Nigeria’s long-delayed National Rural Telephony Programme (NRTP) is set to finally launch later this year, in a bid to address the lack of access to telephony services in rural parts of the country, ITWeb Africa reports. According to John Ayodele, director of Posts and Telecommunications at the Ministry of Communication Technology (MCT), the USD200 million project is expected to begin in April, once the ministry receives final confirmation to hand the NRTP over to the winners of a tender to operate the networks across the country. ‘The MCT is committed to the conclusion of this transaction. We have included it in our 2014 budget of the ministry and we are waiting for budgetary approval,’ Ayodele said, adding: ‘When our budget for the year is approved, all that we need to do is to get federal executive council to rectify President Goodluck Jonathan’s approval of the transaction. Once all these are done, we are looking at handing over the networks to the preferred bidders by April this year.’
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that five PTOs – Key Communications, Suburban Broadband, Voicewares Network, Gicell Wireless and Hezonic – were contracted in December 2008 to operate the NRTP networks on behalf of the government, after a competitive bidding process which involved 54 telecoms firms. Under the terms of the deal, the CDMA networks are leased to the PTOs to operate and manage under a public private partnership (PPP) arrangement. Key Communications bid USD38 million to manage the lines in Ibadan zone, while Suburban Broadband paid USD140.5 million to manage the networks in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Enugu and Kadana zones. Voiceware Networks, meanwhile, agreed to pay USD30 million to operate lines in Enugu zone, with Hezonic and Gicell bidding USD30 million and USD20 million respectively to manage the network in Enugu and Bauchi zones. Since then, limited progress on the implementation of the NRTP has been made, with one of the bidders claiming that the programme had been ‘slowed down by bureaucracy’.