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Strengthening collaboration for robust broadband deployment

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[FILES] Danbatta

In this report, ADEYEMI ADEPETUN writes on the importance of collaboration in deepening broadband deployment and penetration in the country.

Development is essential and critical to the growth and sustenance of any country. In order to successfully enhance meaningful national development in all areas of the economy in Nigeria, effective strategies must be evolved. Hence, one of those strategies for national development is the deployment of broadband.

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Broadband refers to high-speed data transmission in which a single cable can carry a large amount of data at once. The most common types of Internet broadband connections are cable modems (which use the same connection as cable TV) and DSL modems (which use your existing phone line). 
  
Broadband is seen as a key enabler for the national development of developing countries like Nigeria, this is because of its cross-cutting nature, thus affecting all sectors of the nation’s economy, ranging from socio-economics, agriculture, commerce, education, oil and gas, government expenditure computation, security, healthcare, environment, among others.
  
World Bank study revealed that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration could add a 1.21-percentage point rise in economic growth for high-income countries, or an added 1.38 percentage points for low- and middle-income countries.
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Adoption of broadband in the country is expected to lead to a sustained increase in economic growth, hence aggregate national development.  
  
There have been calls that the government at all levels should, as a matter of urgency, intensify awareness about broadband and encourage the development of broadband-enabled applications and services, build ICT skills and technological capabilities among firms and individuals as this would enhance the nation’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) positively.
  
From a meager six per cent in 2015, the figure currently stands at 42 per cent, with some 82 million Nigerians having access. This growth, according to industry analysts, has been attributed to various regulations and interventions of the Prof. Umar Danbatta-led Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
 
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Though there are still some access gaps, about 114, where some 20 million Nigerians still don’t have access to basic telephony service; efforts are being made to ensure that more Nigerians have access.
  
Industry analysts have called for deeper industry collaboration, with faster implementation of the New National Broadband Plan (NNPB 2020-2025).
  
Indeed, the Federal Government is focused on the successful implementation of the NNPB 2020-2025 with the focus on ensuring that Nigeria attains 70 per cent penetration by 2025.

NNBP Progress

The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) organised a virtual structured engagement forum with the theme: “Realising the new set target of 70 per cent of Broadband Penetration,” Danbatta assured of full implementation of the plan.
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He disclosed that the NNBP 2020-2025 is without a doubt an ambitious document with targets set that was developed jointly by critical stakeholders of the telecoms and IT sectors of Nigeria.    
  
While stressing the need for more collaboration, the NCC EVC said these stakeholders comprising of government and private sector executives, experts, managers, associations and MDA’s represent the Who is Who of the industry and they are people with firm belief and optimism as well as assurance that the set targets are practically achievable.
   
Some of the targets of the NNBP 2020-2025, according to Danbatta include, achieving 15Mbps & 25Mbps Internet speed in rural and urban areas respectively by 2025, interconnection of 90 per cent of all LGA’s by fibre, 70 per cent population penetration, 100 per cent of tertiary institutions to be within 5Km of a fibre point of access (PoA), 60 per cent of all telecom towers to be connected by fibre, the connection of one major hospital or general hospital per LGA via fibre, reduction of average cost of data to N390/Gb or less and establishment of at least one (1) local assembly or manufacture of smart devices, reduction of RoW to N145/m, among others.
  
From the foregoing, Danbatta said it is obvious that both government, the industry and other stakeholders need to aggregate their potentials and expertise to achieve these targets.
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The NCC EVC also informed that the Commission has already commenced some of this consolidation with the directive issued to Infraco licensees to commence the immediate roll-out of optic fibre cables (OFC) as contained in their license agreements to all the LGA headquarters by giving them freehand to start from viable areas and gradually move to unviable areas while the expected counter-part funding from Government is being finalized.

Collaboration with states
Collaboration with state governments has also seen the adoption of the N145/m or outright waiver Right-of-Way (RoW) by six governors, although, it must be mentioned that more needs to be done by the states and local governments to ensure full adoption and cascading of the decision for implementation. This notwithstanding, Danbatta said the commission will not relent in its effort towards addressing the issue RoW.
  
Further, while receiving the delegation of the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), who paid him a courtesy visit at the Kano Zonal Office of the Commission at the weekend, Danbatta also stressed the importance of collaboration in ICT development.
 

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Danbatta stated that the digital divide could be bridged by making computers available and accessible to people and key services of the economy of the country,
  
“Infrastructure that can be able to host this massive flow of information and knowledge is broadband infrastructure and this is top-most in the agenda of the Commission. Indeed, ICT is transforming every sector of the economy and the earlier we embrace the vast opportunity brought by ICT the better,” the EVC said.
 
Worried about the pace of development from states, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami appealed to the remaining 29 state governors to consider implementing the new rate as earlier agreed, to enable Nigeria to meet its 70 per cent broadband penetration target by 2025, as enshrined in the NNBP 2020-2025.
  
According to the minister, he had engaged with the members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), facilitated by its chairman, the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, on January 22nd, 2020, and they agreed on the unified rate.

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Strategies to achieve the broadband plan
The minister said to achieve the broadband targets, the plan focused on recommendations in four focus areas, namely: infrastructure, policy, demand drivers, and
funding/incentives
  
Pantami said these focus areas are further broken down into 55 initiatives towards the actualization of the targets. (Infrastructure (Infrastructure- 14, Policy – 23, Demand Drivers- 12, Funding & Initiatives- 6).
  
According to him, infrastructure is focused on building integrated infrastructure that is sustainable and resilient to close the gaps in addressing the broadband needs of the country and is geared towards extending broadband services to underserved and under-served areas in Nigeria.   

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He said the policy pillar addresses issues relating to the efficient use of spectrum, right of way, site acquisition policies, availability of infrastructure, and market efficiency.
  
The minister said Demand Drivers address barriers to the low usage rate and adoption of broadband services in the country.

Funding/Incentives identify the relevant financial incentives, fiscal policy, economic models, and funding options to help the achievement of broadband penetration targets.
  
“The diligent implementation of the recommendations in these focus areas through a multi-stakeholder approach will give the country a push into economic prosperity and create opportunities for job creation and innovation that will influence the GDP positively,” he stressed.

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Operators’ readiness to collaborate
On their part, service providers see potential in stakeholders collaborating to push the objectives of the NNBP.
   
The Chairman, MTN Board, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, said the private sector must be actively engaged in achieving the NNBP, because broadband remained the driver of economic growth and development.
   
Nduwke hinted that MTN Nigeria is doing everything possible as a private sector company to support the plans to achieve the goals of the new broadband plan. He added that government must work with all stakeholders to achieve the goals in terms of implementation.
  
He, therefore, stressed the need for the reduction of RoW charges by state governments and called on local government authorities to consider offering free RoW charges for the benefit of their communities. He further stressed the need for more telecoms infrastructure rollout by telecoms operators and the need for funding of broadband rollout in rural areas by the government.

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On his part, the CEO, Airtel Nigeria, Segun Ogunsanya, said Nigerians needed broadband that is affordable, sustainable, reliable, and available in the remotest parts of the country.   
   
He added that broadband should be seen as a basic human right because of its many benefits. He advised telecoms regulators to release spectrum and 5G licences early enough to telecom operators to enable faster broadband penetration. He said NCC should compel spectrum licence holders who were yet to put it in use, to release it to other operators who are ready for rollout.
   
President, ATCON, Ike Nnamani, the development of a solid digital economy would rest on the foundation of well-distributed broadband infrastructure and involved the convergence of all technology types and classes of service.

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