Issues Threatening the Achievement Of 30% Broadband Penetration By 2018

As 2018 target approaches, some issues may slow down the attainment of broadband penetration plan, Azeez Disu writes.

From Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to the Ministry of Communications, the private sectors and other stakeholders, there is high hope and proclamation that achievement of 30% broadband penetration by 2018 is sacrosanct.

An alternative opinion might be seem as prophesy of doom, but despite the publicity and effort from the government and its agencies, they exist some factors that may slowdown the achievement of this lofty digital revolution.

Since, the launch of the National Broadband Strategy and Roadmap in 2013, an effort to help revolutionize communications in Nigeria and optimize the nation’s adoption of global best practices in the use of information and communications Technology, the government has been on its toes to meet the 2018 deadline of 30 per cent penetration target it set.

Gains of Broadband
According to a report published on NCC website, any country seeking growth, job and wealth creation must address how it can increase its access to broadband and if governments can improve broadband penetration in the continent most Africans would have increased access to the internet.

Similarly, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Garba Danbatta pointed that “Broadband is an enabler of other economic and human activities. The World Bank and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have made recommendations about broadband that cannot be ignored by any progressive telecom regulator.

Danbatta,while emphasizing the importance of broadband for future economic development of every nation, referred to the World Bank research that indicates that, “for high-income countries, a 10-percentage-point rise in broadband penetration adds a 1.21-percentage point rise in economic growth – or an added 1.38 percentage points for low- and middle-income countries, and this is more than any other type of communication service.”

More so, Broadband gives small and medium enterprises the opportunity to broaden their customer base and reduce their overheads through e-commerce platforms, cost of communication can also be reduced by an increased rollout on infrastructure and improved availability of broadband services, Nigerian citizens will also enjoy world class wireless broadband, employment generation, brands will reach their target market quicker and better.

Olusola Teniola, President of Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria, (ATCON), believes that that the launch of 4G network utilizing LTE advanced technology was a positive step towards achieving the broadband penetration target of 30% by the end of 2018.

What is the figure?
According to report as of 2015, Nigeria was ranked among countries with the lowest broadband penetration in the world. Out of the 189 member states in the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Nigeria ranked 130 with 11.7% mobile broadband subscription, while its fixed broadband subscription is non-existent. This figure is far below the Committee’s 21% projection for that year.

The EVC, NCC last year September said broadband penetration moved from 10% to 14 %, “As we speak, Nigeria has moved from 10 per cent broadband penetration to 14 per cent, and the penetration is expected to increase more with the rollout of 2.3GHz broadband services by Bitflux Consortium that won the 2.3GHz broadband spectrum licence,” he disclosed during an event to announce Nigeria’s participation at the ITU Telecoms World 2016.

Few weeks later another report resurfaced stating that Nigeria has reached 20.95%, the EVC NCC quoting the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, an arm of the ITU. “We are in a hurry to reach our set target. States should remove obstacles to broadband penetration. We are determined to meet 30% target by 2018,” he disclosed.

On a different note, in December same year, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, said broadband penetration was between 18%-20%. “Already, the rate at which we are now, we are about 18 to 20 per cent penetration and all of this is mostly as a result of private sector initiative. I am very confident that by the Grace of God within the next two years, we will reach the target of 30 per cent,” he said.

The commission and ministry should have a systematic way of getting the figures in order to ascertain the extent of the development. All hands must be on desk.

Other Issues
Sadly, majority of the challenges faced by operators highlighted in the National Broadband Plan in 2013 still exist. They are High cost of procuring rights of way which ultimately results in high costs for leasing of transmission infrastructures; dearth of investment in fixed household broadband primarily because of the multi-faceted challenges facing operators which prompt the operators to concentrate their household broadband activities on the major cities.

Also, long delay in procuring approval for such rights of the way; multiple forms of taxation and Regulation; Vandalism and Disruption caused by road works, and power supply.

Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, President, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), explained that multiple regulations and taxation is still a major issue affecting the sector.

“The challenges of multiple regulation and taxation are still there. Our appeal to all stakeholders on taxation is to consider the socio-economic benefits and Impact of telecoms on our national development and therefore minimise incidences of disruption of telecom services on account of revenue generation”, he urged.

On the same note, Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of the Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) said “There’s no point being uncoordinated and charging each telco an arm and a leg. A way to go is to waive some fees for anyone willing to lay fibre and also leave channels that others can use later without the need to dig up roads again.”

Delay in licensing of additional infrastructure companies (InfraCos) to cover North-East, North-West, South-South, South-West and South East zones long after MainOne and IHS were licensed to cover Lagos and North central respectively is major worry for stakeholders.

The InfraCos are supposed to fast track the achievement of 30% broadband penetration, at the same time provides the backbone on which licensed telecoms operators are supposed to ride on in offering broadband services across the country, but the delay in licensing them stakeholders fear may cause setback.

Another major challenge raised by stakeholders is the impeding broadband penetration is the inability of operators to transmit broadband capacities from the shores of the country to the hinterlands, where the services are most needed. The government is yet to build a national backbone infrastructure that will transmit broadband capacity from the shores to the hinterland, thus putting unnecessary burden on the cable operators to begin to seek alternative means at their own expense, to transmit broadband capacity, a situation that has resulted in slow broadband penetration in the country.

Way forward
There must be consorted effort to actualize the 2018 target. If the country has already achieved about 20.95%, broadband penetration according to Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, what stops it from exceeding the target before 2018? Why must the government delay the implementation of the recommendations made by the Committee that drafted the National Broadband Plan?

As the country struggles to get out of recession, experts believe that telecommunication and technology are the driving forces that will help the country get out of its economic challenges.

ATCON President noted that to achieve broadband revolution the government must create an enabling environment for the sector to thrive.

“The ecosystem will bring about new players from the OTT space and regulation that balances the interests of these players versus the investments already made by the telco players will need to address. The investments required to fund the mobile broadband revolution must be addressed, so all incentives and an enabling environment is put in place by the Federal Government, so that investors’ confidence is not eroded any further”, he explained.

Stanley Jegede, Chief Executive Officer, Phase 3 Telecoms on his part called on the Federal Government to invest in a national backbone infrastructure that will carry and distribute data capacity from the shores of the country to the hinterland. He insisted that a fully established national backbone infrastructure would boost capacity distribution of broadband and deepen internet penetration in the country.
In addition, Dewole Ajao, operations manager, Bandwidth Consortium, said patronizing Nigerian terrestrial bandwidth will help boost the economy and operators’ confident

“An important step is for Nigerian government agencies to stop spending all that money to foreign countries in the name of buying satellite bandwidth. If we use that money to buy terrestrial bandwidth, local providers will receive more business and they can strengthen their operations,” he stated.
Teniola noted that early allocation and licensing of telecoms spectrum will help to deliver broadband revolution in 2017.

“Furthermore, the industry needs government policies in place that will attract much needed investments to support the capital expenditure programmes that should be undertaken to realise the country’s vision of a digital transformation through smart cities, e-Government and Internet of Things (IoT). The infrastructure that is rolled out for support broadband services needs to be fully protected from vandalisation, theft and destruction and therefore the enforcement of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) under the Cybercrime bill needs to be enacted as soon as possible.” he explained.


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