From a regulatory standpoint, the NCC, as the regulator of the country's telecommunications sector, constantly ensures that operators maintain and keep their networks running to provide qualitative voice and data services to their consumers.To achieve this, telecom operators deploy their infrastructure across the country. In most cases, telecoms facilities deployed by these service providers are located within the community, where people live and work. This is because, from a technical standpoint, proximity of this infrastructure to the end-user is key to the delivery of quality of service.Telecoms towers and fibre optic cables are part of this critical infrastructure, required to provide qualitative services to consumers. As often observed, towers are sited close to where people live and work, while fibre cables are laid along our streets and highways to carry data and voice traffic enjoyed by consumers on their mobile and fixed devices.

Damage to telecoms infrastructure

However, telecom towers and fibre optic cables are, sometimes, vandalised by criminal elements and vandals, who either steal or destroy these critical facilities. For instance, cases of theft of generating sets used in powering telecom towers/base stations are regularly reported by the service providers to the NCC.Similarly, underground fibre cables deployed by service providers are also excavated by criminals and carted away or inadvertently damaged by construction companies.

Result of damage on service delivery

Unfortunately, the RESULT of all these nefarious activities, vandalism and theft of telecoms infrastructure and damage result in erratic quality of service delivery. For instance, available reports from NCC show that in the second quarter of 2020, major mobile network operators (MNOs) in the country recorded 9,077 cases of service outages on their networks in the first.Of the 9,077 service outages recorded by the operators, 3,585 were caused by incidences of denial of access to telecoms sites for maintenance, 4,972 were triggered by incidences of fibre cuts from construction activities and vandalism while 520 cases were as a result of incidences of generator and battery theft at sites.The result of these is unexpected disruptions to operators' networks. These disruptions are characterised by drop calls, interferences and other instances of poor network connection and, sometimes, total service outage. All these result in unsatisfactory and frustrating service experience by the consumers!

Role of the telecom consumer

Without any doubt, telecom consumers are the ultimate end-users of services provided by their networks and they must demonstrate commitment to contribute to the collective efforts by government, through the NCC and the operators to protect telecoms facilities.In other words, consumers must see it as a point of duty to play the whistle-blowing role by alerting relevant law enforcement agencies such as the police, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other recognised community vigilance groups in cases of suspected theft or damage to telecoms infrastructure.This is the critical role telecoms consumers are expected to play in protecting telecoms facilities located in their community from being stolen and vandalised by criminal elements in order to not only prevent disruptions to services delivered to them by their respective networks in their areas but also have value for the money they spend on telecom services.