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Where to deploy masts? Nigeria's telcos may have to rethink strategy

Where to deploy masts? Nigeria's telcos may have to rethink strategy

Telcos operating in Nigeria could be in for another round of infrastructural redeployment - that is depending on the outcomes of a public hearing and response by the National Assembly on the issue of telecom masts placed close to residential areas.

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), supported by the Nigerian Society of Engineers and environmental groups, brought the issue to the attention of the lower legislative arm of government as they attribute some health hazards to the electromagnetic radiation from the masts which they claim could affect residents nearby.

NMA's Jimoh Kamaldeen said residents could be exposed to health problems including headaches, fatigue, low concentration levels and even cancer-related illnesses.

However, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) director of technical standard and network integrity Fidelis Onah said the claims lack scientific proof, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) finding.

According to Onah the WHO report concluded that there is no convincing scientific evidence to show that signals from base stations and wireless networks can have adverse health effect on people.

The National Assembly committee has meanwhile advised that stakeholders observe the prescribed distance between masts and residents.

The issue of the density of telecom masts installed above low residential buildings and in close proximity to residents is not new in Nigeria.

In 2012, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) shut down an MTN Group's base station on the grounds that it fell short of the agency's 2011 regulation which stipulates that a 10-metre distance be maintained from the perimeter wall of any premises to the base of the mast/tower for new facilities.

The NCC re-opened the base station insisting that it had the sole mandate to regulate the telecom industry and not NESREA, and the MTN base station had met its 5-metre setback regulation.

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