Experts chart path to improving broadband provision in Nigeria

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Experts from both the technology and financial sectors are of the opinion that improving Nigeria’s broadband penetration, which currently stands at 14 per cent, would require concerted efforts from both government and the public.

The experts, who gathered in Lagos, at the TMT Finance Africa conference with the theme: ‘Driving Investment for Telecoms, Media and Tech Across Africa’, noted it was time Africa takes its place in the drive towards technology revolution.

Declaring open the forum, which attracted big wigs in the telecommunications industry, including the former Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ernest Ndukwe; the Chief Executive Officers of ntel and Spectranet, Kamar Abass and David Venn respectively, the Keynote Speaker, Senior Political Economist, Standard Bank, Simon Freemantle, said with right policies, almost 30 per cent of the continent will achieve GDP growth of above five per cent, while by 2050, 1.2 billion people will live in African cities.

Freemantle noted that the continent was not doing badly in terms of telecommunications access per 100 inhabitants, but efforts still must be high to serve the unserved and the underserved.

Statistically, he puts mobile subscriptions on the continent at 80.8 per cent; fixed line 1.2 per cent; active mobile broadband 29.3 per cent and individuals using the Internet at 25.1 per cent.

Speaking during the panel discussion with the theme: Africa Broadband Infrastructure investment—Stimulating Growth: Ndukwe, while taking a cursory look at the state of broadband in Nigeria, observed that huge bandwidth capacity resides in the country, but has remained largely under utilised.

Ndukwe, a former Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), posited that there was need, which remained very urgent to decentralise the submarine cables, which are lies at the shores in Lagos.

“There is need to decentralise the submarine cables system that are on the shores of Lagos. It has to move, especially to the hinterland if the broadband target must be realised.”

Already through the National Broadband Plan (NBP), the country is looking at achieving a 30 per cent penetration by 2018.

As such, realising this target, the former EVC told participants that demand and infrastructure developments are also critical to broadband revolution in the country.

According to him, there should be more online activities for demand to be scaled up.

Besides, he noted that   spectrum availability was also critical, stressing that Nigeria is now mature for spectrum trading.

“There are so many companies that got spectrum and are not putting it to use, they should be ready to sell them. The resources are not scarce as claimed in some quarters. All we need is efficient management.”

From the CEO of Spectranet, with right policies and favourable business climate, the next five years will offer great transformations for the country, as there would be upsurge in broadband services and eCommerce.

Like Ndukwe, Venn also stressed the for the Submarine cable system in Lagos to leave the shores to other part of
the country.

According to him, the lack of available transmission capacity to other part of Nigeria is affecting broadband deployment and cost is still high.

“For instance, traffic from Lagos to London is cheaper compared to traffic from Lagos to Ibadan. This is because no intra connectivity facilities yet,” said Venn.

Speaking from the perspective of GDP growth, Head of Customer Team, MTN Nigeria and West Africa, Nokia,
Uzodima Odimuko, “the fact is that for broadband to help unlock our GDP growth,
government has huge role to play in making the right policies.

“It is also important to stimulate device uptake in the country. There will be lot of devices to be connected by 2020, I mean M2M.”

To the General Counsel, MainOne Cables, Kazeem Oladepo, government has much to do in making sure the broadband target is met.

“There is a National Broadband Plan (NBP) for almost three years now and it has not been fully implemented. I think we should allow the NBP to work if broadband penetration must be deepened.”

For Head of TMT EMEA, Citi, Nina Triantis, “funding is very vital to the distribution of broadband services. There are lots of interests in fibre and data services in Africa, but funding has been a major hinderance.”

In this article:
Ernest NdukweNBPNCC


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