Developments have shown that the quality of telecommunications service (voice, data and video) may not improve until Nigeria can boast of improved power supply.
Power cuts and erratic supply have been linked to 70 per cent drop in quality of telecommunications services in the country. These are outside other environmental and business challenges. A tower operator, who preferred anonymity, told The Guardian that towers run on generators on an average of 18 hours a day.
“This means that the 20,000 co-located towers in the country, each of which uses 27KVA generator, consume some 1.2 million litres (about N264 million) of diesel a day, while towers that house single base station which are 5,000 in number, consume 200,000 litres of diesel a day, bringing the total consumption by generators deployed in towers around the country to 1.4m litres (about N308 million) per day,” he stated.
But to forestall total collapse of the networks, operators have resorted to alternative power supply, including installation of generating set, inverters and renewable energies. The Guardian gathered that most service providers run more than two power-generating sets at their Base Transceiver Station (BTS) sites.
According to the Chief Executive Officer, Pan African Towers Limited, Wole Abu, power challenges remain the greatest threat to improving service quality in the country.
“You know, virtually everybody in this country suffer from poor QoS. It will interest you to know that 70 per cent at the back end of those drop calls can be traced to power disruptions and challenges. Either they run out of diesel or the generating set develops fault, surge, stolen, no grid power, huge lots of investment gone into capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operating expenditure (OPEX), man hours, troubleshooting around power, among others,” he stated.
Abu noted that when power stabilises, quality of service challenge is solved, “you have eliminated 70 per cent root causes of QoS problems, which means people can now enjoy and build businesses around stable Internet, voice and video services.”
He revealed that his firm, which just sealed a $20 million infrastructure investment with a Canadian firm, Watt Renewable, is innovating around power, security and value chain. “At PAN, we see the site as a laboratory, not just where we put towers to serve the MNOs, but we shall be educating and providing services to the industry.”
Speaking on colocation, he said it is an imperative because it brings down cost. According to him, every of the operators are collocating. He added that with collocation, CAPEX cost is reduced.
Abu noted that if the country must improve services, there should be more investments in base transceiver stations (BTS).
“We must also realise that technology is shifting, the period of 2G, we have bigger towers, 3G and 4G, we need shorter and inter-site towers, at 5G, you use Wifi, we need this everywhere. In Nigeria, we still need about 38,000 more towers to provide coverage in Nigeria; we are positioned to do that. Colocation is very important, soonest we shall be talking about active sharing.”
On the challenge posed by inadequate power supply, The Guardian gathered that telecommunications towers in the country consume about 1.4 million litres of diesel, which makes it possible for Nigerians to use GSM to make and receive calls daily.
The Guardian also learnt that a co-located tower, which houses three to five base stations, uses 27KVA generator to supply power while a tower that houses a single base station uses 15KVA generator. A 27KVA generator consumes three litres of diesel per hour, depending on the age of such generator.
On the challenge of electricity supply in the ICT sector, the Managing Director of Rack Centre, Ayotunde Coker, said for improved data centre operations, the country would need to generate over 45,000mw of power. Coker, who noted that efficient power system is critical to making Nigeria work, said the data centre sub-sector of the economy needs as much as 45,000mw power capacity.
Checks by The Guardian showed that the country is about 40,000mw short of that capacity, as output fluctuates around 4,500mw and 5,000mw capacity.