Regulator laments low impact of broadband infrastructure
This was the lamentation of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which decried the growing challenges confronting the spread of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services across the country.Speaking in Lagos, at this year’s BICSI Nigeria 2016 conference and exhibition, with the theme: ‘New Frontier: Nigerian ICT Infrastructure, Standards, Growth and Development,’ NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, noted that the development of telecommunications infrastructure around the world was one key factor in the process of globalisation and creation of information economy.
According to him, reliable telecommunications network can improve the productivity and efficiency of other sectors of the economy and enhance the quality of life generally, adding that it provides great opportunities.Danbatta, represented by NCC Director, Technical Standard and Network Integrity, Fidelis Onah, said telecommunications infrastructure constitutes of all the structures that will make the end-users or access networks (last mile) interconnect and access services seamlessly, stressing that this is a complex system, an aggregation of interwoven, interrelated and interconnected systems, equipment and activities.
He disclosed that telecommunications infrastructure comprises core network switching; backbone/transmission; access network; gateways, both domestic and international; interconnect clearing house/Internet Exchange Point; human capital; indirect substructure and support services and ancillary services.
According to him, the country has grew its active subscriber base from 400,000 with teledensity of 0.04 per cent 13 years ago to 149.8 million and a teledensity of 107.01 per cent, with 3G technology entrenched in the country’s mobile tech ecosystem, 4G is making steady progress with services already been offered by some operators.
While mobile broadband is thriving fast in the country, Danbatta revealed that fixed broadband performance has been very paltry. He disclosed that for Nigeria to rank high in ICT among other countries, the country needed a developed fixed line infrastructure.
He explained that all traffics generated by wireless networks are quickly deposisted into fixed line infrastructure (Fibre), which transports the data to their routed destinations, thereby guaranteeing good quality of service, stressing that so far, no material known to man accommodates and transports huge data faster than fibre.
The NCC chief observed that the growing demands for and popularity of broadband applications, has seen to the increase in the number of terrestrial and sub-marine fibre optic cable systems, satellite systems and microwave radio links.He revealed that broadband services are only attainable in a country when there is robust fixed infrastructure in the international, backbone, metro and access layers within that country.
According to him, Nigeria is connected to the world through the landing of some international submarine cables system such as SAT 3, MainOne, Glo 1and West Africa Cable System (WACS). “To some extent, Nigeria can be said to be robust in this segment. The landing of these sub-marine cables at our shores however, does not provide much usefulness, as there is need to deplore the right infrastructure to distribute the capacities to the desiring populace who are not living at the shore where the cables landed.
“As a result of this, consumers are yet to feel the impact of the abundant bandwidth at our shores. Put differently, end users are not able to access broadband speeds and the price reduction anticipated by the landing of these cables,” he stated.In addition to the deployment made by service providers, Danbatta said NCC through projects like the Wire Nigeria (WIN) and the State Accelerated Broadband Initiative (SABI), has facilitated the deployment of fibre infrastructures in some part of the country.
According to him, all these deployments do not fulfill the requirement of a fully built-out, resilient national backbone infrastructure that transverse every state and local government area, “this is exactly what the NCC plans to address, and we need your partnership, support and investment to make this happen.”
He listed challenges limiting broadband development in Nigeria to include duplication of backhaul intercity infrastructure along major towns and cities; slow pace of development of fibre infrastructure to the broader regions; inability to drive data into the hinterlands at affordable prices; lack of metropolitan fibre mesh networks in cities in Nigeria; high cost of leasing fibre backbone infrastructure.
Others are multiple taxation/multiple regulatory agencies; high Right of Way (RoW) charges; security challenges; lack of indigenous technology and funding facilities.
According to him, it takes effective distribution infrastructure to have services permeate all nooks and corners of the nation, stressing that the lack of this, has compelled service providers to choose between developing their own infrastructure, or lease access from the existing last mile providers at non-economic rates.
For service providers to make impact, the Chairman, of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, believed that all the aforementioned challenges must be overcome swiftly.