On August 4, 2015, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the regulatory authority for telecommunications in Nigeria. He was subsequently confirmed by the Senate on November 25, 2015. Since then, the professor of telecom engineering has worked with the support of the Board, Management and staff of the Commission to consolidate on the achievements of his predecessors at the telecom regulatory agency.
Precisely on August 4, 2015, Danbatta was appointed by the President and subsequently confirmed by the Senate on November 25, 2015 in line with the provision of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003, following thorough and rigorous screening by the Senator Gilbert Nnaji-led Communications Committee of the Senate.
Danbatta’s job as the umpire of the telecoms industry was affirmed for a five-year tenue in the first instance, as stipulated in the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003. It is evident, four years and few months into the five-year term, Danbatta has left nobody in doubt about his competence as a regulator per excellence, having continued to provide the right and leadership at NCC.
On assumption of office at the NCC’s architectural masterpiece headquarters located in Maitama District, Abuja, the former University don began to effectively confront many challenges bedeviling the industry to enhance the development of a knowledge-driven, inclusive, globally-competitive and prosperous Nigeria through telecommunications.
Thus, Danbatta hit the ground running by unveiling his 8-Point Agenda, which was designed to provide a focus for the Commission and the industry as a whole over the next five years from 2015. Focal issues on the agenda include facilitating broadband penetration, improving quality service, optimizing usage and benefits of spectrum, promoting ICT innovation and investment opportunities, facilitating strategic collaboration and partnership, protecting and empowering consumers, promoting fair competition and inclusive growth as well as ensuring regulatory excellence and operational efficiency.
Key Growth Statistics from 2015 till Date
From August 2015 till date, the industry has recorded impressive growth statistics, pointing to the effective regulatory environment created by the Commission. Today, telecoms contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) increased from 8.50 percent in August 2015 to 11.39 percent as at October, 2019. Active mobile voice subscribers increased from 151,018,624 to 2015 to 180,386,316 during the same period while teledensity increased to 94.50 percent following its rebasing in early 2019.
Internet subscribers increased from 90 million in 2015 to 123.5 million by October, 2019 while broadband penetration jumped from 8 percent to its current 37.87 percent, indicating a total of 72,289,389 Nigerian access data services on 3G and 4G networks.
Also, the number of subscriptions to Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service increased from 385, 617 in August 2015 to 1, 206,874 by October, 2019. This is attributable to increased public enlightenment by the Commission’s head office and its zonal offices across geo-political zones on the on the availability and usage of MNP. Similarly, the total number of telecoms subscribers that have subscribed either partially or fully to the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) service introduced by the Commission – to curb cases of unsolicited text messages – increased from level zero to 22,356, 919 currently.
Upward trajectory of broadband penetration
One of the areas where the Commission has made significant contribution till date is in the area of broadband penetration. Following painstaking implementation of the 8-Point Agenda, the country achieved and surpassed its broadband penetration target of 30 percent by the end of December, 2018 as stipulated in the National Broadband Plan 2013-2015. A feat commended by all stakeholders in the country, appreciating the Commission for occupying the driver’s seat in the national drive for broadband development. Indeed, the implementation of the auspicious Agenda gained a lot of traction such that broadband penetration further increased from 32.34 percent (indicating 61,732,130 Nigerians on 3G and 4G networks) to 37.87 percent (indicating 72,289,389 on 3G and 4G networks) between January, 2019 and October, 2019 respectively.
Cognate efforts by the NCC in licensing new spectrum bands, re-farming certain frequency bands and driving initiatives for increased broadband infrastructure in the country, among others have collaboratively resulted in the consistent broadband growth. With increase in broadband penetration being recorded on a monthly basis, the Commission is well positioned to support the actualisation of the country’s digital economy policy strategy, as unveiled by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy late 2019. Just recently, the new National Broadband Plan Committee was inaugurated by the Minister Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, with the national mandate to come up with the new broadband target for 2020-2025.
Since 2015, the NCC’s passion for pervasive broadband penetration is evident in its drive to facilitate broadband penetration, which tops its 8-Point Agenda. The Commission has also articulated it clearly, at different fora, that access to broadband will become a fundamental metric for measuring economic development in Nigeria, as it will be central to the growth recorded in every other sector of the economy where telecoms would be propelling automation and digitisation.
Speaking at a forum, Danbatta averred that Nigeria’s thirst for data has grown in significantly, largely to the generational change of telecommunications from the use of voice-dominated technologies (1G and 2G) to today’s data dominated technologies of 3G, 4G and even the much-talked-about 5G. According to him, without doubt, more virtualised engagements are happening online and will continue to be, as it does appears the citizens have an insatiable need for data.
“Nigerians need robust and pervasive broadband connectivity more than ever before in today’s world, where people can easily interact with an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), carry out activities around e-commerce, e-government, and telemedicine, among others on a daily basis in a much seamless manner, thereby boosting their efficiencies,” Danbatta had said.