By Martin Ekpeke
No doubts, the Internet and broadband have been globally acknowledged and inextricably linked as the foundation for a sustainable economy and an enabler for sustainable development in terms of job creation, revenue increase for the government and ultimately, wealth creation for a country.
In fact, with the availability of Internet, many entrepreneurs, especially in the areas of electronic commerce and most recently gaming, have been able to sell their products and services effectively, with some giving offer deals such as 1xbet promo code to those who are interested.
This, Nigeria understands and decided to leverage, coming up with a National Broadband Plan (2013-2018), which set a target of a five-fold increase (30% fixed broadband penetration) by the end of 2018. The objectives of the plan are to promote pervasive broadband deployment, increase broadband adoption and usage and ensure availability of broadband services at affordable prices.
So far, this target has not been met. Four months to the end of 2018, the Nigerian Communications Commission, the country’s telecom regulator disclosed that what has been achieved is threshold of the target, representing 22 percent.
The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC disclosed, Professor Umar Danbatta, who disclosed this in a session with some Journalists in Abuja recently, noted that the 22 percent was achieved in a space of four years as Nigeria’s broadband penetration was between 4 to 6 percent in 2013 when the target was set.
“As it stands, Nigeria’s broadband penetration, according to the ITU/UNESCO policy forum, is currently at 22 percent, indicating that the minimum target to reach 20 percent by 2017 was met,” he announced during the session.
He promised that a new figure on broadband penetration will be released by the International Telecommunications Union/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization policy forum by September 2018.
The increase in the broadband penetration can largely be attributed to several interventions by the telecom regulator. Some of these interventions include licensing of wholesale infrastructure companies (InFraCos) to complement existing ones on an open access model basis, the development of framework for spectrum trading and the policy on national roaming and active engagement of stakeholders to remove impediments to infrastructure deployment.
Also, the effort to meet the broadband target is based on the knowledge that pervasive broadband access is central to boosting the gains of the digital age, as broadband access helps to accelerate economic development and boost country’s Gross Domestic Product.
But industry watchers believe this is relatively poor, owing to the fact that three submarine cables in Nigeria worth $7billion investment are underutilized, making the country to rank 143/176 in 2017 ITU ICT Index. Nigeria has sound broadband policies, but the execution is poor. Broadband policy, which set fixed broadband targets of 30 percent by 2018 can be said to have been delayed for five years.
To achieve the desired broadband penetration, experts argued that Nigeria would need additional 120,000 kilometere of fibre access to the 20,000 already built by Mobile Network Operators for voice traffic and not for open access.The under-developed national networks, and dearth of effective policies, have manifested in a gross under-utilization of 5+ submarine cables with limited internet adoption. This can be likened to a man who fell into the river, yet thirst for water.
Nigeria can only benefit from the digital revolution when broadband is better understood and appropriate regulatory regimes deployed to increase the rollout of critical infrastructure.
Overview of National Broadband Plan (2013-2018)
Broadband in Nigeria has come a long way from the 340 GB total capacity of SAT 3 single international submarine cable system in 2001, to about 11TB (with capacity for 19TB), provided by 5 subsea operators today. Based on this, Nigeria sets an auspicious target to achieve 30 percent broadband penetration by the end of 2018 in line with the National Broadband Plan 2013-2018.
The key objectives of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan are to promote pervasive broadband deployment; increase broadband adoption and usage; and ensure the availability of broadband services at affordable prices. All these are aimed at maximising the political and socioeconomic benefits of broadband.
It is intended during the period of this plan to see more than a fivefold increase in internet and broadband penetration figures. It is also intended that all state capitals and urban cities have metro fibre infrastructure installed. On a national scale, it is the intention of government to facilitate full rollout by operating companies of 3G networks as a minimumon all base stations by 2015.
This will ensure that Nigerian citizens will enjoy World Class wireless broadband access as a basic medium for the society. Broadband is an essential right and basic utility for societal transformation and development, necessary for all segments of society.
Broadband in Nigeria: Quick facts
- Broadband penetration currently is 22 percent
- National target of 30percent broadband penetration by 2018
- Circa 11 Terabytes of capacity in Nigerian landing points
- Mobile internet penetration: 97million of population
- By 2018, 80percent internet connections via wireless/mobile broadband, 20 percent via fixed fiber-optic line
- NCC InfraCo licenses for Lagos, North Central, South East and North East
- 32b FDI made by Telcos, Service Providers etc since 2001
Work done so far
Bitflux won 30 MHz Frequency In The 2.3 GHz Band for the delivery of broadband wireless. MTN won for 2.6GHz
MainOne & IHS won InfraCo for Lagos & North Central. Zinox and Brinks also announced to build South East, North East respectively. This signifies an opportunity to deepen infrastructure investments in Nigeria and to assure that the Broadband future which is critical to the growth of the economy is achieved.
The NgREN, the national REN for Nigeria established to provide connectivity infrastructure and service layers for innovation in teaching and research in Nigeria
The Universal Service Provision Fund was established by the Federal Government of Nigeria to facilitate the widest possible access to telecommunications services for greater social equality and inclusion for the people of Nigeria
They have been significant achievements under the FMCT/NCC-led Broadband agenda. However, much to be done. This gave Bitflux required spectrum to expand wireless broadband access across the country to ISP’s and other Retail Telecom Service Providers for the provision of retail high speed internet access services.
Nigeria compares to South Africa & Kenya
Held back for many years by an expensive operating environment created by Telkom’s dominance in the fixed-line market, today South Africa has four submarine cables. Even as deregulation and entry of Neotel as 2nd fixed-line operator and infrastructure operators like Dark Fibre Africa, FibreCo and Vumatel + MNOs such as Vodacom abd Cell C, also paved the way for South Africa to remain the largest hub of foreign direct investment (FDI) on the continent.
Like Nigeria, Kenya launched its broadband policy in 2013. Today, te East Africa country has five submarine cables with 67 percent internet population. The Kenya government is also building its fibre optic submarine cable, “The East African Marine System (TEAMS)”.
To catch up with South Africa and other African economies thriving with the aid of national broadband plans, Nigeria needs to expedite actions and take steps to assure broadband target of 30% penetration and vision 20: 20:20 is achieved without further delay