By Samson Echenim
The cost of repairing a damaged submarine cable could be as high as $3 million for a single fault. This has prompted the Association of Submarine Cable Operators of Nigeria (ASCON) to seek the partnership of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to protect submarine fibre optic cables as critical infrastructure in the telecom industry.
Ifeloju Alakija, who led members of the association on a visit to the NCC, said it had become necessary for the regulator to intervene in ensuring that submarine cables are protected from damages resulting from external aggressions occasioned by human maritime activities that impact the seabed such as ship anchoring, dredging and harmful fishing practices like bottom trawl fishing, etc.
Alakija also noted that over the years, the five operators of submarine cable in the country had collectively experienced a total of 13 damages to their submarine cable infrastructure.
“We are seeking areas of possible collaboration with NCC towards achieving solutions to the challenges within the submarine cable segment of the Telecoms industry.
“We would also be happy to hear your perspectives on some of the key issues regarding the management, operations, and protection of submarine cable infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure in Nigeria.
“In Nigeria, we have the benefit of having five of such cables landing on our shore and delivering over 40 terabytes of internet traffic capacity. These cables are the SAT3 cable, MainOne cable, Glo1 cable, ACE cable, and WACS cable, landed by Natcom, MainOne, Glo 1, Dolphin Telecom and MTN,” Alakija said.
He said most of the damages were caused by fishing and shipping activities, dredging and trawling among others, while challenges of unapproved new pipeline installations, unguided maintenance of pipelines and revamping of unused old blocks also affect the operations of the sector.
He assured that the association would further partner with other regulators and associations such as Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Petroleum Exchange (NipeX), Shippers Council, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), and Trawlers Association of Nigeria (TAN) to address the challenges facing the sector.