Following last week’s attacks on telecommunications infrastructure in some northern states, the operators have said subscribers may experience disruptions to services in the affected areas.
Millions of mobile telephone subscribers in the northern states of Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe and Kano may have to contend with network outages or very poor services for the next six months.
This followed bombings of about 26 telecoms base stations in the states by members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
Boko Haram had last week launched an onslaught on telecoms operators’ installations, bombing and torching base stations belonging to MTN, Airtel, Etisalat, Glo, Multilinks, IHS and Helios Tower.
This development had already negatively affected the quality of telecoms services in the affected areas.
The attacks on the installations came on the heels of a recent threat by the group to attack telecoms operators for their perceived roles in helping security operatives track suspected terrorists and its members.
The telecoms operators affected by the bombings, who spoke with our correspondent, said it could take as long as six months before the affected base stations would be fixed and reconnected to the networks.
The implication of this, according to them, is that subscribers in the affected areas will experience network outages and poor services.
A manager with MTN, who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said it could take six months before the damaged base stations were fixed, adding that engineers had yet to fully assess the extent of damage to the installations due to general insecurity.
He acknowledged that though security agencies were already on top of the situation, engineers were still largely afraid to go to the sites due to fear of being attacked.
The Executive Director, Commercial and Business Development, IHS, Mr. Gbenga Onakomaiya, whose company also lost some base stations to the bombings, said repairs could take six months as some of the equipment would have to be imported.
He said, “It could take as much as six months because we have to import the equipment and because of other issues. In our case we can commence restoration immediately as we have access to take equipment from our warehouse and restore between one and two months, depending on the nature of damage.
“However, security concerns and safety of our personnel is of utmost concern, as another attempt was made on another site on Saturday morning.”
Onakomaiya said Saturday’s attack would have seen his company losing a fourth base station, but said the attack was foiled and damage was minimised.
The President, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, had on Friday informed subscribers of the impending nationwide “consequential congestion” as a result of the bombings
According to him, some of the damaged base stations are hubs that provide services to other base stations in the region.
“If anything happens to a hub, all the subscribers in the vicinity will be adversely affected,” he said.
Rising from a crucial meeting on Friday, service providers under the aegis of ALTON had said they would continue to provide unhindered telecoms services to their northern subscribers.
Adebayo said this decision was taken in tandem with the operators’ licensing obligations to their subscribers.
He said, “Today, there is no gain saying the fact that telecoms services have become very key to our life. It has become the network that binds other sectors together and it has great potential for our economic growth and development.
“So, shutting down our operations will not be a meaningful measure because such an action will affect millions of people adversely. For instance, such an action, if taken, can pose serious security concerns, especially if people cannot communicate in real-time with one another, especially during emergencies.”
The Chief Executive Officer, Main One Cable Company, Ms Funke Opeke, who spoke to our correspondent on the development, said the level of security as evident by last week’s bombings of telecoms base stations posed severe threat to foreign direct investments expected to be attracted by the country’s burgeoning ICT industry.
She reasoned that the situation could not be left in the hands of the government alone and called on all stakeholders to partner with the Federal Government to forestall future occurrences and improve the security situation in the country.
In view of the fact that telecoms operators might have lost an estimated N1.03bn to the bombings, they called on the Federal Government to increase the protection of their installations in the country.
However, the Boko Haram sect has vowed to continue the attacks on telecoms installations.