Nigerian government plans to protect telecom infrastructure following ₦27 billion losses

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  • The Nigerian government plans to criminalise the destruction of broadband fibre cables after MTN and Airtel reported losses of ₦27 billion. 
  • The Ministry of Works claims that a new regulation is being developed to protect telecom infrastructure, which is in dire need of protection, and to impose severe penalties on offenders. 
  • Recall that MTN Nigeria experienced a major service outage in February 2024, rendering millions of customers unable to make calls or connect to the internet. 

The outage was caused by a fibre optic cable cut, which could be traced back to either road construction or vandalism. This recurring issue has posed a consistent challenge to the telecom industry. Last year, the MTN experienced over 6,000 fibre optic cable cuts.

Between 2022 and 2023, the operator spent more than N11 billion to move 2,500 kilometres (1,553 miles) of fibre cables.

In 2020, Airtel expressed concerns that road construction projects in Lagos and other parts of the country affected its network performance due to the high level of fibre cuts. The telco confirmed that it experienced 1022 fibre cuts between July 2019 and February 2020. 

Temitope Ajayi, a senior aide to the President, shared that telecom assets serve as a critical backbone that supports the economy across sectors, adding that the Association of Telecommunications Companies has been calling for the classification for years.

“New rules will provide further assurance that the Nigerian government will protect their investments against vandals and criminal elements,” Ajayi added.

Moreover, the head of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Tony Izuagbe Emoekpere, expressed that communication infrastructure is damaged at will. 

While he awaits the president”s order on the development, he recognises that it will significantly boost the sector and attract investment. 

 In 2022, the National Communication Commission reported that over 50,000 cases of significant damage to telecom infrastructure and facilities were recorded in five years in the country.

Then, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, emphasised that the impact of infrastructure vandalism is universally experienced leading to a decline in service quality. 

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The Nigerian telecom market size is estimated at $9.09 billion in 2024 and is expected to reach $11.43 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 4.70% during the forecast period (2024-2029).