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Subscribers Jittery Over Nationwide Network Collapse

Telecoms operators spend N6.30 billion per month for 42 million litres of diesel to power about 25,000 Transceiver Stations nationwide

Isaiah Onwuanumba

Subscribers are nervous as telecoms operators threatens to shutdown services nationwide over scarcity of diesel needed to power Base receiver Stations (BTS).

A number of people who spoke to The UNION said they are concerned that total communications collapse would mean bad news for businesses. They argue that many financial service and other related payment systems operate under telecoms platforms.

Showing our Correspondent a text message from Airtel that read: ‘‘Dear Valued Customer, this is to inform you that due to nationwide fuel crisis our services may experience some strains,’’ a subscriber who pleaded anonymity said it is obvious that operators are helpless in the face of the crisis and the overall impact would be on the masses.

The major issue facing the operators is that there hardly enough quantity to feed other 25000 diesel powered generators across the country.

Report has it that operators spend N6.30 billion per months for 42 million litres of diesel to power Transceiver Stations that ensure that 136 million subscribers continue to enjoy service. That amounts to some N75.6 billion annually to fuel generators that power BTS nationwide.

MTN Nigeria has indicated that it may shut down operations across Nigeria from May 25, 2015, following its announcement of diesel shortage on Saturday, May 23.

Following the deepening fuel crisis that has grounded the Nation, MTN Nigeria had earlier announced that it may shut down operations if unable to receive a significant diesel supply within 24 hours.

The telecoms giant made the announcement on twitter, meaning if the situation remains, the Mobile operator might be forced to close down its stations across the country, the development which may incite fresh violence by Nigeria.

According to a statement by the MTN Nigeria Corporate Services Executive, Akinwale Goodluck, “MTN’s available reserves of diesel are running low and the company must source for a significant quantity of diesel in very near future to prevent a shutdown of services across Nigeria.”

It added, “If diesel supplies are not received within the next 24 hours the network will be seriously degraded and customers will feel the impact.”

However, fear mounts among Nigerians that if the fuel scarcity is not tackled as quick as possible, other major mobile phones operators – Glo, Etisalat and Airtel may be confronted with the same fate as MTN Nigeria.

Hours after MTN Nigeria announced that its stations across the country may be closed down due to the ongoing fuel crisis, mobile service provider has indicated that its users may experience difficulties.

In what seems like a subtle way to say its network may be unavailable if the fuel shortage reaches its peak, Airtel sent out messages via SMS to its users to expect “some strain” on its services. “Dear valued customers, this is to inform you that due to nationwide fuel crisis our services may experience some strain. We are doing everything possible to manage the situation. Thank you for understanding.”

According to President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, most of the telecom towers stations use the diesel to power the global system for mobile communications (GSM), code division multiple access (CDMA) and 4G internet service providers to deliver services to their customers.

The Union gathered that that a colocated tower which houses 3 to 5 base stations use 27KVA generator to supply power while a tower that houses a single base station uses 15KVA generator.

Speaking further, Ajayi noted that ‘‘a 27KVA generator consumes 3 litres of diesel per hour depending on the age of such generator, which means that 20,000 of co-located towers in the country that uses 27KVA generator consumes some 1.2million litres of diesel a day, while towers that house single base station which are 5,000 consume 200,000 litres of diesel a day bringing the total consumption of generators deployed in towers around the country to 1.4m litres per day.’’ It was learnt that this quantity of diesel consume by generators at different towers cost tower operators about N196million at diesel pump price of N140 per litre.

“Most towers are powered by generators and the cost of gas is high, they provide security at the towers. These are outside the control of co-location operators.’’

Commenting on this matter, Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, said the issue of power represents the biggest challenge to the industry. He explained that the present system of handing over towers to tower operators would create more jobs as it encourages springing up of supportive players in the industry.

‘‘Power is a challenge for tower operators, as cost of diesel is high; today you buy N140 per litre tomorrow you buy it for N150. These costs are not insignificant and affect the business,” Adebayo added.

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