fine Act in 2003. We are already asking for a further fine-tuning now if you listen to us very well. 
From media reports I noticed that the Minister has identified the divergence of the current scenario from the popular expectation and she has prescribed how she would work to achieve the common good even in spite of the imbalances in expectations and reality. What else can we be asking for!


It seems that in totality, you are satisfied.


To be satisfied is to drop dead. My take is that I call for a cling to the attitude of making things work rather than finding reasons why they do not work and spend our time quarrelling. I am saying that we should be less stereotyped and more pragmatic and embrace change with a view to managing it rather than fighting ourselves over it. In my 38 years of practice in the industry, we have had over 20 Ministers and Ministers of State and only about 7 of them have been cerebral, and compliant in my estimation. But we have worked with them and it has been better for our industry. It is that 'must-work' attitude that I will ask my members and colleagues to let us continue to adopt. Ministers usually come and go but we, you and I, and our investments remain.

If you want to know what my fears are, I will tell you. 


Please tell me.


Public Electricity system!




Auction NITEL's FNO licence'
Written by KUNLE AZEEZ , ICT Reporter NATIONAL MIRROR, 22/09/2011

 




President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu in this interview with KUNLE AZEEZ, speaks on the impact of the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector and submits that the failure to privatise the First national carrier, NITEL, has cast a pall on the successes recorded in the sector in the last 10 years. Excerpts:



 Taking a look at 2001 when digital mobile licences were issued to investors in Nigeria , what will be your assessment of the nation's telecommunications industry as a whole, especially in terms of the impact on the way Nigerian live, work and do business?


Let us shift emphasis from repeating ourselves like a damaged record by not reeling the figures of telephone lines then and now and look at more significant aspects of the transformation.

Truth really is that the mobile phone breakthrough was a development whose time came not for Nigeria alone but for the entire world and the good story was that the Nigerian system did not prevent it from flourishing by way of building the local telecommunications industry on it.

But then the same folks who allowed a leap in growing mobile telephony, in another breadth, destroyed the major task of building a First National Operator infrastructure through which we would have built a sustainable development beyond the mere growth of telephone lines.

So we should identify the entire issue of liberalisation of the telecom industry as the success story to focus on especially as it has taken a tragically lost battle to replicate what was done in telecom sector in the energy sector which, if you ask me, equally if not more needs such expansion.

Liberalisation has presented itself and shown to be a good platform on which to build the economy and the failure of our energy sector managers to embrace it has resulted in stagnation of our economy in the real sense. The blatant failure to truly liberalise the energy sector has even commenced to challenge the strides made in telecommunications sector.

There has always been confusion in terms of the actual teledensity growth in Nigeria. We are told that there are presently 90.8 million mobile phone subscribers, yet we know that many people have two or more lines. Are these figures terribly exaggerated? What would be the realistic figures in your opinion concerning actual subscribers in the country?

To the extent that one way of posturing our attainment in the business of telephone service is to play up number of lines, there is a basis to admit to a suggestion that there might have been a good measure of exaggeration.

We like to celebrate success in telecommunications to corner market share and that leaves room for an overplay of figures. I do not like to make guesses. I believe we should carry out a true count and publish true figures so we do not use an error to correct a bad error.

Do you think there are some regulatory issues affecting better expansion of telecoms networks and what are these challenges and who they can be addressed?

Naturally our process could not have been fault proof since it is a human system but the fact that we have done very well in regulation shows that the pluses have been more than the minuses. Of course there were many things which remain undone just as there were many that we did wrongly. The major wrong is failure to privatise NITEL or at least to keep it alive even if we would not privatise it.

But to discuss that subject is one mass of lengthy interview which we should not permit within this short one.

Another is our inability to make the Second National Operator concentrate on nationwide fibre infrastructure at the time we gave it a salad of licenses when indeed we had seen the traces of a monumental failure in the privatisation process of the First National Operator. Those two errors might have presented the pain in the neck of Nigerians in what eventually became a high cost for a poor service.

How would you assess the contribution of telecoms to the growth of the Nigerian economic development, especially in the area of contribution to the Gross Domestic Product and can we actually take the contribution for granted?

It has been significant of course. I do not know figures and I am not used to playing with economic indices because they are mere statistics which anybody can use to prove whatever standpoint he takes on a matter. I want to leave economic indices to economists to play with.

Are you worried about the continually aborted privatisation process of NITEL? And in your opinion, what do you recommend as actions that must be taken towards making the First National Carrier economically viable in complementing the gains of liberalisation in telecoms sector?

I am not only worried, I am bitter. I am concerned from all angles and my bitterness has to be natural and understandable. I opted out of my service in NITEL to pursue a career in co-championing liberalisation of the telecoms industry. Part of the agenda was to canvas for the eventual privatisation of NITEL only after a liberalisation of the industry had become stable.

But due to vicissitudes of the march in liberalisation, we fast forwarded the privatisation of NITEL and ended up stalling it, loosing largely to the evil effects of bad temperament, incompetence and high level of corruption of our officials. With the collapse of NITEL went my deserved pension career for which the system inflicted severe injury on my well-being and also made Nigerians witness a high cost of service which is traceable to the failure to make NITEL live and ultimately ended up in a dipped quality of public telephone service.

With that summary, bitterness in my subconscious is justified. Isn?'t it? Strangely I have no emotional attachment to the name NITEL and I already have a take on its pathway. Auction the FNO license it is holding and rest the business. Mark you I am being technical here. I did not say sell NITEL anyhow. I said auction the FNO license it is holding.

The quality of service has been a major issue, in spite of the sector's growth and investment by operators in the telecoms sector, why do you think we still have quality of service as an issue and how best can we tackle this issue?

I do not know exactly the reasons why things are the way they are. I am a believer in carrying out technical studies to find out problems so we can apply correct solutions. I do not like participating in making intelligent guesses of what problems are or what they could be. I can tell you a thousand and one things that may cause the present impasse but the truth is that it is only one of them that may just be correct.

In recent times, some international fibre optic cables have landed in Nigeria with a promise to drive affordable broadband access in the country but industry observers have said their capacity is concentrated in Lagos. What will you chart as a path for connecting more Nigerians to broadband services whether data and voice?

Yes, we said such investments drive down cost but we never said it is done in one day. We also did not say that the mere emergence of fibre from the international route connection was panacea to solving all the problems. Yes, they have kick-started a process which we have also commenced to implement. There is hope and we are on top of it.

Some telecoms companies have gone under in recent time with a few emerging as dominant players. Do you suspect consolidation among the smaller operators and what is your position on call for bailout for smaller telecoms operators?

I do not believe in consolidation ?'among smaller players' but consolidation among players generally. Consolidation makes sense to me when a player that is being managed very well merges with or absorbs another player whether it is big, medium or small. Of course some players will kick the bucket naturally and the system will keep adjusting itself.

In the last 10 years of GSM, do you think cost of telecoms is still high compared to what obtains in other countries?

No, I will not say so. Comparing prices between two markets is generally a case of comparing bananas with apples as no two markets ever have similar operating conditions and currency strengths. I do not engage in such comparison as a matter of personal take. As an engineer I will not do it. I will listen to an economist if he does it.

In spite of the huge investments in the telecommunications sector, Nigeria has remained a consuming nation for almost all telecoms devices including mobile phones and software. Don't you think it is time we begin to see how we can drive local content development in telecoms sector?

My take is that we can drive local content only in so far as the content is intellectual.

We cannot if it is infrastructural because everything about infrastructure tags on the buoyancy of public electricity, which is an area that we have recorded zero quality of service and we are not seeing any sign of it abating. If anything, the immediate future looks bleak in my estimation.

 

taken from http://nationalmirroronline.net/business/infotech/21207.html
under slightly modified title

 



Omo-Ettu fingers corruption as the major undoing of NITEL's privatisation process
by Emma Okonji, Head, IT. Telecom, DAILY INDEPENDENT; March 1, 2011
 Taken from http://independentngonline.com/DailyIndependent/Article.aspx?id=29632

 

 

In 2008, the current President of the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu valued NITEL at $2.2 billion. In 2010, New Generation Telecoms won NITEL's bid with an offer to pay $2.5 billion. In 2011, a year after, New Generation is unable to pay the $2.5bn, confirming the fears of Nigerians that no operator could pay so much for NITEL, following the dilapidating condition of its infrastructure. In this interview with Daily Independent, Omo-Ettu gave insight into the challenges facing NITEL and the reason for its unending privatisation process.
Emma Okonji presents his views. Excerpts

 

Why do you think the privatisation of NITEL failed to fly?

The reasons have been changing. That is to say they are many. The first problem was the temperament of those who were put in charge of its privatisation in the initial stages. I believe they had inappropriate temperament in the sense that they presented a mindset of privatisation being warfare. How do you ask a folk to sell a product and his method was to assume it is war and to keep saying the product he had to sell was a bad product? He met all concerned with a mindset that they would do battle with him. Unfortunately (for him), almost everybody, even labour was well-disposed to privatisation of NITEL. In such a situation, there could only be the implementation by a troubled mind fighting itself. What do you expect?
 
Next was the fact that the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) ran an agenda of privatising all enterprises under virtually similar, if not the same, conditions. Of course you know a hotel is different from a cement company, which is different from a telecommunications operating company. When you assume that the same rules should apply uniformly to all of them, something must give.
 
Then as some of us tried to contest the BPE's presentation at that time, there was nothing valuable in NITEL we did not know that we were making senior government officials to develop interest in desiring NITEL to be sold to themselves. By the time we knew it, there was nothing we could do and corruption became the major waterloo of the process. Of course you know the story of how Transcorp emerged to succeed Pentascope and so on and so on. The sum total of the reasons is that it is mainly due to corruption which we underestimated.
 
But it is also necessary we go into how the founding fathers of the idea of privatising NITEL fathomed it and relate it to the present situation. They actually prescribed the privatisation of NITEL only after a liberalised telecom industry might have been achieved and the industry stabilised. So when liberalisation came into effect in 1993 with the establishment of NCC and the Board of NCC was disbanded in 1994, the issue of privatisation of NITEL was deliberately left unpursued. In fact, the kind of management that NITEL had from 1994 to 1999 did not encourage serious work on the agenda. But when the military vacated and a civilian government took over in 1999, we thought it was time to combine both a practical commencement of true liberalisation and also privatisation of NITEL. And the government then was a listening one.

What is the worth of NITEL now?

The worth of NITEL is an aggregate of the worth of the First National Operator Licence it is holding and a component of assets and liabilities which are figures that have to be computed by technical minds. The first has not changed very significantly while the other has run almost to zero. In 2008, we, in a private exercise, evaluated it at $2.2 billion for 100 percent sale.
 
Today, we have to go through a gamut of calculations to obtain a value, but I am certain it will not be less that $1.8 billion. The major changes that count since 2008 and now were the coming of Etisalat and the two submarine fibres, MainOne and Glo1. These are the things that count. They will cause some depreciation, but not significantly as to make it worthless. A First National Operator Licence is a huge asset for those who can use it to good effect.

What substantial errors must have been made in the process?


Many errors were made. Of course our knowledge is limited and we are not God Almighty who is infallible. Forget about the average Nigerian who does not want to believe he ever makes mistakes. Ask the average Nigerian official or big man about his regrets. He will tell you he has no regrets and that if he comes to the world again, he will do the same things he did under the same circumstances. We always try to play God even when the facts show us to have got things wrong.
 
For me, we made quite a lot of mistakes.

What were some of these mistakes?


Let's start from those of us who were the proponents of liberalisation from 1987 till date. We underestimated the magnitude and effect of corruption in our system and allowed ourselves to be deliberately misunderstood and manoeuvered at various times by corrupt government officials.
 
Secondly, it was an error of judgment that BPE denied NITEL to make investments in expanding its infrastructure when privatisation was about to commence in 2000. Ask them, they will tell you if they come to the world again, they will still do what they did. They were like playing God. It was a bad judgment. But we really did not contest it with them because for us, we even wanted the liberalised industry to stabilise before bringing up privatisation. So if by so doing, they delayed privatisation, we did not see it as dangerous to the process. We were wrong! They were not only to delay, but to derail it.
 
The engagement of Pentascope is unpardonable error. Again, we did not contest it with them because we in our naivety, thought they meant well. Ask them today, they will still tell you they regret nothing. Even after making Nigerians suffer high cost and bad service for so long a time.

 What can we get from it now?


What we can get from NITEL is what it has always been - the First National Operator (FNO) Licence. That is the value. NITEL as a brand will no longer fly and whoever buys the licence, if under appropriate conditions, must not do any other thing than to use it as First National Operator, FNO. An FNO licence is huge and it has nothing to do with assets and liabilities of the company called NITEL. Its value is good; it may have depreciated slightly, but not yet heavily. Mark you, the Second National Operator, SNO, has not done the great things we expected of it. So, NITEL's FNO is still relevant. Very much relevant, I say.

What is the way forward?


The way forward is to sell the FNO licence provided it must be executed as First National Operator and nothing else. We should not be thinking that NITEL still exists except in law and on paper, but the FNO licence which it is holding and wasting is the key value that should make meaning to us. Whoever buys the Licence will re-brand the FNO and set at business. Hopefully, BPE would have set the conditions which must not be flouted.

What are these conditions?

You may as well ask me to do free work for BPE.

Some people have suggested 4 options to government
and they even say NITEL should be unbundled. What is your take on this?


I do not like to participate in such theorisations for two reasons. One, those who say so are indirectly ridiculing the competence of BPE. Certainly, all the things they say are normal transactional positions which BPE would have considered and what should be happening is that they implement the process as planned. But when BPE acts as if it is perpetually confused, it makes people theorise needlessly. The second point is that many people always forget that NITEL is our First National Operator and that is a definition which does not permit for unbundling except it stops being one. For example, people mistake Mtel as something that is more than a mere Mobile-GSM licence. They also forget that SAT-3 has run and completed its race. They keep thinking that NITEL is similar to a hotel that is put on sale.

Why do you think the New Generation Consortium did not pay up?

 I do not know those who constitute the New Generation Consortium and between you and I, I have never cared to know. I stopped putting NITEL's affairs in my mind since 2009 and I no longer look critically into the issues. That is because I have come to the conclusion that all there is to do is to sell the licence and I think I have said that clear and loud and whoever has not heard me is either deaf or does not want to hear.


 
This interview is culled from http://independentngonline.com/DailyIndependent/Article.aspx?id=29632




Harnessing the Potential of the Internet
and Applications on Mobile Devices 

An Opening Address
by
Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu
President Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria at the
Mobile Web West Africa Conference, Lagos on February 2, 2011

 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, 

This is a unique gathering and one which I feel privileged to address.
 
It is a gathering assembled by a guy who, my investigations reveal, is fast becoming a 'young veteran' in the business of putting people together to discuss. I ran into some colleagues who were at the South African edition of Mobile Web Africa and they told me it was excellent. Having been in close communication with Mr. Matthew Dawes in the past few weeks I am not surprised at the success that attended his past efforts.
 
It is also a honour for me to welcome you all to Nigeria because it very much epitomises the development and reach of our industry. Certainly, a market has to qualify to be ready for this kind of gathering and to take on the kind of subjects that are listed for discussion in the next two days.
 
All Amber is one company whose effort in this regard is considered fitting for these times and it is very well appreciated by our Association.
 
Our Association is also happy to align with this conference because efforts of this nature bring young entrepreneurs together to meet the established players, to stimulate interaction between them, to instigate a more rapid spread of mobile web applications and services and a plethora of opportunities and benefits that exist for the entire eco-system.
 
We have begun to see the mobile phone, in particular, as a device for change, a tool for closing the digital divide, an ultimate closer of the gap between the rich and the poor, and between the rural and the urban. I want to hope that delegates at this conference will see the need to include in the discussion agenda the role of legislation, regulation, and the link between government and the private sector. That interests us as an emerging market that is in a hurry to catch up.
 
Building the rapidly expanding mobile system to generate more business makes good sense. Yes, millions of SIM cards exist in the market and are supposed to be doing quite a lot beyond voice. Content creation is key and I am particularly concerned about how much of this can be locally targeted and locally produced.
 
Our Association is not only concerned about some issues but we are in a hurry about attaining set levels about them. These include attainment of more generic and stipulated levels of service and proliferation which will be brought about by a deeper understanding of our problems and how to solve them. Also up on the cards are areas of increasing productivity among young people, growing competition that handles antitrust effectively, regulating independently and fairly, understanding and getting ready to manage the frequency spectrum optimally, and of course growing mobile systems for optimum application.
 


For those who live in the developed economies, mobile telephony has surpassed its raison d'etre of information exchange between peoples and seamlessly moved into the socio-political realm of politics and consumption. With the unrest raging across the Northern African countries, it is irrefutable that mobile telephony is driving the mobilization and emancipation of people against many tyrannical state machines.
 
2. The Industry and its opportunities:
 
To many, industry associations carry on like clubs for people who have known one another for some long time. ATCON, and its present thinking and to deliver its mandate, will leverage the passion of the young and the wisdom of the old - and the expertise of all - towards building an industry that won't only command better economic attention but one that will add to the socio-economic growth that Nigeria so desperately needs.
 
Mobile Network Operators in many markets are known to be making huge amounts of revenues and profits from voice and text. However as competition, penetration and innovation increases these will hit a plateau and the new area of profitability will be data usage. This is happening already - some experts are describing it as an explosion. I am told that at the weekends in South Africa, 60% of Google searches are made on a mobile telephone. For Operators to take full advantage of this they need to have content and services for their consumers to use. This is why the entire ecosystem needs to work together to enhance the development of the mobile web and applications.
 
Mobile advertising is a case in point - this is single biggest opportunity to monetise the mobile web and applications. Mobile marketing has created a new medium for advertisers - an entirely new way for them to reach out to and connect to consumers. Indeed, some experts consider it to be the superior way of marketing their products.
 
3. Content: More Content
 
While telecommunications was a neatly defined word few years ago, so much has happened in terms of interdisciplinary shifts that when we now speak of a mobile sector, we do not speak only of telecoms - but also of other elements of its application in life, business, entertainment, and even governance. For example, many telcos will soon realise that providing a number is only the beginning, and that value added services will decide who is king. The announcement by NCC that number portability will take effect this year also adds credence to this thought.
 
As we speak, a lot of viewed content is imported into Africa because it is so much cheaper to do so than to produce African content. The end result of that can only be negative - loss of culture, language and people engaging content that isn't directly relevant to them. In terms of the mobile web and applications this is a great opportunity to react early. People want local, relevant information - it is important this is produced, and there are a plethora of reasons why. That is why it is important to take this opportunity to boost the local mobile ecosystem so that companies can start producing content for the local market.
 
This is an opportunity to reach Nigerian mobile subscribers with Nigerian created information and services. Sports, News, Jobs, Education, Music, Film, Democracy, Finance, Social Development, Commerce - are all areas where content and services can and need to be produced.
 
4. Capacity Development
 
Something tells me that our youth may just be getting an opportunity which need necessarily not come from government and which already manifests itself embedded in prevailing mobile systems. If capacity can be developed in this way, then the possibilities are endless but prevarication or worse still, inaction will be precarious. That is why this conference is most timely.
 
Through this forum we are able to reaffirm our vision and our commitments and pitch them against the reality of the pace of development in the industry and see how we measure up to where we are in relation to where we want to be. A lot has been done already but we still have much more to do. Now is definitely not the time for complacency.
 
If capacity development can be achieved then it is to the advantage of the country as a whole in relation to point on local content and services. To facilitate a thriving mobile ecosystem is an essential element of this. Having the resources of the internet at your fingertips at a reasonable cost is fantastic for all members of society, especially if a local industry has contributed significantly to the information they are consuming.
 
5. A call on our youths
 
There's an obvious gap between elderly professionals and young industry entrepreneurs and enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the industry has lost many potential bright minds to other sectors with promises of immediate large salaries. Also, the few that have chosen to pursue telecoms have not had the chance to have access to mentors with immense experience who can guide them along specific career paths. However, the onus lies on young people to take responsibility by first realising that the strength of the future mobile industry in Nigeria rests on their shoulders - and they must reach out to get all the help they need.


6. The role of Institutions and Agencies
 
The role of institutions in the development of the mobile web and applications is a key one and their active support would have a considerable multiplier effect on the speed of the expansion of the ecosystem. The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC and NITDA come in here for special mentioning as their mandate has suddenly grown beyond what was written in the act setting them up long before mobile opportunities came into our lives.
 
7. Collaboration and Competition:
 
While everyone today speaks of Google, Facebook, Skype and all, a clear difference between these companies (led by youth like Nigeria's) and Nigerian startups is the fact that while the average young Nigerian goes his way to start something without the discipline of mentors and accountability to senior professionals, these mostly Silicon Valley-based companies know what it means to collaborate with other people to build a powerful team. And when these teams form, they have healthy competition.
 
I am happy many of those who have eye witness experience of what I am saying are with us here and we could not have expected a better conference at a better time than this.
 
I wish you a fine deliberation.
 
 
Titi Omo-Ettu
President, ATCON 
Lagos, February 2, 2011.

 




The Challenge of Bharti
by
titi omo-ettu

This is not a talk about Bharti. It is, as the reader will soon find out, a talk about Nigeria.

You may be forgiven if you thought, from the name Bharti Airtel that we are referring to an airline rather than a telecommunications company. If its meteoric rise among world-class mobile telecom service providers has been overlooked in the past, its acquisition of Zain's African assets for a staggering $10.7 billion, sure made us take notice. Bharti is now the world's fifth largest mobile phone company by subscribers base.
It is not new story but the newsy aspect is that the CEO of Bharti was in Nigeria the other day to announce that his company would inject $600million into the business formerly known as Zain Nigeria with a promise to reach all Nigerians with cheap phones. Its capability is neither in doubt nor is it the issue here either but rather that this potential intervention allows the Nigerian Government defer its responsibility to Bharti playing the role which is rightly its (i.e. the government's) to play.

What happens to those who defer their responsibility to another?

What makes Bharti tick is the storyline that it is a master explorer of IP technology in managing business. The trump card Bharti may wish to tout is its outsourcing model of managing business. The core truth lies in the several other things that we do not set out to discuss.

To start with, once a company is able to cultivate IP, it is running on the success lane. All other things will become mere additions. It is what will eventually separate the men from the boys in world economics and in  the craft of using technology to manage business.

Using IP, outsourcing, deep wallets and an excellent PR/media machine that has the world's ears tuned to its aggressive march into emerging markets, Bharti may just have struck gold and of course we know telecommunications is one intoxicating phenomenon.

By the way, and in parenthesis, our subject is not the kind of telecom firm whose name counted a few years ago. It is a trade vehicle in the manner of emerging businesses where you buy and sell at a profit. The interesting thing is that the Nigerian firm called Zain (formerly many names, almost 5, starting from Econet Wireless) is the one that buyers have always used as bait in Nigeria.

When such companies infiltrate emerging markets, usually via corrupt polities, their take over is total. That is quite understandable isn't it? Such forays are characteristically into structurally defective markets that are customarily low on morality and ethics and high on corruption. Even when these polities stumble on good decisions, because they are often by default rather than design and lack conviction or principle, their good initiatives tend to somehow self destruct.

Take Nigeria for example. After several years of prevarication and outright refusal by its rulers to embrace liberalization, it eventually did in 1993 but in just one year after it made that decision, it thought the better of it and the initiative was promptly reversed by disbanding the NCC board while simultaneously putting an unbeliever in the liberalization agenda in charge of NITEL to complete the hatchet work. Nigerians, who by then had become almost immune to such crass decision making from it rulers, had to wait another five years till 1999 to make a new beginning. One can attribute a lot of problems that persist today to such those days of poor decision making.

With IP, the need for human intervention in running networks across the world becomes minimized, thus translating to cheaper costs and good margins. And if the gains are truly passed on to the consumers, it makes phone reach the poor and the rural persons cheaper. At least in theory but also demonstrated as real in other climes.

The cost the market pays is that its own technical work force will not partake in the production line. The question is, where does Nigeria stand in all of that? Nigeria is turning out university graduates without preparing them for immediate use of the market. Not even for long term use except that the users will sort that out eventually. Graduate unemployment poses a colossal danger to society. I understand, unpleasantly though, that some of the militants in the creeks are graduates. Well that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Is there a way out?

Of course, there always is. Can Nigeria keep its people talking without keeping them working? The answer lies in our bargaining for every carrot that comes to the table.  

That is the challenge of Bharti and a subject for another day.

July 24, 2010.


Cyberschuulnews 391
Of House of Reps, NCC & SIM Card Registration
by
Titi Omo-Ettu,
 
It was a coincidence, but one I found quite interesting. There is at least some irony in the fact that the day after I had, at a Press Conference, called on Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to effectively make the case of the merits of SIM card registration to Nigerian phone users via better communication which extends beyond its customary deployment of newspaper advert and website postings,  newspapers also reported that the House of Representatives were querying the Commission on why it should ask for a budget to spend on SIM card registration.
 
While it is right for our federal representatives scrutinize a government agency on accountability for public spending, what troubles me is the thinking that belies the Honourables' inquiry about why the NCC should plan for money to spend on SIM card registration 'when it is not its business to register SIM card purchasers'.
 
Let me start by saying that we in ATCON (Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria) diverge from the idea of registration of telephone users being limited to SIM cards as it suggests that this process - a continuous census - is for only mobile telephone users. Indeed the objective of registration of phone users which, by the way, was our brainchild, is not limited to the crime perspective of mobile telephony, important as that may be,  it is imperative that an industry like ours must not only track information about people that use our products and services, but also managing this information for the public good is crucial.
 
A database allows us to manage and use an incredible variety of information and will maintain order in an otherwise very chaotic environment. Its expansion and manipulation as the industry grows and our resources increase will not only mean we can fulfill the requirement of security surveillance, but it will aid and augment industry and consequently, national planning and economic growth.
 
We also advocate that the Honourable members should consider that it is the NCC, not telephone operators, who are justifiably ruled by their commercial imperatives, that is our agency that garners the industry's and our peoples' socio-economic interest.
 
They should be cognizant of the possibility of failures i.e. less than socially desirable byproducts of the market from which our industry is not immune. While telecom operators would take care of their investment, it raises the questions for example, who will educate our people on the benefits of new technologies? What happens if telecoms operators mis-educate our people? The prospect of these by-products provide a strong rationale for a portfolio of economic-incentive based public policies be enveloped by robust regulatory framework and incentives that systematically evaluate their success. For this reason and in these circumstances, people defer to the regulator to safeguard their interests.
 
When the NCC approved that we provide a register of SIM card users, we erroneously interpreted it to be the first phase of a bigger assignment but on seeing the proposed Bill that the Senate is working on, we realized that the vision of the Bill is indeed limited to registering only SIM cards and not all telephone users. Alas it was not a means to an end but an end itself.
 
We should impress on the National Assembly that it listens to itself because we read in the newspapers that Hon Dave Salako, Chairman House Committee on Communications, laboured to explain to his colleagues on the floor of the House the reasons why NCC's powers should not be whittled apparently because he has seen the good in the good but limited powers that the agency has enjoyed to date.
 
We also need to impress on members of the House that the little isolated strides that was made in telecommunications industry has been partly due to the fine statement enshrined in the National Communications Act 2003 that defines the realms of the NCC's power to perform its function and that any attempt to whittle down those powers may be retrograde step taking us back to where we have come from.
 
More importantly, the beauty of the Committee system of a democratic parliament presumes that the benefit of Committee members being able to study public affairs of selected agencies is infinitely deeper and better than the notion that the ill-informed can or able to propagate or implement policy from a re-inforcing layperson's perspective all based on the specious premise of being the peoples' representatives.
 
The perfunctory job of scrutinizing public spending and retaining the success and independence of the  NCC are not mutually exclusive. It is indisputable that the way the NCC has professionally discharged its role and responsibilities has immeasurably taken the telecommunications industry to the lofty heights of performance that far exceeds that of any other public institution.
“The Business Opportunities of Mobile Services”
by

titi omo-ettu
I presented a paper on “The Business Opportunities of Mobile Services” yesterday at the Annual Assembly of IT Professionals in Abuja. It was hosted by the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria, CPN. The presentation is attached.
 
The main points I made were that the metamorphoses of technology has made us improved our living standards and sharpened our business instincts that things that were not possible a few years back are now possible. I used my personal experience of having to modify some of the claims which I made in a few of my presentations of old to prove that the whole world may just have been changing and improving. All in a space of less than 15 years that the internet arrived our shores.
 
I used a few data to demonstrate that there is no stopping the reliance of our life's on mobiles systems and the huge business that is in there for us to do if we must make all the un-served over 130 million Nigerians to be served. I submitted that the technology exists now waiting for the business initiatives to take over.
 
I invited Nigerian IT practitioners to know that their own aspect of the business is mainly in Content Creation which, for now, is only imported if it exists at all in our own industry.
 
My position is that Opportunity cannot be more than this.
 
I take the position that good political leadership is one of those things that will take us there and that professionals in all their groupings can bring this about by making sure it is only the politicians who are ready and willing to use ICT that have the right to lead us, come 2011.
 
I made it known that we in ATCON will invite Presidential Candidates of all political parties for the 2011 elections to address our members on what plans they have for ICT while I admonished all other professional associations at all levels to also engage the politicians at various levels what they have in stock for their own professions and trades too. With that, we shall put politicians on the spot and prepare them for accountability in all aspects of their responsibility even before they transform into 'excellencies' and 'honourables'.
 
To me, while politicians are campaigning to catch our votes we too shall be campaigning to stop the unsuitable ones among them from coming into office since such minds can only take us back, not forward.


Home may be where the problem is
Aftermath of 2.3 GHz court verdict

by
titi omo-ettu 


One of the engaging issues in the early days of deregulation in emerging telecom markets was serial litigation from operators, which had the potential to slow down growth, stifle competition and impede tariff reduction. It was Telecom Answers Associates, while presenting an industry study report to the new NCC management of the very early days of deregulation in Nigeria that  drew attention to what it called 'over-litigation' in several merging markets stressing the importance of addressing the matter right from the fundamentals. 


The issue became a popular talking point for the Commission and the consensus then was that for the survival of the emerging Nigerian telecom industry, a robust and professional Commission was imperative. The operating military decree of the time, according to legalists, left room for manouvre to grow a professional NCC for sustainability in the embryonic industry. The National Communications Act 2003 which emerged almost a decade later, duly lived up to the billing and it did not disappoint. 


There is no doubt that today the NCC met the vision of those founding fathers in that regard and even more. Several operators, especially the so-called 'big players' headed for the courts at the slightest opportunity to undermine the Commission's attempt to achieve rollout out services from every Tom Dick and Harry that held a license. Fortunately every time they went to court, the Commission and industry emerged stronger. 


There was the particularly interesting case of a notable operator's lawyer who found offence in then proposed Universal Service Provision FUND objective on the premise it would be 'unfair to us that we contribute money only for others to spend it'.  You have got to hand it to these guys at least they keep things interesting. 


From all indication, the 2.3 GHz imbroglio has refused to go away. The latest news was that NCC pre-emptively issued MOBITEL license for to pick up as soon as the Abuja High Court ruled that its licence be released. Perhaps NCC was thinking ahead just in case an operator proceeded to court to argue that the judge had 'erred in law', and to request MOBITEL's license remained withheld. 


A few days after MOBITEL received its license, THIS DAY newspaper reported on Thursday March 25 that the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications (we dare not say Minister since there was none at the time) went back to court on appeal to request that the judgment be set aside. 


In other words, the returning operator should not be allowed to come into the market. It calls into question whose interest the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications serves. On the face of it, legalism may just be the interest here but certainly not the interest of telephone users for whose interest the ministry was supposed to be serving. 


Chief MKO Abiola of blessed memory once said 'With friends like these, who needs enemies' - if you get my drift.



Cyberschuulnews 383
Opportunity of a Tragedy
by
titi omo-ettu 
 
It is best to present it in the form of a movie script just to fuel the imagination. Very apt given that one of the main characters who, while making the third leg of an unscheduled tripartite meeting at Heathrow, had come to the conclusion that all Nigerians are actors. He claims his  outlandish conclusion is not without basis and, believe me, he was right. We can say without contradiction, given the events of recent months, that Nigeria has gradually become one huge theatre where unbelievable, movie-like, things happen.
 
But we are not talking about theatre here. Rather opportunities that Information Technology offers.
 
Three men, let us call them Messers A, B and C stumbled on one another brought together by the harsh reality of an huge ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano which brought air travel across Europe to a standstill and for four days during which, one account said 98,899 flights were cancelled across the continent. Mr. A, a Cisco executive was actually heading to Nigeria to pursue an investment opportunity in the oil rich country; Mr. B, a visually impaired Scot who told the story of how he gradually lost his sight due to a disease that is not the well-known glaucoma; and Mr.C, a consultant who was returning from a conference in Europe to his base in Nigeria.
 
The three men met at a coffee shop and got talking after which they all retired to their respective hotels and reconvened the next day to hear Mr A say his firm had just released an internal memo to their top brass executives that it had made very tidy billions of dollars in the few days of the volcanic tragedy not only because disruptions posed by the volcanic eruption had prompted business people think and opt for video conferencing,. but incredibly it had also induced a few startup companies to begin a retail business in teleconferencing.
 
The moral of the story is whenever and wherever problems spring up unexpectedly in the world, information technology comes to the fore providing ready solutions - always making the best of a bad situation.


Time to Listen!
(A review of Ernest Ndukwe's recent lecture series)
by
titi omo-ettu


 One of the drawbacks of the public sector is a lack of continuity as there is never a succession plan. In our environment, sitting officials who plan their succession have done so even for selfish, sometime very callous, reasons. This lack of continuity and consequently inability to plan for the future is sometimes put forward as an argument for the 'limited' state - one which has no role in business. NITEL is an interesting case in point which we have successfully deployed as a template to demonstrate that government has no business running a business. 


Ernest Ndukwe, the telecommunications engineer and manager who had in the last ten years sat atop the operations of Nigeria's Regulator of telecommunications appears to have now joined the public lecture circuit discussing what he thinks the future should be for Nigeria beyond 2010. He can talk about a future, because he has done something worth talking about. It was by no means plain sailing and if he is vindictive, he probably will also use his lecture to fight back as he has been battered and bruised along the way - a 'parting shot' especially now that his exit is imminent. However, the scars on his back tell us he has earned his stripes to surely have some say in what (not necessarily who) succeeds his tenure in office… and he is worth listening to.   


Some few weeks ago, he listed about ten important issues which taken together, may translate to having advised the market on the unfinished business as he leaves office. Last week was the third and latest time he discussed those things that contributed to unprecedented success in Nigeria's telecommunications and how they can be sustained.  


His speeches have taken a holistic approach to the requirements of the future addressing the kind of attributes that whoever government eventually appoints into the Commission should possess; what the focus of attention should be; as well as the role of all stakeholders - government, the regulator, operators, and consumers in taking the industry to the next level. 


The one issue on which Ernest Ndukwe has been relentless and discussed more than any other public official throughout his tenure is the central and critical role public electricity supply had been to the telecommunications industry. His unyielding stance on this thorny issue may be taken to mean that he has suggested an alternative procedure for government to look at the issue of power sector reform in the country.  


Although there has also been a professed reform or even declaration of liberalization industry in the energy sector, the regime of implementation has been at best insincere. Some guys started by mushrooming 'private companies' out of the government octopus called NEPA and they went about telling us that is what liberalization is all about. 


It was the same in the telecommunication industry when in 1994, just one year into liberalization, General Sani Abacha disbanded the Nigerian Communications Commission and also went ahead to put 'a liberalisation unbeliever' in charge of NITEL. By so doing, he stalled liberalization and there existed an NCC without a Commission. We ran such an industry till 1999 when the emerging regime changed tact  


Perhaps what Ernest Ndukwe had been saying is that the liberalization process in the energy sector needs a rethink and it has something to learn from the telecommunications sector reform process. 


Ernest also said that an efficient Frequency Spectrum Management and allocation is desirable. Those in the know, know he has already advised on the quality of who should be entrusted with the responsibility of day to day operation of the Commission. No doubt he must have based this view point of his personal experiences and the limitations of the Commission as it is today. 


Other issues he has described in various words include:
Maintaining stability in the policy and regulatory space; Maintaining the operational and financial independence of the regulatory Agency; Invigorating an operating environment that is conducive to attracting investment; Emphasis on growing broadband infrastructure and catalyzing adoption and usage of broadband services by the citizens; Expansion of fibre optic cable transmission infrastructure nationally and internationally and striving for improved corporate Governance in the industry.


 
If there ever was a time for us to listen, it is now.




CyberschuulNews 370
2/11: Will The Senate Stick or Twist?
by
titi omo-ettu 

At a session in Abuja about four months ago, Nii Quaynor the renowned Ghanaian internet engineer and expert, referred to those who conduct terrorist activities on the internet as 'cyber-miscreants' - a term that stuck in my mind and I guess that of many delegates judging by their reaction. Owing to issues of timing, I never got the opportunity to engage Nii on that vocabulary. 

I had specifically wanted to ask Nii that in his thesaurus, what word would best capture the perpetrator of internet terrorism were it a country rather than an individual? This question is particularly poignant in the context of the prevailing spat between China and Google, which was brewing then and has now escalated to international level with the United States calling on China to moderate itself on the recent cyber attacks on Google that have prompted the search giant to threaten to leave. 

I eventually posed the question at Nii's Nigerian opposite, Chris Uwaje who told me it would be appropriate to call them cyber terrorists for want of a more severe description. 

Assuming you catch a 'cyber-terrorist' state (my imagination does not stretch that far) what do you do? Prosecute her? Jail her? Who will judge and who will be the jury? And under which law? (my mind drifts to Basil Udotai). Answers on a postcard and please do not mention the UN. 

This inevitably leads us down a tricky path. Firstly the very nature of cyber-terrorism - conducted by faceless, ubiquitous entities that could spread across national boundaries- means it does not fit prescribed international or legal definitions. By extension the issue who will emerge victorious - the perpetrators or the prosecutors comes to the fore and it is by no means clear cut. Thirdly there is the issue of retribution. It is easy to administer justice (or punishment if you wish) if the perpetrator is an individual or a group of individuals. However if the perpetrator(s) is a state, then we are in a bit of a sticky situation.  

Two days ago as the weekend commenced, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Washington that those perpetrating such cyber attacks “should face (the) consequences.” In specific reference to the China/Google spat. What these 'consequences' could possibly be given China's socio-political, economic and military might is of great interest. 

Chris Uwaje had told me then that I should wait till sometime in the first quarter of 2010 when he and his constituency would engage the legislature. I am aware that he is in the fore front of mobilizing effort at getting our legislators to hear him and other experts out on the subject for the purposes of formulating a coherent response to the threat posed by this thorny issue. 

Certainly there will be unknowns and unworkables in this scenario. They include what those experts will tell the legislators and what the response of the distinguished Senators will be.  

Allegedly all will become clearer on February 11 at the International Conference Centre Abuja. Stick or twist, we all await proceedings with great anticipation. 

2/11 must be a date indeed! 


CyberschuulNews 361
Who is dominating who around here?
by
titi omo-ettu
 
Although hardly discussed, one major source of consternation to many telecommunication regulators is the subject of market dominance. Seems harmless enough to start worrying about until a nasty dominant operator appears on the scene and starts to throw its commercial weight about. For a host of reasons, players are quick at perceiving a regulator as weak when the latter fails to install appropriate systems and controls to ensure that firms which see themselves as big in the midst of others do not abuse their market power. This failure of the office and power of the regulator sometimes results in an imbroglio which sets firms against one another. It starts becoming an issue when such bellyaches become headaches and the forces of stress and distress set everybody and especially the consumers against the regulator. 


The need to curtail dominance primarily stems from the necessity to achieve long term and sustainable competition in the market.  


In monopoly Nigeria of those days it was government itself that was the culprit. That is to say it was a straight fight between government, the operator, and its citizens, the consumers.


In the early days of regulation in Nigeria, NITEL was the first among unequals and but for the good side of corruption (corruption too has its good side after all !) which brought it to its knees, its dominance, essentially due to its monopoly, would have known no bounds. In the heady days of the military and at the height of NITEL's monopoly, one soldier-minister, decided that users of a telephone exchange which got burnt down at the hands of its operators should pay for its restoration. The time of this aberration coincided with the tenure of a Chief Executive who was noted for his campaign that 'telecommunications is a natural monopoly' doing all within his power to ensure the emerging competition which was at the time embryonic was thoroughly stifled.  


Today, NITEL is comatose and everybody, it seems, has put this in the trash can of their memory even though all these happened less than 20 years ago. 


So who is dominating who now? 


In environments where the regulator is either smart or sufficiently experienced, it makes the dominant operators tariff and other indices of assessment subject to its own approval while other operators may just be allowed some bench mark within which to maneuver on tariff as a mere publication may be required to move within the approved limits. The solution begins from defining who the dominant operator is and that is what makes the subject interesting (difficult really) to handle.


 In one particular market in Asia, academics were brought in by a regulator to help fine-tune the definitions and framework to determine who the dominant operator was but when the internal combustion of politics set in and the heat became intense, the men of books opted for a return to the serenity and the familiarity of their university campuses. 


Sometimes some folks either naively or mischievously confuse the terms 'dominant operators' and 'incumbents' in markets which liberalized from a monopoly as did several across the globe. 


Pose the question differently, is there a dominant operator in Nigeria?  


Very good question which no one has posed and no one has answered until about now. 


An advert is already in the media reporting that the Nigerian Communications Commission is now posing the question and seeking answers. The advert says the Commission seeks comments on issues related to whether certain companies are exercising dominant market power with the purpose (and effect) of substantially weakening competition in these markets. For now, it has chosen to shine its torch on two markets -: The Mobile and The Internet Connectivity markets.


Chances are that the Commission must have been reacting to simmering discontent which is now coming to the boil and can no longer be ignored.  


It may be a wild goose chase, but a nice one nevertheless.



'F'ings just gotta change
by
titi omo-ettu
 
These were the famous words of a radical politician of the left who is, probably, now retired. Things changed alright, but in which direction? Perhaps not in one that might have impressed the speaker. It would be rather interesting to hear his thoughts on the events of the past two years. 


Indeed things are changing and very fast too. As technological innovation gathers even more frenetic pace, it may be a stretch too far for one's imagination what the 'ordinary person' would do should they be afforded the illimitable opportunities Broadband Internet Access offers. The politicians would tell us that the ordinary person is far too bogged down by the daily grind of trying to provide the basics of food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their families to care about 'broadband'. And perhaps they have a point. But the nature of our politics and politicians makes it harder to decipher where the line between this approach as an abstraction of reality ends and where upholding it as a justification for inaction begins. To 'bring home' the reality and its possibilities, a few guys got together recently to discuss broadband and its effects on the basics of food, security, industry, transportation and more. Is somebody listening? 


Let us consider some alternatives. 


It's been suggested that technology should be encouraged, developed and applied. One method for consideration is that agencies of government that superintend over technology creation and development coalesce and administered under one bureaucracy - joined up government - if you wish. This is  a model which if implemented with principles and conviction will deliver good management of the resources of technology. Another method is to have a concentric grouping of those agencies that develop technology together and those who regulate and motivate its application. 


It has been suggested that the latter model is good for developing economies. Nigeria is one of such economies though economic development and growth pattern in other sectors make that claim less discernible. But at least on the issue of telecommunications and information technology, it is an emerging market which demands and deserves management. 


If the emerging technologies especially in the ICT's are not properly managed, society suffers as it is either isolated from the proverbial global village or its people pay exceedingly to realize the benefits of emerging technologies. This is exactly the motive driving the IT revolution that is taking place in East Africa. 


There are two key issues that we need to address. Firstly, the need for a revised policy framework which all parties need to look up to particularly for investors as it allows them to map out long term investment plans and how that translates and implemented in the market. And secondly, a corresponding administrative and regulatory framework in which these technologies are implemented which some people call restructuring. In both cases, the 'ordinary person' has little role to play but government should play its role and govern in the interest of all rather than narrow itself to issues of winning elections as has been the case in Nigeria. 


If the past two years are anything to go by, the country has shown little in way of direction in ICT policy re-formulation. If it is intended, it is yet to be seen. This lack of direction and review of how the sector is being managed for better results engenders an exclusion of minds that can see the fuller picture exacerbated by the arguments that ICT is fine but intangible and inconsequential in comparison to roads, food and 'wining' elections.  


One morning this week, a TV channel took on the issues of federal roads, ASUU strike, decaying hospitals, and Saudi Arabia visit. I swiftly changed channels desperately trying not to have negativity ruin the long day ahead only to be confronted by more misery on another channel where the discussion was about the refusal to assist London's Metropolitan Police to prosecute some charlatans of the land; industrial action by primary school teachers across the land and 90% failure of all secondary school students who sat the NECO examination in Sokoto State. My third escape channel was reporting on assassinations, kidnappings, 0-1, 0-2 serial losses for our under-20's in Egypt and the like. Such a catalogue of negativity begs the question 'How can all these happen in one single country?' And these are only the ones that make it to the newsrooms! 


I suppose it is the case that 'bad news sells'. By extension we can deduce that Telecom ICT does not get a mention because for all intent and purposes, it is the one sector that has been fairly well run and has a good story to tell. The mind boggles at such complacency. Presumably we will start talking when we are dragged to where we started from. 


'F'ings, indeed just gotta change? Never have truer words been spoken.

 


CyberschuulNews 356
 

3G NETWORK SYSTEMS: THE CHOICE & CHALLENGE THAT AWAIT NIGERIA
by
titi omo-ettu
 
1st things first, let's discuss why we are where we are. We shall then recall some historical perspectives and also mention a few personal experiences.


In 1995 the NCC commissioned a study under the title of 'Study into Cellular Mobile Telecommunications Market in Nigeria'. The report of that study led to various motion-without-movement experiences between then and year 2000 when there was a modification that turned out 'A magic'. 


In the early days of Mobile Systems, there was fragmented market. Systems went by their proprietary standards and generally cared less about interoperability. There were: The American Standards, The European Standards, The Nordic Countries Standards. Two notable realizations emerged:


One; that mobile systems thrive on economy of scale and interoperability makes business sense and two; that even poor countries could be viable markets. 


Then emerged the 'generational' initiative as in assigning vocabulary to each stage of mobile technology development. Each generation represented an improvement in spectrum capacity usage and ITU took advantage of the global realisation and situated itself for its natural role. It operated in a true belief that business would be truly global and that regulators would have less problems of incompatibility to deal with. The initiative seemed good for all concerned. On top of this, it was also realised that there is money to make everywhere.


 
The First Generation of systems for mobile telephony was analog, circuit switched, FDMA Access technology, and it only carried voice traffic. The analog phones used in 1G were less secure and prone to interference where the signal is weak. Analog systems include AMPS [in the US], NMT[ In Nordic Countries : East Europe, Asia and Russsia] and ETACS[in UK].  


The Second Generation of mobile telephony systems, 2G uses digital encoding. 2G networks support high bit rate voice, limited data communications and different levels of encryption. 2G networks include GSM, D-AMPS (TDMA) and CDMA. 2G networks can support SMS applications.  


General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) is a mobile data service available to users of GSM mobile phones. Although GSM is strictly a 2G standard, that GPRS is an enhancement of it makes it code-named a 2.5G generation of mobile phones. GPRS, which supports a wide range of bandwidths, is an efficient use of limited bandwidth and is particularly suited for sending and receiving small bursts of data, such as e-mail and Web browsing, as well as large volumes of data. 


2.5G extends 2G systems, adding features such as packet-switched connection and enhanced data rates. 2.5G networks include EDGE and GPRS. These networks support WAP, MMS, SMS mobile games, search and directory. 


One of the major limitations of Second Generation cellular communications systems is that data can only be transferred after a connection has been established. This is inefficient if only small amount of data is transferred, and in situations where data is transferred in bursts. 2.5G cellular systems allow a mobile station to be "always-online" for sending and receiving packet data. This allows efficient transfer of small amounts of data, without the overhead of establishing a connection for each transfer. It also efficiently supports bursty data transfers, avoiding the need to allocate capacity to a connection that cannot be reallocated by the network if the connection chooses not to use it. The two major forms of 2.5G enhancements to second-generation cellular systems are the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution (EDGE). Some GSM networks support the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution (EDGE).  


The Next Generation Network
The next generation networks (NGN) would support all traffic demands. Specifically, it should meet all the following services: A single network must converge voice, data and video traffic, support mobility, have a very high speed switching core, must be packet based technology and must support value added services. 


It is usual to refer to 3G systems as a Next Generation Network System. They can also be described as ITU's IMT 2000 family because it was in the year 2000 that there was unanimous approval of the technical specifications for third generation systems under the brand IMT-2000. The spectrum between 400 MHz and 3 GHz is technically suitable for the third generation. This approval meant that for the first time, full interoperability and inter-working of mobile systems could be achieved.  


What specific advantages are envisaged?
IMT-2000 offers the capability of providing value-added services and applications on the basis of a single standard. The system envisages a platform for distributing converged fixed, mobile, voice, data, Internet and multimedia services. One of its key visions is to provide seamless global roaming, enabling users to move across borders while using the same number and handset. IMT-2000 also aims to provide seamless delivery of services, over a number of media (satellite, fixed, etc…). It is expected that IMT-2000 will provide higher transmission rates: a minimum speed of 2Mbit/s for stationary or walking users, and 348 kbit/s in a moving vehicle. Second-generation systems only provide speeds ranging from 9.6 kbit/s to 28.8 kbit/s


The often quoted major strengths of Third Generation Mobile technology is its suitability for voice, video and data services including video, video conferencing and Internet access. For equipment vendors and manufacturers, there is universal agreement, a necessity really, that they will be flexible, affordable, compatible with existing systems and modular. 


Why embrace 3G?
Considering that Nigerians have demonstrated a thirst for Broadband internet access and that so far there is still lack of broadband internet. Considering also that Digital Subscriber Line, DSL is not known to have been commonplace, there is a pressing need to fill the gap. And 3G may just do that according to some specialists. What is more, recent experiences show that Nigerians create opportunities on emerging technologies. Moreover, it is cheaper and quicker to roll-out 3G/WCDMA than to run communication cables to every home.  


With all the above arguments some have forecast that high uptake of services in 3G is therefore expected if launched. Who knows, these may have informed the embrace of 3G by the industry regulator which is known to have issued licenses to all existing mobile service providers. 


Wideband CDMA, also known as UMTS in Europe, is 3G standard for GSM in Europe, Japan and the United States. It's also the principal alternative being discussed in Asia. It supports very high-speed multimedia services such as full-motion video, Internet access and video conferencing. It uses one 5 MHz channel for both voice and data, offering data speeds up to 2 Mbps.  


The Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)
A digital wireless technology that uses a spread spectrum technique to scatter a radio signal across a wide range of frequencies. CDMA is a 2G technology. WCDMA, a 3G technology, is based on CDMA. CDMA has multiple variants, including CDMA 1X, cdma2000, CDMA2000 1X, CDMA2000 1xEV-DO and cdmaOne.


What is possible?
All e-advantages[ e-learning, e-business, e-sports etc] Video Telephony, eMail, Location Services, instant messaging, etc High Speed Internet Access and Interactive Multimedia. These do not come without challenges though. We should expect challenges in the areas of Licensing, infrastructure, and capacity building. 


We must be conscious of some drawbacks such as the reality that users have to make completely new investment in 3G compliant terminals just as lack of access of majority to the internet may limit penetration.  


Recommendations
It is hoped that the structure 3G License fee so far supports affordability going by the enthusiasm with which the existing operators are canvassing for their monopoly of the license. It is at this stage that the often repeated need to review telecom engineering training syllabus in good time to meet current challenges is apt. 


4G encourages architecture "openness". The services that 3G can offer should be such that it can be developed by any content vendor. The architecture is open as opposed to proprietary in that it allows third party vendor to run in the network. The 3G is not necessarily designed with open Application Programming Interface (API). The API in each network decided what developed services that can be used by a network operator in the network. So, 4G is an enhancement to 3G with open API for third party applications (services) developments.


Presented November 2006


CyberschuulNews 353
2.3 GHz verdict: It was Them not Us
by
titi omo-ettu

The image that President Barrack Obama may not be a happy man after all is etched in my consciousness. Something keeps telling me that the fellow would have wished that Nigeria lives up to reputation as the world's most populous black country and worthy of the title, 'centre of the world' for all black people.


In this episode of 'The West Wing' that is playing in my mind, El Presidente has assembled his inner caucus of the ruling class and asked them 'how can I tell the folks in Nigeria to shape up without causing unnecessary offence'. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton perks up to say 'I do, Mr. President' to which he responds, 'Great, don't tell me. I think you should go tell them in person'. And so came Hillary.


Suffice to say that she came at a time when listening and doing good was not a high point of those who are on the cockpit in these parts. One even went as far as telling her to mind her own business.


Or how do we explain it. Mrs. Clinton's plane had barely left the tarmac at the airport when what clearly was an executive intervention in a purely judicial logjam was announced from the office of President Yar Adua.


For those of us in the awkward squad who argue and believe we should put the controversy surrounding the 2.3 GHz spectrum licenses behind us and face the future, there is yet an explanation to make so future generation does not ask us what the hell a whole lot of 140 million of us were doing when rule of law was being murdered.


The objective here is not to revisit the controversy all over but to appraise the validity of the decision both in law and practice so as to ensure that an inadequate framework is neither the template nor precedent to which current and future generations will have to adhere. It is vitally important in a participatory democracy that legislative and executive decisions are subject to scrutiny to avoid any potential ugly precedent before it sets in stone. It is what makes us citizens rather than mere bystanders in the democratic process.


For starters, it is going to be difficult for rational minds to agree to using the President's decision as a precedent for future if and whenever all facts present themselves again as they did in the 2.3Ghz instance. It is a failure of our democracy that our laws in this instance are not allowed rigorous scrutiny and intellectual dialysis.


In the ensuing 'presentation-over-substance' scenario, the commercial imperatives of using the story by the local media dictated that this very public spat was personalised and drawn out thus making it an issue of 'who' was right (which meant that the other was wrong) when the issue should have been of 'what' was right or what was wrong.
So what was wrong?


It was wrong for our system to create and perpetuate a climate in which the decision of a Commission be reduced to and regarded as the decision of a person. It makes an institutional failure a personal one and consequently remedy is thought of and applied in the context of personnel rather than of systems or institutions. That the person singled out for criticism is not the Chairman of the Commission (where ideally the buck stops) does not help but rather makes it messier.


It was wrong for a complaint to be fabricated as it eventually emerged from records and facts from AO3 Company's strong rebuttal, which categorically stated that it did not participate in an auction and therefore could not have written a petition about a process it was not party to.


It was wrong that the advice given by the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice to Mr. President was allowed to leak to the press or blatantly published in the media to the effect that the minister's (of Communications that is) intervention was impolite to the law.


With so much wrong, it is difficult to catalogue what was right in the whole milieu except the perfect opportunity for us to test our Communications Act within the purview of the executive. Unfortunately it is an opportunity we have missed.


We are in a nightmare, somebody wake us up.


CyberschuulNews 352
Big tree, small axe
by
titi omo-ettu

With the warped entertainment content of the CBN's act of last week, there is an overwhelming temptation to get carried away such that we forget to import whatever lessons it offers our industry.

The week's sacking of five CEOs for 'winning' banks produced a drought of news in the telecommunications sector. It suggested that ceteris paribus, events in our industry pale into insignificance due to the axe falling on the supremo's of our banking industry. The guys who produce CyberschuulNews told us that unless we wrote an opinion column this week, there was no news for them to report or to analyse. Very true as I found out when week drew to an end.

Nothing inspires newshounds more than 'How hath the mighty fallen' especially when the 'mighty' in question belong to the class that readers love to hate. If as they say 'a week is a long time in politics', two months must therefore be eternity. Given that not quite two months ago the 'mighty' were collecting awards, buying jets for pastors and distributing religious tracts as part of bank product leaflets (talk about a conflict of interest), is it not a tad strange how jubilant we are about their fall from grace? Yet we all pretended to be ignorant of the fact the front (and middle) pages of our newspapers have been taken over by bank adverts while we were treated as if we actually pay to buy adverts rather than content in our newspapers.

If we must profit from all this, then we must quickly identify two lessons which the telecom industry can learn from the finance industry's recent experience.

We should remind ourselves that if and when services providers merit sanction, they should be dealt with. Our laws must provide for those who evoke such sanctions to think of how the decision will affect the common consumers and to take action to mitigate their losses. Of course our experience is that many service providers had, on their own, folded up and closed shop. Many of them in recent memory - MTS of old, EMIS, Mobitel of old, to name but a few. In the ensuing wreckage, no one cared about what happened to the real stakeholders - the subscribers who had made investment in such networks. It is time our law thought in this direction. There is something for our legislature to keep in mind as they attempt to edit the existing Act.

The other is the treating awards and laurels like confetti at a wedding - conferred on everyone and anyone which, to be brutally frank, is somewhat suffocating. It is not as if we believe these awards or that they mean little more than businesses and organisations disingenuously ingratiating themselves with their sponsors. In this era of reciprocal back scratching among the undeserving, a modicum of modesty and a reality check is both required and necessary.

It is time we demanded an arrest of this culture of roguery, hate and moral indecency that is like a parasite feasting on the soul of our society.

 

 
   
 
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