Regulator issues guidelines on co-location, infrastructure sharing for Nigerian communications industry

*The Nigerian Communications Commission has issued the guidelines for Co-location and Infrastructure Sharing in the country to promote fair competition in communications industry, and encourage infrastructure sharing among its licensees

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Determined to promote fair competition in communications industry, and encourage infrastructure sharing among its licensees in the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it has responsibility under the Act to promote fair competition in the communications industry, and encourage and promote infrastructure sharing among its licensees.

According to the telecoms industry regulator, it equally develops guidelines for Co-location and Infrastructure Sharing (“C/IS”).

“These Guidelines proceed from a premise that all Access Providers and Access Seekers have the liberty to negotiate C/IS arrangements in accordance with mutually agreed terms,” the NCC said.

These Guidelines according to the commission, are designed and developed to encourage C/IS between Access Providers and Access Seekers within a predetermined framework to remove uncertainty and create an environment for better co-operation.

“These Guidelines explain the Commission’s role in achieving the most efficient use of facilities amenable to sharing.

In addition, NCC said Part V of these Guidelines sets out the processes for implementing Active Infrastructure Sharing amongst Network Service Providers licensed by the Commission.

Status of the guidelines

The Commission urged all stakeholders to note that these Guidelines are to be read subject to the Act, the Telecommunications Networks Interconnection Regulations, Competition Practices Regulations, Quality of Service Regulations, other laws, rules and subsidiary legislations that may be developed by the Commission from time to time and relevant Licence Conditions.

Objectives of the guidelines

The NCC has restated that the primary object of these guidelines is to establish a framework within which Access Providers and Access Seekers can negotiate C/IS arrangements, and for that purpose, specifically to – 5 (a) Ensure that the incidence of unnecessary duplication of infrastructure is minimised or completely avoided; (b) Protect the environment by reducing the proliferation of infrastructure and facilities installations;

(c) Promote fair competition through equal access being granted to the installations and facilities of operators on mutually agreed terms;

(d) Ensure that the economic advantages derivable from the sharing of facilities are harnessed for the overall benefit of all telecommunications stakeholders;

(e) Minimise capital expenditure on supporting infrastructures and to free more funds for investment in core network equipment.

(f) Encourage Access Providers and Access Seekers to pursue a cost-oriented policy with the added effect of a reduction in the tariffs chargeable to consumers.

Infrastructure Sharing

Types of Infrastructure Amenable to Sharing

The guidelines contained that infrastructure amenable to sharing are those that can be shared without an attendant risk of lessening of competition.

“The Commission shall encourage and promote the sharing of the following infrastructures: (A) Passive Infrastructure (i) Rights of Way, (ii) Masts, (iii) Poles, (iv) Antenna mast and tower structures, (v) Ducts, (vi) Trenches, (vii) Space in buildings, (viii) Electric power (public or private source), and (B) Active Infrastructure (i) Complete network structures, (ii) Switching centers, (iii) Frequencies, (iv) Radio Network controllers, (v) Base stations.

“Where the sharing of an infrastructure such as Rights of Way and Electric power is precedent upon securing the necessary approval of a granting authority, such approval should be obtained before the sharing arrangement can be finalised.

“Part V of these Guidelines shall apply in the implementation of sharing of the active infrastructure listed under Paragraph 4(2)(B) above.

Types of infrastructure not amenable to sharing

The telecom industry regulator has noted that National Roaming considerations shall not form part of any infrastructure sharing arrangements made pursuant to these Guidelines, but shall be negotiated under the relevant regulatory framework specific to National Roaming.

The report pointed out that in accordance with Paragraph 7(4) – (6) of these Guidelines, the Commission reserves the right to review all infrastructure sharing agreements and arrangements to ensure consistency with the relevant Licence(s), and reduce the risk of a lessening of competition.

It stated: “Where the Commission; (a) Determines that an infrastructure sharing arrangement is inconsistent with the relevant Licence(s), and/or (b) Identifies a risk of lessening of competition as a consequence of such infrastructure sharing, It may require such an arrangement to be discontinued, or that the agreement should be revised.”

Procedure for negotiating C/IS

The guidelines nevertheless noted that any Access Provider who owns or has control of a facility amenable to sharing may enter into negotiations with an Access Seeker who submits a request to share the use of that facility.

The report noted that all negotiations for infrastructure sharing must be done with the utmost good faith. The owner of a facility must not:

(a) Obstruct or delay negotiations or resolution of disputes; (b) Refuse to provide information relevant to an agreement including information necessary to identify the facility needed and cost data;

(c) Refuse to designate a representative to make binding commitments.

“A request for infrastructure sharing should be in writing. A party to whom such a request is made should within 15 days either accede to the request to grant access for sharing, or where access is denied, advance reasons in writing for the denial.

“Except in emergency situations, the replacement of a shared facility, or its modification, may only be undertaken upon due service of a 60 days’ notice on the other party.

“A party on whom notice is served may file a petition against the removal or modification of a facility within 15 days of receiving such notice, and the notifying party may file a reply thereto within 7 days.

Terms and conditions for infrastructure sharing

The Guidelines further explained that when an Access Provider shall provide capacity to other operators on a ‘first-come, first served’ basis, determined in accordance with the order in which the operator owning or having control over a facility, receives requests for infrastructure sharing.

“Every Access Provider shall reserve the right to refuse an application for infrastructure sharing on grounds of; (a) Insufficient capacity,

“The decision to refuse an application for infrastructure sharing shall be communicated in writing to the Access Seeker specifying the reasons for such refusal.

“Every infrastructure sharing agreement, including any prior existing agreement, shall be in writing and shall specify the contractual terms and conditions agreed on by the parties. All such agreements shall be registered with the Commission.

“As a precondition for registration, every infrastructure sharing agreement shall be submitted to the Commission for review and approval.

“The Commission shall in reviewing infrastructure sharing agreements ensure that the terms on which infrastructure sharing is offered are in compliance with the principles of neutrality, transparency, non-discrimination and fair competition.

“Every Infrastructure sharing agreement that has been duly negotiated and executed by parties shall be submitted to the Commission within seven (7) working days for review and approval.

“The Commission shall, within twenty-one (21) working days, review and 8 approve the agreement, provided that all information requested by the Commission are received.

“Prices for infrastructure sharing should be non-discriminatory, reasonable, and based on the actual costs incurred by the owner of the facility.

“Determination of the costs underlying prices should be transparent and neutral.

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