Inder Bajaj, chief executive of Helios Towers Nigeria (HTN), believes strong regulation is the necessary impetus needed to boost infrastructure sharing in Nigeria’s booming telecommunications sector.
HTN’s sister company Helios Towers Africa is currently active in Ghana, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where they construct telecommunications infrastructure.
According to Bajaj, the biggest challenge that the Nigerian telecoms stakeholders are contending with is meeting the growing and evolving needs of mobile users in Nigeria.
“Nigeria has the largest mobile market in Africa, with over 100 million subscribers, representing almost 20 percent of Africa’s mobile market. It is expected to grow to 150 million subscribers by 2016. At the same time, mobile users quite rightly demand coverage and high-quality service levels for both voice and data needs and more and more data on their phones,” Bajaj said.
He said the pressure of keeping up with the demands of mobile users has created an increased need for expertise in setting up and managing of infrastructure, in addition to investment and efficiency savings.
He said there is a need for the nation to embrace tower sharing that his company debuted in Africa in 2005.
“We introduced the tower sharing business model to Africa in 2005-2006. Today we have nearly 1,200 towers and nearly 2,000 tenants. We added another 500 towers to our portfolio in 2012 as well as a record number of tenants.
“Our key customers include MTN, Airtel, EMTS and about 15 wireless broadband operators among others. These customers will probably double the number of sites they need over the next three years and we are working to help them achieve that as cheaply and efficiently as possible,” he said.
On the role of the Nigerian government, Bajaj said they should keep imploring telecoms companies, through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to share infrastructure in order to reduce cost and accelerate rollout of services which could greatly improve the quality of on offer.
Bajaj added: “Being a developing economy, Nigeria is witnessing a significant development of infrastructure, requiring operating companies to expand and enhance their coverage.”