Nitel strike hits Nigerian networks

Incumbent operator forced to close country’s only fibre optic cable amid strike action

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By  Roger Field Published  February 3, 2009

A strike by workers at Nitel, Nigeria’s incumbent telecom operator, has brought the country’s international communications traffic to a near standstill. The strike forced the operator to shut down Nigeria’s only international fibre optic cable, SAT-3, leaving businesses unable to trade and causing additional congestion on other networks.

Gateway Communications, a Nigeria-based provider of carrier services, is offering its customers alternative connectivity via satellite to high speed connections to the global internet backbone, while other operators, including MTN, have warned their customers to expect delays to internet services.

Nitel, which was taken over by Nigerian business conglomerate Transcorp in 2007, has been beset by problems in recent years and strike action appears to be increasing.

In September 2008, Transcorp was told publicly by Nigeria’s telecoms regulator, the NCC, to improve the operational capability of Nitel's mobile division Mtel, while a few months earlier the regulator expressed concern after strike action forced Nitel to shut down its network.

Workers at the company also went on strike for nine days in June 2006, allegedly over months of unpaid salary. The strike took place just before the government was planning to finalise the privatisation of the company.

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