Since its inception a little over a century ago, Nigeria's telecommunications system has progressed through various stages of development from the primitive communications equipment in its colonial days to the enormous variety of technologies availabl e today. In this chapter, the processes of Nigeria's telecommunications development and its progress, problems, and prospects are examined and discussed from its emergence to the expansion and modernization efforts of the 1990s.
2.0 THE PAST
2.1 Preindependence Era
The development of telecommunications in Nigeria began in 1886 when a cable connection was established between Lagos and the colonial office in London. By 1893, government offices in Lagos were provided with telephone service, which was later extended to Ilorin and Jebba in the hinterland. A slow but steady process of development in the years that followed led to the gradual formation of the nucleus of a national telecommunications network.
In 1923, the first commercial trunk telephone service between Itu and Calabar was established. Between 1946 and 1952, a three-channel line carrier system was commissioned between Lagos and Ibadan and was later extended to Oshogbo, Kaduna, Kano, Benin, and Enugu; thus connecting the colonial office in London with Lagos and the commercial centers in the country with local authority offices.
The main transmission medium during the preindependence era was unshielded twisted pair. This evolved later from rural carrier systems on high gauge lines to line carrier systems of twelve-channel capacity. Small- to medium-capacity systems employing VHF and UHF radio were introduced around 1955. The first serious attempt at planning telecommunications services in the country was the 1955-62 Development Programme. It provided for the expansion of the trunk using a VHF Multichannel Radio System on a na tionwide basis and a short microwave link between Lagos and Ibadan.
In the early days, the primitive coordinate pegboard switching system was used. This progressed through manual switchboards of different sizes, shapes, and capacities until Strowger exchanges were installed into the national network at Lagos Island, I keja, Ebute Metta, Apapa, and Port Harcourt between 1955-60 along with 116 manual exchanges. The installation of the Strowger exchanges marked the beginning of automatic telephone switching in Nigeria. By the time of independence, automatic exchanges were established at the main centers and a subscriber trunk dialing system (STD) was introduced between Lagos and Ibadan.
The telegraph service also witnessed a parallel development, from telegraph delivery by way of manual coordinate pegboard switching to the use of Morse code for telex switching. By about 1960, a manual telex exchange of sixty subscriber lines was in s ervice in Lagos. While all the above efforts were essentially aimed at improving internal telephone services in Nigeria, external telephone services in the preindependence period were wholly owned by Cable and Wireless of the United Kingdom, which was a c olonial private company.
2.1 Postcolonial Era
With the attainment of independence in 1960, Nigeria embarked on a periodic national development plan. Telecommunications development was featured in each of these plans, which were usually of a five-year duration. It is more meaningful, however, to d iscuss the development of Nigeria's telecommunications since independence--its objectives, achievements, and features--on a decade-by-decade basis.
2.1.1 The 1960s
The focus of attention in this period was the expansion of the network to meet the needs of the fledging commercial and industrial. The specific objectives included:
installation of additional 60,000 telephone lines to bring the total number of lines to 90,000 by the end of the decade; expansion of trunk dialing facilities to link the major urban centers that were then springing
establishment of the Nigerian External Telecommunications (NET) Limited.
Unfortunately, these objectives could not be completely realized by the end of the plan period. For example, only about 26,000 lines (just over 40% of the planned target) could be added to the existing network, partly because of underfunding and partl y because of the disruption caused to the economy by the Nigerian Civil War (1967-70). Nevertheless, some the decade's major achievements included the installation of a microwave radio transmission system to link the cities of Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Benin, and Port Harcourt, all of which are in the southern part of Nigeria's transmission system. Preparatory work toward the establishment of NET as a limited liability company started during this period as well.
2.1.2 The 1970s
The second decade of independence incorporated two five-year plan periods --Nigeria's second and third development plans.
18.104.22.168 The 1970-75 Plan Period
During the first half of the decade efforts were concentrated on the
reconstruction and rehabilitation of the telephone equipment and other infrastructure damaged during the civil war. In order to achieve the objectives of the second plan period, developments in five major areas were considered. In telephony, new autom atic exchanges were to be constructed and existing automatic exchanges expanded. New manual telephone exchanges were considered for construction as well. In telegraph communication, the torntape system was to be replaced with teleprinter automatic switchi ng systems, and key and sounder circuits were to be converted to teleprinters.
For Nigeria's transmission system, the plan considered construction of subsidiary radio routes to provide trunk services from tollcenters to end offices, construction of twisted pair carrier systems to provide links to rural areas, and provision of ad ditional coaxial routes for Lagos- Ibadan-IIlorin-Kaduna. The plans for Nigeria's external line plant included construction of a local line plant network for new subscribers and an increase in existing line plant to achieve the objectives of the expansion . Finally, the 1970-75 plan stipulated the establishment of a Nigerian Satellite Communications earth station at Lanlate in the southwestern part of Nigeria.
Due to underfunding, however, the only objective of the 1970-75 plan period that was completed was the national telex network.
22.214.171.124 The 1975-80 Plan Period
The third National Development Plan period (1975-80), was the most ambitious. It aimed at increasing the telephone facilities from 50,000 lines to 750,000 lines--an increase of about 1,400%. In the area of switching, three contracts were awarded to ad d over 340,000 lines to Nigeria's networks. In the first contract--for the contingency plan --forty-five locations were to receive exchanges with a total installation capacity of 162,000 lines and twelve other exchanges were to be expanded by 48,000 lines . In the second contract, covering turnkey projects, 147 locations were to receive external line plant and switching equipment to add an additional 121,000 lines. The third contract, covering mobile exchange, provided for installation of 29 mobile exchang es with 11,300 lines.
In the area of transmission, the following projects were considered: introduction of the Nigerian Domestic Satellite (DOMSAT) to provide television and sound broadcasting (later modified to accommodate telephony and teletype services between the state s); introduction of the aerostat (balloon) system, which was intended for television and sound broadcasting and telex and telephone services; provision of coaxial cable between Lagos and Kaduna; expansion of the existing microwave radio link system intend ed for telephone services as part of the contingency plan exchanges; and provision of new transmission links for the exchanges in the contingency plan not covered by existing radio links.
There were atleast six achievements associated with the 1975-80 plan. First, 177 locations were provided with telephone exchanges as well as twenty-nine mobile exchanges, increasing the number of lines in the network from 52,000 to 241,000 and the num ber of telex lines from 874 to 4,950. Second, the DOMSAT earth station project was completed. Third, work started on the aerostat balloon (which turned out to be a disaster). Fourth, a second satellite antenna was built at Lanlate, and this increased the global coverage of the external services. Fifth, an International Telephone Switching Centre (ITSC) was installed at the Nigerian External Communications (NECOM) house in Lagos. And finally, a new microwave link was provided between Lagos and Cotonou (Ben in Republic) and computerized telex, telegraph, and data switching centers were provided at NECOM House.
The 1975-80 plan period was not a complete success, however. The disastrous aerostat balloon project, which was abandoned, was a colossal waste of money. The proliferation of different technologies in the network made spare parts procurement difficult and complicated manpower training by limiting the number of personnel who could be switched from one part of the network to another. There was also a shortage of technical manpower to operate and maintain the additional facilities and a lack of adequate levels of finance to execute the projects.
The most serious problem, however, was bad planning. There was not adequate coordination between project management and implementation. Buildings were not available for the installation of purchased equipment, and vital links -- such as external line plants -- were omitted in the contract awarded.
The first half of the decade covered the fourth National Development Plan period (1980-85), which was essentially aimed at completing all outstanding projects from the previous plans. In addition to the primary objective, the development plan was desi gned to provide a total of 370,550 additional telephone lines, a terrestrial toll and trunk transmission network to link all switching centers throughout the country, and Telex/Gentex exchanges for about 9,000 telex lines with external line plant and tele printer machines. It was envisaged that the total number of installed telephone lines in Nigeria at the end of the plan period would increase to 612,000.
During this period, the telecommunications arm of the Department of Posts and Telecommunications was merged with the Nigerian External Telecommunications (NET) to form, in 1985, the Nigerian Telecommunciations Ltd. (NITEL), a limited liability company that today administers both internal and external telecommunications services in Nigeria.
3.0 THE PRESENT
3.1 The Existing Network
The Nigerian national telecommunications network of the mid-1990s is made up of the following elements:
The existing services offered by NITEL are telephony, telex and telex delivery services, telegraphy and registered telegraphic addresses, pay phones and public coin telephones, transmission and reception of real-time television for network services, p rivate leased telephone and telex service, private wire, leased telephone and telegraph services, alternate voice data (AVD) circuits, voice cast and press reception, international public counter services, NIFAX service (facsimile), a data switching syste m, electronic mail (national service only) and cellular.
126.96.36.199 Maritime Services
Niegria's shore-to-shore and ship-to-shore maritime communication services are provided via the High Frequency Radio System. The limitations of the present system are poor transmission quality, low reliability, and lack of automatic access to the nati onal telecommunications network. In 1988, Nigeria joined the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT), which operates a system of satellites to provide mobile communications for the world's shipping and off-shore industries. Through the IN MARSAT system, NITEL offers Maritime Mobile Service (MMS) as well as satellite mobile communication.
188.8.131.52 International Services
The international services provided by Nigeria's telecommunications system include telephony with international direct dialing in some cities, telex and telex delivery, telegraph and registered telegraph addresses, leased telephone and telegraph servi ces, television transmission and reception with system conversion facilities, alternate voice and data, voice cast, press reception, high-speed data transmission, and facsimile transmission facilities.
184.108.40.206 Scope of National Service
Nigeria's telephone penetration rate was still low, in 1994, at about 8 direct exchange lines (DELs) per thousand inhabitants. Its major challenge in extending its facilities continued to be the provision of telecommunication services in the rural are as, where there is little or no penetration. In the mid-1990s, however, the telecommunications facilities in the urban areas continued to be inadequate as well. Nigeria's telecommunications services--especially telephony--are not sufficient to meet the ne eds of all those who require them, especially in the big cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Kano, and so on. This has led to long waiting periods for obtaining facilities (which was above 10 years in 1993) and congestion of existing exchanges. Finally, new telecommunications facilities such as facsimile, international business services, and high-rate data transmission are not readily available.
Nevertheless, in recent years, attempts were made by the Nigerian authorities to spread the telecommunications facilities throughout the country, and in the mid-1990s all the twenty-one state capitals as well as Abuja and many of the 589 local governm ent headquarters were connected to the national network. The major obstacle hampering the extension of the system was lack of funds and absence of the engineering infrastructure needed for the development and production of spares and components.
220.127.116.11 Cellular Telephony
Cellular telephony was first introduced in 1992 with the formaton of Mobile Telecomunications Service (MTS). MTS is a joint-venture between Nitel and Digital telecommunications of Atlanta; in 1994, MTS had a nation-widemonopoly over cellular service. MTS began with a capacity of 10,000 linews; and due to the high level of unmet telecommunications demand, the system was filled to capacity within one year. Subsequently, in Febraury 1994, MTS added an additional 20,000 lines and had plans to add an addit ional 25, 000 lines. Even with this additional capacity, it is common to recieve a fast busy signal during peak hours due to network congestion.
Nigeria's cellular market is expected to grow at a rate of 25% annually through 1997. The major markets are in Lagos (among the young urban elite), the oil-based communities of Port harcourt and Warri; and the cities of Kano and Abuja. In 1992, the ma rket for cellualr equipment was US $5 million. In 1993, over half of the cellualr equipment was supplied by U.S. companies; and over half of the equipment purchased was produced by Motorola.
3.2 Institutional Structure
NITEL, which is fully owned by the Nigerian government was corporatized in May 1992, with the ultimate objective being full privatization. The present system seeks to protect the sovereignty and security of the country by keeping NITEL under governmen t control while, at the same time, making the telecommunications service less dependent on the government. The motivating force behind the decision to corporatize rather than privatize was the fear that control of the national network might be lost to for iegn companies.
Although the Nigerian government still provides funds for major capital projects, the conditions of service of telecommunications workers have been moved out of the civil service structure. The corporatization has also brought about increases in the c ost of telecommunications services in the country.
The administrative and policy matters of telecommunications remain with the Ministry of communications, which represents the country at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other international telecommunications organisations.
3.2.1 Management Structure of NITEL
In the mid-1990s, NITEL continued to operate under a board appointed by the government to serve various interests. The structure of the company is based on the three-tier system of territorial administration, zonal administration, and headquarters in order to decentralize functions and optimize operational efficiency. Abuja, the federal capital, and each of Nigeria's twenty-one states constitute a single territory, while Lagos constitutes two territories. There are five zones: the northwest, northeast , southwest, southeast, and Lagos, and each zone is made up of between four and six states or territories. The zones are semi-autonomous in their operations, however, the functions of the zones are coordinated at the center through the office of the manag ing director, who is the chief executive. The headquarters operates as six divisions.
3.3 Telecommunications Regulation
The Cable and Wireless Act of 1962 established the Ministry of Communications (the Ministry) as the regulatory body for telecommunications in Nigeria. The Ministry regulated Nitel until a decree in 1992 established the Nigerian Communication Commssion (NCC), which was charged with the duty of regulating the telecommunications sector. The NCC became operational in September, 1993. The NCC's is responsible for the following:
To participate in Nigeria's telecommunications sector a company must be either owned by a Nigerian citizen or be registered in Nigeria; the NCC hopes that this requirement will encourage joint ventures between foriegn companies and Nigerian companies. The NCC also requires that a licensee submitt technical and organizational plans that demonstrate a commitment to sustained service and that the equipment is compatitible with the existing infrastructure. Since the NCC was inauguarated, 42 licenses have been granted:
3.4 Telecommunications Financing
Almost all of Nigeria's telecommunications development plans since independence have suffered from underfunding. For example, during the first National Development Plan (1962-68), only 35 % of the expected expenditure was provided, and consequently on ly 40 % of the expected 60,000 lines were added to the network. Similarly, most of the objectives of the ambitious program under the third National Development Plan period (1975-80) could not be achieved partly because of underfunding.
Inadequate funding has continued to inhibit the rapid development of Nigeria's telecommunications since the creation of NITEL in 1985. The situation has worsened in recent years because of the large-scale devaluation of the national currency and the s hortage of foreign exchange with which to prosecute many projects. Worldwide inflation has also led to high prices for telecommunications equipment.
Nigeria's revenue from the provision of telecommunications is also still comparatively low because telecommunications service is inexpensive compared to the United States and other parts of the world. The initial telephone charge, for example, is abou t US$.10 for the first three minutes for local calls. Similarly, for international calls, the first three minutes cost about US$6.00.
Both Nigeria's telecommunications and electronics subsectors are in their infancy stages. Because domestic manufacturing input to telecommunications development is very small, large amounts of foreign funds are required for telecommunications projects . Export of electronic and telecommunications products is virtually nonexistent in Nigeria, and importation still continues on a large scale in sophisticated consumer electronics; telecommunications; and defense, computer, medical, and industrial electron ics. Domestic assembly also cannot fulfill the demand for simple consumer items, and importation is used to supplement the local production. It is worth noting that in Nigeria there is no industry in the electronic components manufacturing subsector.
inadequate capacity--this hindered considerably the rapid and cost-effective expansion of telephone service. Considering the size of the population and the level of economic development in the country, the number of installed telephone lines was seen to be grossly inadequate to meet demand, and the resulting inadequate capacity was responsible for poor call completion rates, subscriber dissatisfaction, and hence loss of revenue;
poor maintenance--this had contributed in no small way to the inefficient utilization of Nigeria's existing network. The maintenance problem itself was attributed to such factors as lack of or inadequate supply of tools, test equipment, and materials for maintenance; government policy on procurement of spare parts; poor maintenance organization; and the poor work attitude of maintenance personnel;
low revenue generation--the revenue being generated from the existing public telephone service was rather low in comparison to the cost of providing the service. This was attributed partly to inefficiencies in management, partly to unproductive use of capital, and partly to an inefficient billing system. Nitel's management believed that by adopting appropriate technology most of the technical aspects of these three problem areas could be solved. Accordingly, the administration opted for digital techno logy and sought suitable strategies for its introduction and implementation in the existing national network, athough the vast majority of the network was analog, personnel requirements for the new technology, and methods of financing the digitalization p rojects.
Nitel decided that the digitalization of the network would commence with the switches, to be followed later by the transmission aspects. Due to financing issues, the implementation of the digitalization was divided into three phases with the priority areas--mostly multiexchange areas and the international gateways--being digitalized during the first phase. It was also decided that Abuja, the nation's new capital, should be made a "digital island," that all existing analog switches should be gradually phased out, to be replaced at the end of their lifetime by a digital switch; and that all new exchanges would be digital. In addition, all further telecommunications expansion and development in Nigeria was to be digitalized in order to (a) surm ount the problems associated with maintaining the old analog network and (b) meet the increasing demand by customers for such services as facsimile, telex, data transmission, and the like. Most of these decisions were being implemented in the mid-1990s.
In addition to the existing telecommunications network administered by NITEL, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has also installed a cross-country high-capacity digital communication system for its pipeline operations. This system com bines two advanced or high-level technologies--microwave digital radio and optical fiber-- in a complementary rather than competing manner. The system consists of terrestrial microwave links in the riverine areas, like the delta region of the country and densely populated areas such as Lagos, and fiber-optic links in the larger part of the network. In the mid-1990s, the system was being highly underutilized given the low level of traffic being generated for the pipeline operations. It was therefore sugges ted that NITEL could utilize part of the system to supplement its own backbone system. In 1995, the five major foriegn oil companies, Shell, Chevron, AGIP and ELF, were leasing fiber-optic lines from NNPC in order to connect their oil fields with regional bases and computer centers.
3.7 Regional and Continental Collaboration
As a member of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Nigeria has been collaborating with the member nations of these organizations to develop telecommunications services at the subregional as well as continental levels. This collaboration has taken the form of meetings among the telecommunications engineers and planners of the various member countries to discuss the technical issues involved in planning, operating, and designing telecommuni cations systems suitable for use in Africa's environment.
The segment of the Pan-African Telecommunications Network (PANAFTEL) linking the eastern part of the continent with the western part passes through Nigeria and uses portions of its domestic network (see figure ?.3). The objective of the PANAFTEL is to provide the African continent with reliable and effective telecommunications systems that will enable telephone and telex circuits to be set up readily between any two African countries without the need to transmit through extra-African centers.
Convinced that the development of telecommunications is one of the essential requirements for the building of a meaningful ECOWAS organization, this subregional group has made the inter-telecommunication (INTERCOM) program one of its priority actions since it was initiated in 1979. The objective of the program is to link the capital towns of the member states through earth networks and microwaves and provide them all with an international transit center to facilitate automatic telephone communication among them. Nigeria continued to be an active participant in this endeavor in the mid-1990s.
The feasibility study of the Regional African Satellite Communications System (RASCOM) addressed the need for developing an African satellite for a comprehensive telecommunications network that would ensure reliable communication between African count ries. The findings of the study complemented the objectives of PANAFTEL and provided a viable option for achieving an effective and efficient telecommunication interlink within the continent. Nigeria embraced the study and has continued to participate act ively and fully in the work.
One effect of these regional collaborative activities was demand for a high level of performance on the part of the domestic network. Beyond that, however, the "big brother" role that Nigeria plays in African affairs makes it even more imper ative that she develop her telecommunications infrastructure for an efficient and reliable domestic service.
3.8 Pattern of Traffic between Nigeria and Other Countries
One study of Nigeria's international traffic indicated that Nigeria generates as much as 290 erlags of such traffic but that about 45 % of this is directed toward continents other than Africa. 40 % of this large traffic volume terminates in the United Kingdom, which has had a long-standing historical and economic bond with Nigeria. About 30 % of the traffic from Nigeria is now directed toward North America, a reflection of the growing trade relations between the two. There are very few direct circuits to other African countries.
Nigeria is geographically bounded in the south by the Atlantic Ocean and in the north, east, and west by French-speaking countries. By virtue of their different colonial experience, these Francophone neighbors have a trade and social outlook that is q uite different from that of Nigeria. Although there are terrestrial networks linking Nigeria with neighbors, most of these networks are either not operational or rarely availability.
4.0 PROCESS OF CHANGE
The emergence of electronic industry is gradually introducing new dimensions into the system. Now data transmission and electronic mail delivery although few have been added to the services. Computer communication has also been introduced and most est ablishments have now computerized their services and systems. Banking sector especially is now partially computerised. There is move to have intra-bank computer communication services for the clearance of cheques, but that has not yet taken off. The gover nment plans to increase the telecommunications services in the country. It is planned to increase the penetration to about 8.5 per hundred by the turn of the century. The government plans to achieve this by having manufacturers setting up manufacturing pl ants in the country. This requires rationalisation and selection of a number of technologies to be adopted in the country. This has not been decided on yet. The establishment of the Nigerian Communications Commission to regulate the telecommunication indu stry is a right step in the right direction.
In 1994, the NCC planned to expand the telecommunications services in the country, increasing penetration, for example, to about 8.5 per one hundred inhabitants by the turn of the century. In 1994, it disclosed plans to provide 1.2 million new lines b y 1997. As a part of this plan, the NCC intends to license several new cellular operators in order to reach a goal of 100, 000 cellular lines by the year 2000.
To do this, the government planned to have manufacturers set up plants in Nigeria, requiring as a result rationalization and the selection of a number of technologies for adoption in the country. By the mid-1990s, however, this plan had not yet been f inalized. The government also decided that for security reasons the telecommunications industry should be corporatized rather than privatized. The present 30 states and 589 Local Government Area structure of Nigeria has increased the pressure for provisio n of telecommunication services in Nigeria, because of the necessity to provide telecommunication facilities of the administrative Headquarters. About 70% of Nigerians reside in the rural areas, hence there is the urgent need for the provision of telecomm unication facilities for the rural areas in Nigeria.
The digitalisation of both the exchanges and transmission systems will continue at a rate determined by the availability of funds. In effect the analogue systems will be gradually phased out. Several new technologies (e.g. wireless system) are availab le for the rapid development of telecommunications in Nigeria and developing countries in general. The wired conventional system has led to long waiting period for telecommunication to be made available to urban areas such as Lagos and the rural areas. Th e use of wireless communication systems, both land based and satellite based will continue to play increasing role in future telecommunication development. For example, in Nigeria, the Celluphone (CELLUlar telePHONE), making use of cellular terminal with necessary interface has been adopted for the provision of rural telecommunications.
Nigeria may also take advantage of future introduction of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) mobile satellite systems such as IRIDIUM, Globalstar, etc to provide wireless telecommunication services in the country for both urban and rur al areas.
The paper has considered the development of telecommunications in Nigeria for a period of over one hundred years following the introduction of the technology into the country. The discussion has covered the state of the telecommunications during the c olonial era (before 1960) and the post independence period covering three decades (1960-1990). The objectives, achievements and failures of telecommunications during the five National Development Plans in the three decades have been highlighted. Other asp ects of the telecommunications sector considered are regional collaboration in telecommunications, local manufacturing facilities, telecommunication policy, adoption of new technology, financing facilities and the future prospects of the development of th e telecommunication sector.
It has been observed that the telephone penetration is low (about 0.8 DEL per hundred of population) and the available facilities exist mainly in the urban centres. The expansion of telecommunication facilities to the rural areas is receiving governme nt attention.
A gradual introduction of digital switches, digital radio as well as optical fibre transmission into the network has started. The local manufacturing of telecommunication components and equipment is at present low; however, government has started to t ake necessary actions to correct this imbalance by entering into joint ventures with foreign companies for the establishment of telecommunication industries in Nigeria.
In order to achieve the target of 8.5 DEL per hundred by the turn of the century a large amount of investment including foreign financing will be required. Options for sources of funding include subvention from the government to NITEL, contractor fina ncing and foreign loans from international agencies such as the World Bank, African Development Bank, etc.
The telecommunication scenario in Nigeria is not likely to be too different from what exists in many developing countries. It is necessary to give the utmost priority to the development of telecommunications in Nigeria because of its multiplying effec ts on industrial and economic growth.
AMEMBASSY, Lagos. Nigeria -- Telecommunications Overview.
Lagos: American Embassy, 1994