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FG opens North Central region for fibre investors

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•UN wants more investment in mobile broadband
The Federal Government through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has opened up the North Central region of the country for fibre investors through the Infrastructure Companies (InfraCo) model.

The investor(s) are expected to deploy metropolitan fibre infrastructure within the assigned territory on an open access, non-discriminatory, price regulated basis. The investors are expected to pass through a bidding process through which selection will be made.

This move is part of processes targeted at ensuring widespread interconnectivity in the country and possibly draws it closer to achieving more in terms of broadband penetration.

Nigeria had earlier set a target of 30 per cent broadband penetration by year end, a dream the NCC recently claimed not feasible any more. The Guardian can report that the poor implementation of the National Broadband Plan (2013-1018) has negatively impacted the set target.

Though, at a meeting with journalists in Abuja in August, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the country has been able to meet 22 per cent of the target. He rued that the country could have done better with the target had it been that other agencies of government worked as “NCC has been working.”

A document signed by the Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Nnamdi Nwokike, which confirmed that the NCC has opened the North Central region for investors, was sighted by The Guardian on Monday.Recall that NCC had earlier in 2015 granted InfraCo license to IHS, a telecoms infrastructure provider for the North Central zone. IHS and MainOne were the first set of operators to be licensed as InfraCos. MainOne was to expand wholesale broadband services in Lagos.

However, after about two and half years, IHS returned the license to NCC over difficulties in securing right of way approval to deploy infrastructure in the region.IHS like most of other InfraCos and telecoms operators are facing bottlenecks in securing ‘right of way’, – where operators are forced to pay levies that are not legalized, and vandalisation of their infrastructure.

At the Abuja meeting with journalists, Danbatta had informed that the commission will open up the region for new investors before the end of the year.In the sighted document, NCC explained that it adopted a phased approach in the licensing of the seven InfraCos across the country starting with Lagos, in the first phase, the other five zones (North East, North West, South West, South East, South West and South South)in the second phase and now North Central in the third phase.Interested investor for the North Central is expected to submit Expression of Interest (EOI) at NCC office on or before December 3.

Meanwhile, the United Nations, through its specialised agency for information and communication technologies, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has projected more economic freedom for digitized economies.

After a careful but lengthy study of 75 countries fixed and mobile broadband facilities, the ITU revealed that the economic impact of digitisation is higher than that of fixed broadband and similar to that of mobile broadband.

The study noted that achieving broadband penetration was only one aspect of required policies; maximization of the economic impact of digitisation can only be achieved through the adoption of a holistic set of policies ranging from Internet access and computing to electronic commerce. It also recognised that the digital ecosystem has an economic impact on productivity.

The study: The economic contribution of broadband, digitization and ICT regulation stated that an increase in both fixed and mobile broadband penetration has a positive impact on the economy.

According to the 52-Page study, fixed broadband has had a significant impact on the world economy in the past seven years. The economic impact of fixed broadband is found to be higher in more developed countries than in less developed, while the economic impact of mobile broadband is found to be higher in less developed countries than in more developed countries.

Overall, ITU discovered that an increase of 1 per cent in fixed broadband penetration yields a 0.08 per cent increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while an increase of 1 per cent in mobile broadband penetration yields a 0.15 per cent increase in GDP (this translates into an increase of 10 per cent in fixed or mobile broadband penetration yielding an average increase of 0.8 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively in GDP).

ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, said: “With this landmark study, we can now quantify the impact of broadband and digital transformation on economic growth. Investment in ICT infrastructure is an absolute priority to expand access to broadband services, and to help accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The study also presents, through the framework, models and formulas it includes, a blueprint for assessing the economic impact of broadband, and enabling a full-blown data analysis of digital transformation and evidence-based policy-making. Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Brahima Sanou, on the study said, it built on years of robust and reliable data resources.

“The findings will make the case for broader adoption of digital technologies and digital policies across the globe and be instrumental in evidence-based decision/making across ITU members,” he stressed.The study provided further evidence of the importance of regulatory and institutional variables in driving growth in the digital ecosystem. It stated that connectivity for digital services is significantly correlated with the level of advancement of ICT policies and regulations, as well as the competition and market power regulatory set-up. Further, investment in the digital ecosystem is directly and positively influenced by the maturity of ICT regulatory frameworks and by ICT competition frameworks.


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