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ATCON Intensifies Efforts to Safeguard Nigeria’s Fibre Infrastructure



ATCON Intensifies Efforts to Saveguard Nigeria’s Fibre Infrastructure

The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has advanced course among government, telecom operators, and construction companies to address fibre cable cut challenges and safeguard the critical telecoms infrastructure.

In his opening remarks at the maiden edition of ATCON Critical Conversation Breakfast Meeting in Lagos, ATCON President, Mr. Tony Emoekpere, called for collaboration among stakeholders to reduce fibre cuts to prevent service disruption.

The ATCON president emphasized the need for training and awareness on the importance of fibre cables, and the dangers and negative impacts of fibre cuts, and urged telecom assets to be designated as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI).

Emoekpere said: “Telecom stakeholders cannot continue to pay lip service to issues and challenges that have constituted stumbling blocks to the sector’s growth, especially fibre cuts.

“This meeting aims at enabling stakeholders to look at the issues bordering on metro, terrestrial, and submarine fibre disruptions which have become recurring decimals in the Nigerian Telecom industry.

“The stakeholders are the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).”

He mentioned that the special breakfast meeting would facilitate comprehensive engagement with relevant agencies to gather feedback and recommendations for future planning.

He noted that a few months ago, a reported submarine cable cut significantly affected Nigeria and other countries.

Participants at the Breakfast gathering

“The incidences of Metro, Terrestrial and Submarine Fibre Disruptions (cuts) have become a recurring decimal which must be addressed by relevant agencies at all levels of government.

“Our members have had to pay substantial amount of money to have all these disruptions fixed and this is impacting on their operational expenses which should not be, if the perpetrators are brought to book,’’ he said.

The ATCON president expressed a desire to use this opportunity to advocate for the inclusion of ducts in new road construction projects. He suggested assembling a pool of lawyers to hold construction companies accountable for damages to the fibre network.

Emoekpere emphasized that the NCC should enforce the Nigeria National Broadband Plan (NBP) 2020–2025 provisions.

He highlighted that the NBP mandates the NCC to have a desk officer in each state to oversee the fibre network and minimize cuts during road construction.

“This sector has been reported to contribute over 14 per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the sector could have done better, if issues like fibre disruptions are dealt with.

“In all ramifications, fibre disruptions have constituted a threat to the manifestation of the industry’s inherent potentials,” he said.

The president stated that ATCON aims to use this crucial platform to highlight unaddressed challenges hindering industry progress.

He thanked Dr. Bosun Tijani, the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, for approving the 96,000 km fibre metro line to enhance internet connectivity in Nigeria.

During a panel discussion, Lekan Balogun of Net Access identified four potential causes of fibre cable cuts: government and private contractors, human activities, planning and design issues, and natural causes.

Balogun stressed the importance of continuous engagement between ATCON members and the government, as well as collaboration with developers. He suggested using protective materials like metals instead of plastics for long-term solutions.

Another panellist, Mr Olabode Ojo, Vice President of GICL, discussed the risk factors associated with submarine cables. He called for collaboration with oil, pipeline, and dredging companies to mitigate these risks.

“I call for engagement with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to understand where the fibre cables are laid.

“I also want us to identify the risk factors around fishing activities and fishing vessels that can damage submarine cables.

“I urge for training for all those that work and do businesses on the sea,” Ojo said.

He highlighted the planned coastal road construction and urged the government to exercise caution to avoid damaging fibre cables in the area.

Mr Salwomir Cielinski, Director of Business Development at WIOOC, noted that natural disasters have recently caused fibre cable cuts. He emphasized the need for data centre operators to collaborate on connecting fibre to data centres to reduce costs.

Folu Aderibigbe, Sales Director at Rack Centre Limited, remarked that despite various proposed solutions, challenges persist, impacting telecom companies.

Aderibigbe suggested that the minister could be instrumental in addressing these issues and encouraged companies to collaborate with the government to resolve their challenges.

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