Telecoms operators tasked on rural connectivity in Nigeria
Regulator wants fresh investments in unserved areas
Telecommunications operators in the country have been urged to deepen rural telecommunications connectivity by extending services to the unserved areas of the country.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and industry stakeholders, who expressed these worries, decried that increasing gaps in rural telecoms services. As such, NCC urged telecoms operators to extend effective service coverage and delivery to rural areas instead of acquiring more technologies many won’t benefit from.
Currently, there are 195 access gaps in Nigeria, where about 40 million people have not had access to any form of telephony services.The need to expedite actions on rural connectivity formed part of the major discussions at the 10th edition and awards of the eWorld forum organised by the Ajomedia limited/eWorldNews with theme: ‘Roadmap to Broadband Everywhere,’’ on Monday, in Lagos.
Experts, who spoke during a panel session at the event, raised concerns that although the world is already moving to 5G, “what have we done with the available 4G and 3G as the rural community are yet to benefit from it.”According to them, it has become highly imperative to connect the underserved and unserved areas of the country, if the telecoms revolution must be adequately felt nationwide.
Already, a World Bank study showed that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration in developing countries results in a commensurable increase of 1.38 per cent in GDP. It has also been proven that for every 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration, a commensurate increase in employment of 2/3 per cent is achieved.
Speaking on broadband for sustainable development, Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, called for persistent investment in broadband infrastructure, adding that it will narrow the lacuna between existing and planned fibre infrastructure in Nigeria.
Danbatta, represented by the Deputy Director, Spectrum Administration at NCC, Asaju Oluwatoyin, noted that broadband is a fundamental technology and a game changer to achieving sustainable development.The NCC EVC added that the Commission has adopted the deployment of optic fibre transmission network in the open access model to bridge current digital gap and deliver fast, reliable broadband services.
“To address this gap, the Commission has set a strategic imperative to ensure access to pervasive broadband through an open access model in line with Nigerian broadband plan in facilitating the availability, affordability and accessibility to broadband infrastructure and services,” he added.
The EVC stressed that NCC is ready to boost Quality of Experience (QoE) of customers by introducing spectrum trading and commercial satellite deployment in the industry.“Nigeria cannot lag behind the world in getting 5G to be launched in all areas but we need to ensure that the 3G and 4G are well deployed to all parts of the country. We are ready for the technology and have made reservation for the spectrum to be harmonized globally,” he added.
On his part, Organiser of the eWorld Forum, and Managing Director, Ajomedia, Aaron Ukodie, said: “To achieve digital revolution, the regulator has to focus more on enabling the players; the environment should be more investment-friendly than it is now; take access to the underserved and the unserved across the country; services need to be more affordable, and we need digital infrastructure”.
Founder and Chairman of Mobile Software Solutions/Connect Technologies Limited, Chris Uwaje, clamoured for rural infrastructures in the villages to benefit from the broadband and emerging technologies. “Can we have smart cities and no smart villages? If you want to focus on Lagos, Kano, and Abuja only, the implication will be a massive rural-urban migration. We need rural infrastructures too.
“We should also be talking about a local cloud so our data centre will be in Nigeria and not elsewhere. Spectrum is the core. It is not only about 4G and 5G. The issue of smart cities must go in line with local cloud to increase data security and reduce cost,” he added.
Uwaje stressed that local languages and contents should be considered in any technology adoption for boost local engagement and ensure global competitiveness. He, however, demanded that the NCC create a migration plan form for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Nigeria.
President, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, stressed that it is high time regulators took interest in Quality of Services (QoS) provided and also pushed local content.
“NCC needs to look at the state of health of the licensed firms because some of the licensed holders don’t have physical infrastructure, while those in operation are not faring well. Also, the present challenges will affect the incoming Infracos if nothing is done. When the legacy problem remains the same, we can’t make any progress. We need to take a step further on these challenges,” he added.
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