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The number of identified areas of clusters across Nigeria without access to telecommunications services has been reduced by 53.1 per cent as of the end of 2022.

This means in over a 10-year period (from 2013 to 2023) 27 million Nigerian continues to not have access to telecommunication services.

Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), disclosed this at a recent telecoms industry stakeholders forum in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state.

Danbatta, who was represented by Usman Mamman, the Head of Pre-Licensing at the Commission, revealed that the telecommunications industry had made substantial progress in bridging the access gaps.

Since 2013, the number of identified access gaps has gone down from 207 to 97, representing a reduction of 110 clusters, representing a 53.1 percent reduction.

Mamman said that as a result of this progress, the number of Nigerians residing in areas lacking telecom services, estimated to be 37 million in 2013, has been reduced to 27 million. The increased access to telecom services has enabled these previously excluded individuals to become digitally connected.

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Access gaps refer to the cluster of communities or grouped areas in different parts of the country that are bereft of access to telecom services and till date, the NCC has reduced clusters of access gap by more than half.

Danbatta said, “We have worked tirelessly to ensure we bring telecom services to people living in rural, unserved, and underserved areas of this country, totalling 37 million people courtesy of the consultancy that was conducted in 2013.

“By 2019, we had succeeded in reducing the clusters of access gaps to 114 through the deployment of the necessary infrastructure needed to bring services to people living in rural, unserved and underserved areas of the country. The deployment of infrastructure is in terms of base transceiver stations, which resulted in the reduction of Nigerians in those clusters from 37 million to 31 million in 2019.

“By 2022, we have reduced the clusters of access gaps to 97 from 207 in 2013. The number of Nigerians again have come down from 37 million in 2013 to 27 million as we speak. We achieved this by deploying, from 2009 to 2011, a total of 79 new base transceiver stations,” he said

Danbatta stated that in 2013 to 2018, the telecom sector also witnessed the deployment of additional 124 base transceiver stations while from 2019 to 2022, a total of 364 base transceiver stations were deployed.

“So far, the total number of base transceiver stations we have deployed to date between the time the access gaps were identified till the end of 2022 are 567,” he said.

While describing the reduction in access gap so far as a landmark, Danbatta, however, said the Commission will not rest on its oars as it strives to ensure that the remaining 27 million Nigerians, who currently lack access to telecoms services, are provided with services.

Meanwhile, the NCC Chairman said part the regulatory interventions of the Commission to bridge the remaining 97 access across the country to provide ubiquitous connectivity in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria are the issuance of the Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) Licences and the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) networks, among others.

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