Making broadband available for all

BroadbandA RECENT World Bank research identified broadband as a key driver of economic growth and the competitiveness of nations. The report suggested that the contribution of broadband to economic growth is indeed substantial, and may be more profound than comparable narrowband or voice-based Information and Communication Technology(s), providing a boost of 1.38 percentage points on GDP growth in developing countries for every 10 percentage points increase in broadband penetration.

However, if the contributions of broadband to the economy must be impactful, it must be for all. This was the claim of the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), Prof. Tim Unwin, at the Commonwealth Broadband forum 2015 in Abuja.

Urwim said: “Broadband matters, but broadband for all matters more.” The event, which lasted for two days had its theme as “Broadband for All: from Access to Inclusion”, had attendance from members of the Commonwealth, industry players and several stakeholders.

Unwin, whose tenure as Secretary General of CTO ends in a few months, said he was excited about the forum, especially holding in Nigeria whose son, Shola Taylor takes over from him in September 2015, adding that this is a befitting epilogue.

He told participants, particularly government officials and policy makers that all hands should be on deck if the nations within the Commonwealth can harness resources to make broadband available to their citizenry especially in the unserved and underserved areas because of the impact this will have on the lives of the people hence the careful selection of the theme ‘Broadband for all: From Access to inclusion’.

The CTO boss praised the NCC Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) Dr. Eugene Juwah, “for the commitment towards the transformation of the Nigerian economy through implementation of appropriate broadband deployment strategies for the country especially the National Broadband Plan (NBP) 2013-2018.”

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Communications Technology, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, who chaired the opening ceremony and declared it opened described the event as a very important one in general for the Commonwealth Nations and in particular for Nigeria.

He said the theme was well thought out considering the fact that broadband is the catalyst for achieving a knowledge based economy the global community is pursuing.

“It potentially influences the entire economy and as a general-purpose platform used as a key input across various sectors ranging from health, commerce, education, banking” among others.

Olaopa said this forum is also coming at a time when issues relating to broadband development are getting global attention. The Forum will therefore provide a good opportunity to address salient issues relating to the implementation of broadband across the member states.

“The announcement of Shola Taylor as the next CEO of CTO is very good news and an important development for Nigeria that one of its nationals has been appointed to head this intergovernmental organization; it is even more of great significance that the announcement was made in the Federal Capital of Nigeria.”

EVC of the NCC updated participants at the forum of Nigeria’s broadband plan.

Represented by Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management, Dr. Okechukwu Itanyi, the EVC explained, explained, “the catalytic role and contribution of broadband services to an economy is well documented. Some of these are its positive impact on education delivery, health care provision, energy management, security, and information dissemination. For Nigeria, the lack of a robust fixed network infrastructure and the need to rapidly develop the infrastructure to provide universal broadband services required a coordinated national approach. This led to the crafting of a National Broadband Plan covering the period 2013 to 2018.”

Nigeria’s starting point
Itanyi said: “It is important to state briefly where we started from before the articulation and coordinated implementation of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan commenced.

Status when we started: There were three International submarine cables, SAT3, GLO1 and MainOne landing at our shores; 3G mobile Internet services was available in less than 20 towns and cities across the country; no broadband infrastructure framework was in place; less than 15 million Internet subscriptions across the country; about 22,000km intercity fibre deployed across the country with low utilization due to Duplication in several routes and lack of metropolitan fibre deployed in several routes and lack of metropolitan fibre networks across the country.

Others are that the country deployed networks mainly voice based; relatively high cost of Internet subscription; low Internet speeds; low levels of metropolitan and last mile fibre deployments; regulations and policies was mainly aimed at driving voice services rollout across the country.

Considering the above, Itanyi said the NBP was articulated to increase broadband infrastructure across the country and deepen Internet and broadband access.

Itanyi listed some of the objectives of NBP to include; achieving a 30 per cent broadband penetration rate by 2018 from 6.1 per cent in 2012; to have a coordinated strategy towards the provision of a broadband infrastructure ecosystem in the country; to develop strategies based on the peculiarities of the different geographical areas to enable the deployment of broadband infrastructure, among others.

Achievements so far
The NCC chief explained that to facilitate the provision of a resilient broadband infrastructure across the country, Nigeria set a target to achieve the following amongst others during the five-year Broadband implementation plan: License seven Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) to rollout metropolitan fibre across the country; auction available slots in the 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz and 700MHz band for wireless broadband access; implement cost based pricing model and price caps for leased transmission capacity to drive affordability; implement cost based pricing model and price caps for leased transmission capacity to drive affordability; implement open non-discriminatory access to broadband infrastructure for all service providers; open new high capacity spectrum bands for licensing (70/80GHz); interconnect all Internet Exchange Points in Nigeria with fibre optic cable transmission; provide incentives to drive the rollout of broadband infrastructure; increase wireless broadband access across the country.

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