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Network access and interconnection
What rules, requirements and procedures govern network-to-network access and interconnection?
Network-to-network access and interconnection rules can be found under the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 and in regulations and guidelines issued by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The relevant regulations and guidelines include:
- the Telecommunications Networks Interconnection Regulations 2007;
- the Guidelines on Procedure for Granting Approval to Disconnect Telecommunications Operators;
- the Guidelines on International Gateway Access and Voice over Internet Protocol; and
- the Guidelines on the Technical Standards for Interconnectivity of Networks.
The Nigerian Communications Act and related regulations and guidelines include the following rules:
- where a network services or facilities provider receives a request for interconnection from another licensee, it is obligated to interconnect the party making the request pursuant to terms and conditions negotiated by the parties in good faith;
- all interconnection agreements must be in writing and registered with the NCC by either or both parties within 30 days from the date of the execution of the agreement;
- the agreement must comply with the principles of:
- fair competition;
- universal coverage;
- access to information;
- equality of access; and
- equal terms and conditions;
- the terms of the interconnection agreement must primarily be agreed on by the parties and the NCC must only become involved:
- at the request of either or both parties;
- where there is no consensus;
- in the public interest; or
- where the agreement is in contravention of any law or regulation; and
- a party to an interconnection agreement is prohibited from disconnecting the other party, notwithstanding the provision of the interconnection agreement, without prior written approval from the NCC. All disconnections and requests to disconnect must comply with the Guidelines on Procedure for Granting Approval to Disconnect Telecommunications Operators.
In relation to access, a network facilities or service provider must grant access to its facilities after receiving a reasonable request to do so. The rules on interconnection also apply to the provision of access.
Are access/interconnection prices subject to regulation?
Yes, under the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 and in the public interest, the NCC determines voice interconnection rates to be applied by all fixed and mobile operators, both in concluded agreements and when negotiating interconnection agreements. Voice interconnection rates currently comply with the Determination of Voice Interconnection Rates issued in 2013 by the NCC.
How are access/interconnection disputes resolved?
The Nigerian Communications Act gives the NCC the power to resolve disputes between operators. Parties must attempt to resolve disputes through negotiations before involving the NCC. If negotiations fail, any of the parties to the dispute can notify the NCC in writing and request its intervention. Parties to an interconnection agreement may appeal to the NCC when there are unnecessary delays in concluding an interconnection agreement or in agreeing changes to an existing agreement.
When resolving disputes the NCC is not bound by technicalities, legal form or rules of evidence and acts in accordance with the ethics of justice and on the merits of each case. The NCC may also refuse to intervene when the issues of the dispute are deemed to be frivolous or trivial. The decision, reasoning, terms and conditions of any resolved dispute must be made in writing and copies provided to the parties by the NCC as soon as is practicable. The decision of the NCC is binding on the parties involved and can be enforced by a court in the same way as a court judgment.
A party may appeal the decision to the Federal High Court. However, the decision remains binding until the final determination of the appeal.
If a party continues to default on its obligations under an interconnection agreement, after exhausting all options in the agreement, the non-defaulting party can apply to the NCC for a disconnection of the defaulting party. However, the process for disconnection under the Guidelines on Procedure for Granting Approval to Disconnect is complicated.
In addition to the Nigerian Communications Act, the NCC has issued Rules for the Arbitration of Interconnection Issues and Disputes to govern the arbitration of open or unresolved interconnection issues. The arbitration process is commenced by the filing of a petition for arbitration by the petitioning party where the negotiating process fails to reach an agreement within a period of 90 days. The non-petitioning party may respond to a petition for arbitration within a period of 21 days after the petition has been filed. Where the non-petitioning party fails to file a response to the petition, the arbitrator will proceed to determine the matter based on the documents before it in accordance with the provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act and the applicable regulations and guidelines.
The arbitral panel must act fairly and impartially and give each party an opportunity to present its case and respond to that of its opponent. A final award must be delivered no later than six months after the commencement of the petition. The arbitrator may issue an interim ruling where a dispute directly affects the ability of a party to continue to provide an uninterrupted service to its customers.
Have any regulations or initiatives been introduced or proposed with respect to next-generation access?
There are no specific regulations targeted at next-generation access in Nigeria.
What rules and procedures govern telecoms operators’ access to land (both public and private) to install, maintain and repair infrastructure?
Access to install, maintain and repair infrastructure on both public and private land is in most instances made through a leasing or right of way arrangement. The obligations and responsibilities of both parties are outlined in the negotiated leasing or right of way arrangement and usually a rental fee applies. Access to install, maintain and repair infrastructure is therefore regulated by any negotiated and agreed terms.
Are infrastructure sharing agreements among operators popular and/or encouraged by the regulatory authorities? Which infrastructure sharing structures/agreements are commonly used? Do any regulations apply?
The regulatory authorities actively encourage collocation and infrastructure sharing. They have released the Guidelines on Collocation and Infrastructure Sharing, which define a predetermined framework with the intention of removing uncertainty and create an environment for better co-operation between operators.
The authorities continue to encourage and promote the sharing of:
- rights of way;
- antenna masts;
- tower structure ducts;
- trench spaces in buildings; and
- electric power (both public and private sources).
The authorities have issued several licences for infrastructure sharing and collocation to service providers.
The authorities have expressed an intention to licence seven infrastructure companies (infracos) to support the acceleration of the provision of broadband coverage throughout Nigeria. The infracos plan to deploy broadband network infrastructure in their areas of coverage on an open access, non-discriminatory and price-regulated basis. Two licences have already been issued for the Lagos and North Central zone.
The major mobile network operators in Nigeria have undertaken various sale and leaseback arrangements transferring ownership and or management of part or all of their network infrastructure to independent infrastructure providers who are contractually permitted to enter into leasing and collocation arrangements with third-party operators.
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