The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that no fewer than 100 million Nigerians currently access the internet, even as the nation has attained 33.7 per cent broadband penetration compared to the last four years which stood at 8.5 per cent. PHILIP CLEMENT writes on challenges and prospects ahead of the 70 per cent penetrations target.
Despite a huge deficit between access to information and internet penetration across the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, NCC has affirmed its commitment to achieving 70 per cent broadband penetration in the next five years.
The regulator in the telecommunication industry (NCC) has over the years been faced by two disturbing issues; the first is the provision of Infrastructure, while the second and the crucial one is accessibility.
Viable Window for Foreign Direct Investment
The broadband sector is one the sector that if properly harnessed, can serve as a huge source of massive Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country, because of the broadband usually uses various mediums to transfer data, among which includes Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), Cable Modem, Fiber, Wireless, Satellite, Broadband over Powerlines (BPL) among others.
As such, there is an urgent need for huge investment inflow into the broadband segment in order to boost the capital investment base of Nigeria.
Statistics from KPMG, a global consultancy firm had also suggested that over the next five years, Nigeria would need to push for an average investment of N2 billion yearly into its telecoms sector towards building a robust next-generation broadband network nationwide.
This will automatically represent an investment of about $10 billion spread over the next five years.
Similarly, the World Bank has revealed that in developing countries like Nigeria, a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration can boost economic growth to a reasonable level.
Although Nigeria has attained a reasonably large broadband capacity which naturally could have transformed into high internet access by her citizens, but experts have pointed out that industry challenges were as a result of low access and poor internet usage.
In fact, statistics have shown that there are several reasons for inadequate broadband penetration in the country, just as stakeholders in the industry have on different occasions argued that poor government policies and its subsequent implementation is one of the chief reasons why Nigeria hasn’t gained more broadband penetrations.
They believe that the role of government in improving internet access growth and development has not been in accordance with many formulated policies by various Government agencies.
Also, the competitive nature of the broadband market has seen different organizations and companies claim to provide broadband internet service to customers, but disappointedly these services are marred by poor internet service which usually disrupts penetration.
Similarly, expertise has been a challenging issue, there are few experts operating in the area field of access technology (Microwave, Fibre optic, satellite) available in the country and this has affected its spread across the board. Most often the unskilled workers damage other’s already deployed infrastructure like fibre optic cable and installed satellite
Further checks, also, showed that there is still a fragile growth in the information and communication technology, which often leads to a call for a proactive national policy on broadband infrastructure, amongst other factors that is hurting broadband penetration in the country.
All these can be changed if only our Government can pay more attention to this sector so as to make Nigeria one of the topmost leading countries in broadband penetration.
In a bid to address challenges of broadband penetration across the country, the NCC has again reiterated its commitment to steady broadband penetration irrespective of location.
The Executive Vice-Chairman (ECV/CEO) of the NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, made the commitment at the opening session of the First Digital Africa Week organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and hosted by the NCC last week in Abuja.
The Commission admitted its awareness of the key role broadband penetration will play in actualizing deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices ad Smart Services in any economy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which informed it’s the decision to come up with a framework to facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure in the country.
Danbatta told the gathering of global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts, that the Commission’s framework for broadband infrastructure led to licensing of six infrastructure companies (INFRACOS) for North East, North West, South East, South West, South-South and Lagos.
He hinted that the process for licensing a seventh INFRACO for the North Central including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, has been concluded and the licence ready for award very soon as the INFRACOS will deploy metro and intercity fibre and broadband point of access with a minimum capacity of 10 gigabits per second (10 Gbps) across the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria.
“With the development of Smart Cities Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by the ITU, it is imperative to have a pervasive and ubiquitous broadband infrastructure across all our towns and cities to achieve the objectives of making them Smart,” Danbatta said.
According to the head of the regulatory body, “Nigeria has not only achieved but exceeded the 30 per cent penetration target set by the National Broadband Plan (NBP) (2013 – 2018) and at the end of July 2019, our broadband penetration stood at 33.72 per cent, NCC will continue to work hard to ensure that all citizens of Nigeria have access to affordable broadband connection irrespective of location.
He based his submissions on the digital transformation agenda of the Federal Government anchored which is anchored on availability, accessibility and affordability of broadband.
In the area of ensuring compliance to full broadband penetration, Danbatta said “We’ve put in place Broadband Implementation Committee (BIMC) to monitor the full implementation of the INFRACO Projects within the four-year implementation plan,”
According to him, “we have finalized negotiations on the Counterpart Funding to INFRACOS to support the deployment of the broadband infrastructures on which the Smart Services and other emerging technologies will be hosted,” the EVC said,
adding that “this is in tandem with the 8-point agenda of the NCC and declaration of the present Administration for the provision of ubiquitous broadband infrastructures across the country in the Next Level document.”
The 1st Digital African Week was held the same time with ITU-T Study Group 20 and Study Group 5 Regional Group, and Smart Sustainable Africa and Forum on Human Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs).
The federal government through the NCC after exceeding the initial target of 30 per cent National broadband plan in December 2018 has now set a new 70 per cent penetrations target.