*Nigerian Government insists it is possible to hit 8% broadband in 6 months and that 54 million citizens must have access to high speed internet by year end
Apex industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has revealed that there is a solution in sight to the lingering Right-of-Way issues in the country and insists that 30% oof 180 million Nigerian population must have access to broadband internet by December 2018.
The Country has so far hit 22% broadband access and NCC said the 30% is possible as Government is set to overcome the biggest impediment to laying of fibre optics cable that would link robust internet to individual and households across the country.
In 2013, Nigeria through the Presidential Committee on Broadband developed a five-year strategy to drive internet and broadband penetration and scale up the nation’s broadband growth by 30 percent.
Our Correspondent gathered according to NCC that the 5-year plan is achievable as Nigerian state governors appeared to buy into the initiative of laying fibre which would cover upto 18000 km in Nigeria in order to reach a third of the population with highspeed internet.
Right of Way Issues have been the greatest barrier to taking broadband internet to the last mile, or homes and individuals across the country as states and communities demand excessive payment from investors before they could lay cables to the communities, fees to exorbitant to pay.
NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Professor Umar Danabatta, said “it appears there is a solution in sight as Professor, Yemi Osinbajo , Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria had a meeting with Nigeria Governors Forum and he used the opportunity to make a presentation to them in respect of Right of Way and the Governors appeared to buy into the initiative of laying fibre which would cover up to 18000 km in Nigeria and the initiative would be solely driven by the Vice President and with this initiative, solutions shall be proffered to the challenges caused by right of ways and the 30% broadband penetration target set would be met and surpassed.”
The NCC boss further said that the ACommission has appointed some operators to lay this fibre including MainOne, IHS Nigeria Limited, Broadbased among others.
He also spoke on some benefits that come with high broadband penetration and emphasized the need for quality critical infrastructure. He said high broadband penetration would drive education Sector, health sector, financial sector, transportation sector and agriculture sector, he there said a concerted effort must be directed towards broadband penetration in Nigeria. He said if critical infrastructures are allowed to be situated in all Nigerian states it would create a win –win situation for both states government and operators. The Digital Transformation would change our country socially, economically and it would further lead to youth empowerment, foster e-learning, and open our society more.
A number of industry expersts have pointed to the urgent need for broadbased collaboration to ensure the nation meets the 5-year internet strategy that ends 2018.
Managing Director of Rack Centre, Mr. Ayotunde Coker said achieving the 30% penetration target by the end of 2018 under the National Broadband plan (NBP 2013-2018) will require the collaboration of the government and the private sector.
according to him, “failure to achieve stakeholders’ collaboration and promote the broadband target as a national priority may mean that the target will be unrealizable.”
He also added that “Government needs the private sector and must put the broadband agenda at the top of its ‘to-do’ list if it truly desires to drive a national broadband agenda to grow the economy across sectors.”
This is expecially significant because to multiplier effects of broadband access to nations economy across the globe.
Our Correspondent gathered according to reports that “research has shown that in emerging economies, 10% broadband penetration can drive GDP by about 1.8%. So, achieving every 10% penetration impact on GDP, to grow our GDP to about 6 or 7%, is a national thing. This will get us more access to data, education, more efficient health system, more efficient schools and that will give Nigeria a systemic uplift. So, let us get the core of achieving the 30% impact on the GDP and then drive it forward as a national priority.”
With the second quarter of the year winding up and broadband penetration still at 22%, stakeholders are divided on the possibility of achieving the target by the end of the year.
The broadband target of 30% by the end of this year can happen when government tacklet and put an end to some inhibitors to internet access.
Issues of multiple taxation, right of way issues, provision of an enabling environment for the private sector and need to remove those structural policies that affect InfraCos. There should be tax incentives to deliver broadband connectivity by InfraCos. When these are done, there will be an increased penetration of broadband.
Submarine broadband cable investments by private concerns like MainOne, Glo 1, West African Cable System,WACS and ntel’s South Atlantic Three (Sat 3), have a volume of terabytes lying fallow on the shores of Lagos while the country struggles fruitlessly to achieve last mile deployment. Broadband service providers have attributed this to the inability of the Federal and state governments to harmonise the Right of Way (RoW) levies that give operators access to deploy services.
The National Economic Council Right-of-Way guideline stipulates N145 per metre for laying fibre network in every part of the country. But it is observed that states have arbitrarily fixed their own charges which range between N1,500 and N6000.While states like Rivers and Abia, charge N1,500 and N2,000 respectively, others like Lagos, Delta and Ogun charge up to N5840, N4,600 and N6,500 respectively.
NCC NCC stated that there are about 33,000 2G, 29,000 3G and 4000 LTE sites deployed as at April 2018.
As part of the initiative to achieve the National Broadband Plan, target for broadband penetration, NCC said the commission had licensed and auctioned frequency spectrum to some new and existing licensees. Some of the firms, our Correspondent gathered, include Bitflux Communication Limited (Bitflux), MTN Communications Limited, Intercellular Nigeria Limited among others. He explained that the Mobile Network Operators, MNOs, have deployed about 52,000 kilometres of fiber optic cables as at April 2018.
Furthermore, the commission, through the Universal Service Provision Fund, USPF, is implementing the following access and connectivity programmes for the under-served and un-served areas across the country which include: BTRAIN-Backbone Transmission Infrastructure of over 3,250km of fiber across six geo-political zones-Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) :155 BTS sites.
It is hoped that Government intervention will put an end to the lingering issues of Right-of-Way and bring fast, robust internet access to 180 million citizens.