Nigeria telecoms base stations rise to 34,033

.Lagos, Ogun, Rivers account for 49%

By Victor Akindele

Telecommunications operators in Nigeria have so far built 34,033 base stations, TechTrackAfrica reports. The infrastructure, according to industry data just released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) were built by MTN, Airtel, Glo, Ntel, 9mobile, and Smile Communications.

While a few may have been added by the operators this year, the report just released shows that this was the figure as of December 2019.

The number of base stations as of 2019 showed 11.1 per cent increase from 30,637 recorded at the end of 2018. This indicated that the operators were able to build an additional 3,396 last year.  According to the NCC, the number of existing base stations in the country invariably affects the quality of service (QoS) within the country thereby positively impacting the level of telephone penetration.

A breakdown of the infrastructure ownership indicated that MTN owned the largest number of base stations standing at 16,796, while Airtel owned 8,924. Globacom’s base stations stood at 7,516, while Ntel had 675. 9mobile and Smile communications had built 120 and 2 base stations respectively as of 2019 end.

Aside from their personally built infrastructure, the operators are allowed to mount their radio on masts built by others under an arrangement called collocation, which involves rent payment of rent to the infrastructure owner. Non-payment of this rent constitutes part of the huge industry debt that recently sparked disagreement among the operators.

According to the NCC report, Lagos State has benefitted the most from the operator’s investments in base stations as it had 9,860 as of December 2019. Other states among the top five beneficiaries include Ogun, with 3,398; Rivers, 3,329; FCT Abuja 3,034; and Oyo with 2,842.

The top three states accounted for 49 per cent of the total base stations in the country , while the states with the least number of base stations are: Jigawa-316; Yobe- 422; Zamfara- 434; Gombe 521- and Kebbi- 561.

The operators’ inability to build more of the facility across the country due to financial constraint is seen as the cause of poor quality of service. However, while residents of Lagos with the largest number of the infrastructure still experience service disruptions, service quality experience may be worse in States like Jigawa, Yobe, Zamfara, Gombe, and Kebbi. According to NCC, these are the states with the least number of base stations. As of the end of 2019, Jigawa State had 316 base stations, Yobe had 422, Zamfara had 434; Gombe 521, while Kebbi had 561.

Meanwhile, NCC in the report described 2019 as an eventful year with a significant increase in mobile penetration. According to the telecoms regulator, “the industry witnessed substantial improvement in the quality of service and network coverage across the country. Infrastructural deployment and upgrade were commendably improved, as most Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) embraced massive investments in 4G networks and rollout of services, which culminated in improved consumer satisfaction and increase in revenue streams.”

NCC noted that total active subscriptions had increased from 172.8 million as of December 2018 to 184.7 million as of December 2019.

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