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States may hinder 30% broadband penetration targets

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ACHIEVING the 30 per cent broadband penetration target by 2018 may be a mirage, except there are concrete collaboration and understanding between the Federal and state governments.

   Information at the disposal of The Guardian showed that some states governments are currently frustrating the rollout of some telecommunications infrastructure in the country.

   Many state governments appear to be shying away from enabling the realisation of the broadband target and other service expansions due to political affiliations and sentiments, and the lure of multiple taxation, which boosts Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

   The Federal Government has already set a target of a five-fold increase in broadband Internet penetration by 2017 and 30 per cent penetration by 2018.

   Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy by GDP, currently has an abysmal broadband penetration of eight per cent, according to statistics from the Ministry of Communications Technology. This is even as the country is home to four submarine cables including MainOne, Glo1; WACS and SAT3. In all, the four cables are said to have about 11 Terabytes bandwidth capacity, but lastmile infrastructure; multiple taxation; vandalism, among others continue to limit expansion to other parts of the country.

   Industry analysts have observed that due to the refusal of some state governments and their respective agencies to speed up the process of granting Right of Way (RoW) permits required for the deployment of requisite fibre infrastructure, the drive towards pervasive broadband Internet in the country may remain a mirage.

   Analysts are of the view that Nigeria may fail to meet the broadband targets clearly outlined in the National Broadband Plan (NBP) as continued state government apathy towards the implementation process continues to hinder network rollout timelines set by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).

   A senior official in one of the leading telecommunications firm, who spoke to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity, said the challenge is very rampant in the Eastern part of the country.

   According to him, “The challenge is very high, especially from the Eastern part of the country. This is because these people like money too much. For instance, they can make a law today on installation and tomorrow they will say they are backdating to five years and they want the operator to pay and pay immediately. They have seen service providers as cash-cow.”

   An Abuja based top government official in the Ministry of Communications Technology, who spoke to The Guardian, also claimed that the situation has even become worse in the Federal Capital Territory, stressing that the Abuja Master Plan has limited expansion of service infrastructure.

   He explained that the demarcation of the state into residential and commercial areas has brought untold hardships on expansion processes.

    “One of the problems confronting expansion of telecoms infrastructure in Abuja is the issue of residential and commercial areas marked as part of the Master Plan to develop the city. That same law still affects telecoms development. If you ask for permission to erect base station, they can tell you it is a residential area, you cannot erect anything because of radiation and the fact remains no such. If it is commercial area, they will ask you to pay for the land amount that is five to six times the cost of the BTS itself. This is not limited to telecoms operators alone, even to build petrol station, it is the same problem. There are too much strigent measures here.

   “When you eventually pay for the land, you may use between seven to 10 months to get your papers approved. It is as bad as that. That is not alone o, the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) will still send its agents after you for one levy or the other. It is that bad in Abuja.”

   Available statistics showed that the cost of obtaining RoW could account for as high as 50 to 70 per cent of the total cost of deploying fibre in states of the federation.

   The Guardian learnt that the cost of procuring RoW in Ogun State for metro fibre deployment is as high as N6, 500 per metre.   

   At a telecommunications forum in 2014, Director, Network Operations for Globacom, Olajide Aremu stressed that the country has sufficient broadband capacities sitting on its shores, but distributing the capacities through a national backbone and last-mile connectivity is a major issue for operators.

 “This is because of the outrageous taxes imposed on telecommunications by state government agencies and the refusal to speed up the process of granting RoW approval by the same state government agencies,” he added.  

     Already, the operators have set conditions for investment in broadband.

     According to them, under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said the challenges include funding; right of way; and multiple taxation; as well as vandalism.

    Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, said that granting multiple operational license to operators to provide metro and national fibre infrastructure does not guarantee investment in that regard.

  He called for the implementation of well-articulated policies that will encourage operators to invest their money.

   Adebayo urged the federal government to go beyond granting of licenses to eliminating those barriers such as bottlenecks in securing ‘right of way’, impediments to smooth network operations- where operators are forced to pay levies that are not legalized, and vandalism.

   ‘RoW’ is a legal instrument allowing operators to deploy infrastructure on federal or state roads with a fee.

    He explained that broadband services are anchored on availability of bandwidth and that with excess capacity at Nigerian shore, investment need to be encouraged to distribute this capacity to various geographical areas of the country for broadband revolution to be experienced as is the case with voice service.

    

 



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