HISTORIC FRIDAY - When did Nigeria start using telephone?

The telecommunication industry history started in 1886. The first cable connected Lagos with London that year. The country was then governed by the Great Britain back then so it was important to have communication with colony states. The amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorate in 1914 linked telecommunication and post networks to form the basic national network.

The major changes came in 1923 when Calabar and Itu witnessed the commercial telephone service establishment and in 1952, there was an inner telephone line between Lagos and Ibadan which quickly extended to other Nigerian cities, but that was the connection between the country states and its London colonial center. Telegraph was also introduced along with fixed phone lines and Lagos’ first service of 60-users was established in 1960. This was an attempt to improve inner phone services because all external services were controlled and owned by the UK’s firm, Cable and Wireless. Our independence in 1960 allowed Nigeria to create it’s own phone and telegraph development. The Nigerian government wanted to install thousands of telephone lines to provide communication for private and industrial sector.
The Nigerian government then created five national development plans after independence followed by rolling plans before the establishment of the Nigerian Telecommunications LTD company (NITEL) in 1985. However, before its establishment, it was during the third national development plan period; 1975-1980 that significant efforts were made to address telecommunication development in the nation. The program includes:
·         Contingency plans under which new exchanges were to be provided in 45 locations with a total capacity of 162,000 multiple lines, while 12 other exchanges were to be extended to provide additional 48,000 lines.
·         PPHASE II: A turnkey project which provided for the provision of switching equipment and external line plants on turnkey basis in 147 locations. The exercise was to yield additional 121,000 lines.
It is important to note that up until NITEL’s establishment in 1985, the ministry of communications was responsible for planning, project execution, operation and maintenance of telecommunication facilities as well as provision of services, but with the enactment of ACT 75 of 1992, the policy formulating responsibility of the ministry has been separated from both the operating and regulatory activities in the industry.

The Telecommunication industry now consists of the following operatives;
·         The Federal Government of Nigeria
·         The Ministry of Information
·         The Nigerian Communication Commission
·         NITEL: The dominant monopoly carrier
·         Other licensed private telecommunication operators and service providers.
The federal Government is responsible for:
·         Giving overall direction for telecommunication development
·         Ensuring Telecommunication policy is consistent with other National policies
·         Enacting necessary laws consistent with the National Telecommunication policy.
The Ministry of Communications is responsible for broad telecommunication policy, which includes amongst others:
·         Proposing policy options and recommending appropriate legislation to Government.
·         Implementation of Government policy
·         Representing Government on international organizations e.g I.T.U, P.A.T.U, INMARSAT, INTELSAT
Nigerian Telecommunications LTD company (NITEL): their features includes
·         The National dominant carrier that still enjoys a monopoly status despite Government pronouncement on its privatization and the licensing of a second operator.
·         NITEL operates its second generation mobile GSM system under an NCC license.
Other Private Telecommunication Operators (PTOs)
·         This licensed group predeominantly offers wireless in the local loop services.
The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) as established by the   Act 75 of 1992 has its main objectives as follows:
·         Creating a regulatory environment to facilitate the supply of telecommunication facilities and services.
·         Facilitate the entry of private entrepreneurs into the telecommunication market
·         Promoting fair competition and efficient market conduct.
Other functions that became the responsibility of the NCC after the recent Telecommunication policy of the Obasanjo administration include:
·         Assignment and registration of radio spectrum to licensed operators
·         Administration of national numbering plan
·         Establishing mechanisms for promoting universal access to telecommunication services nationwide.
·         Enforcing technical standards and protection of consumers from unfair practices by licenses.

These reforms led to the development and advancement of the telecommunication sector especially in the area of wireless communication as June 8th was the first time a wireless call will be made first by Econet, then by MTN in August and Mtel later on. Thus, the evolution of the telecommunication industry began.

Compiled by the Niwco team. Learn more here

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