Operators doubt 80% Internet penetration target
• Call for National Broadband Fibre provider
With 18 months left for the realisation of the Federal Government’s 2018 broadband target, which hopes to deepen penetration by 30 per cent, and make Internet access available by as much as 80 per cent in Nigeria, operators have expressed pessimism about this projection coming to pass.
In an interview with The Guardian, last month, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on ICT, and Senior Personal Assistant to the Vice President, Lanre Osibona, put broadband penetration at 21 per cent.
However, telecoms operators noted that notwithstanding the current level of penetration, it may still be difficult to ensure ubiquitous Internet access that will see 80 per cent of Nigeria covered by December 2018.
In 2013, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Communications Technology, under the leadership of Dr. Omobola Johnson, had set a five year National Broadband Plan (NBP 2013 to 2018) that will see spread of Internet by 80 per cent and Broadband penetration deepened by 30 per cent. But The Guardian investigations showed that only about 35 percent of the plan has been achieved thus far. Although, there are about 90 million Internet users in Nigeria, mostly on the narrow band, the current Internet penetration is 47.9 per cent.
To the operators, the current economic challenges and some government’s policies appear to be frustrating and slowing down their momentum. Gathered at a broadband summit last Friday in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MainOne, Funke Opeke, identified broadband as an enabler of economic growth.
Opeke however said current recession has changed the dynamics of the broadband industry, stressing that it has been challenging, as the industry depends on the importation of its infrastructure, with attendant challenges with foreign exchange.
The President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, admitted that the NBP 2013 has the following ambition: Good Health, Education, Agricultural Service, Economic Growth and Cross-Industry Linkages, and Improving Efficiency with a target of 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018.
But, “to a study carried out by NCC, Nigeria Broadband Penetration in 2014 was six per cent, 2015 was 10 per cent, and in 2016 was less than 16 per cent. If we are to go by the trend, we can safely conclude that the target set for 2018 may not be met.”
Teniola said two of the largest ICT markets in Africa – Nigeria and South Africa, adopted broadband policies and plans in 2013, to much international acclaim. “Implementation in these two countries has however stalled; both identified open access as an instrument to drive broadband penetration.”
The CEO of Spectranet, David Venn, said broadband would have greater impact on the lives of Nigerians, hence, the need to ensure it got to every part of the country, urging that the challenges hindering broadband penetration should be addressed.
“Nigeria needs a National Broadband Fibre provider. There is need for the carrier of carriers to be able to get broadband to the hinterlands. The cost of international bandwidth has changed demand for broadband in the last two years. The Nigerian Communications Commission must sanitise the sector of anti-competitive issues,’’ he said.
The Managing Director, Vodacom Business Nigeria, Lanre Kolade, said the economy is biting hard on all operators, adding that the Tier II telecommunications operators were struggling to survive.
The Chief Transformation Officer of MTN Nigeria, Bayo Adekanmbi, noted that there is a high demand of broadband by Nigerians, but no adequate infrastructure to deliver high speed internet to them.
Adekanmbi argued that the nature of broadband is holistically different, as it is more of a long term project; hence, the issue of cost is critical, as such, the infrastructure to deliver broadband should not be taxed for cost effectiveness.
The Chief Executive Officer, nTel, Kamar Abass, said to deepen broadband penetration, the industry should consider infrastructure sharing, as active engagement on it was still lacking
No comments yet