Telcos Threatened As Facebook, Google Plan Subsea Cable

African telecommunications companies are feeling threatened by plans for Facebook and Google to construct new submarine cables.By Punch Nigeria
June 8, 2020

Telecoms operators have expressed worry that the unchecked deployment of undersea cables and fibre optic infrastructure in Nigeria will threaten their survival.

They said that free access to Internet services that Over The Top players such as Facebook offered was a threat to the investments of mobile network operators.

They made this known while responding to recent news that Facebook in collaboration with a group of telecom companies are set to connect Nigeria and 22 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe to the Internet by laying a large subsea cable with about 180Tbps capacity by 2024.

Also, Google had last year announced plans to build a new private subsea cable that would connect Africa with Europe, with its first landing in Nigeria by 2021.

Google said the subsea cable, called Equiano, which was named after a Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist, Olaudah Equiano, would run between Portugal and South Africa.

The Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Mr Gbenga Adebayo, said Over The Top players like Facebook and Google did not have tax obligations to the government in countries where they operate unlike mobile network operators.

According to him, most of the revenue generated by OTT players are from advertisement while they make Internet access free to end-users.

Adebayo said, “Virtual operators like Facebook are organisations that mainstream operators have to watch out for because a number of services they render today are free of charge. Their revenue is mostly from advertisement. They don’t have tax obligations; they don’t have any obligation like the conventional licensee have to the government.

“If they should come with this service that is free end-to-end, it will be a significant threat to the survival of the mainstream operators.”

He noted that while there was sufficient capacity from the undersea cables on the shores of the country, the main challenges that needed to be addressed urgently was the nationwide fibre optic backbone to reach the last-mile.

“Right now, we have enough broadband capacity on the seashores but we have not been able to transfer such capacity to the hinterland. Unless that problem is solved, we will not feel the positive impact of such additional traffic pipes coming in,” Adebayo said.

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