One of the major obstacles to Telecommunications service delivery in the country is absence of last mile infrastructure required to deliver services to consumers of these services at their respective homes and offices.
Last mile infrastructure is that transmission infrastructure telecommunications operators used to deliver services to potential subscribers at their domains. Basically, infrastructure required in this regard includes optic fibre and microwave.
The need for effective transmission infrastructure especially fibre optic which is seen as being reliable become necessary in view of developments in the industry, which is geared towards improving quality of service as well as reduces cost of services to operators and subscribers. For instance, operators have before now relied heavily on satellite communications for their bandwidth requirement as against undersea cable because of unreliability of Sat-3 which then was the only in its category, but, now there are several alternative especially in the undersea cable, where we have Glo 1 and MainOne cable and awaited West Africa Cable System (WACS). The coming of these two telecommunications infrastructure has to a great deal drive down cost of bandwidth. Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigation revealed that one mega byte per second bandwidth sold for $800 now goes for as low as $300 which is more than 100% reduction. This reduction can only be enjoyed by subscribers of telecommunications services if the needed infrastructure to deliver services to end users are available, in this case last mile fibre optics. But it is not readily available. Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that all undersea cable infrastructure lands at the shores of Lagos and need to extend to different operators’ network switches and to transport this infrastructure from Lagos Island to Mainland area of Lagos will cost an operator $600 per one mega byte if it is to lease fibre optic from another operator that has it.
More so, the absence of this facility forced them to largely adopt microwave and satellite technology, few years ago, over 80 percent of telephone access in the country was rendered through satellite technology. Experts have noted that quality of service delivered using microwave technology is often times affected by atmospheric condition, making the technology not suitable for reliable service delivery compared to fibre optic cable also known as terrestrial infrastructure. But today, this scenario is fast changing as operators are now deploying fibre optic transmission network to improve on their service quality. But more work is still needed in this regard.
A fibre optic cable is made from a glass cladding that (due to its lower refractive index) reflects ‘escaping’ light back into the core, resulting in the light being guided along the fibre.
Currently, the growth and potential earning accruable from telecommunications services in Nigeria economy is comparable to other markets in the world, and the current rate of network growth across the country is impressive.
Quite a number of global technology corporations are extending their operations to Nigeria with multiplier effect on the economy, and international trade between us and other countries of the world.
However, it is encouraging to note that despite the rapid growth of telecommunications in the country, there is still a great opportunity for further growth and even development, as Nigeria being the most populous country in Africa, has an estimated addressable telecommunications market of 100 million subscribers presently. In view of the country’s landscape, she remains major market for long distance network operators due to increasing demand for multi-service, such as voice, data, video as well as rural telephony access.
Experience has shown that in order for predominantly mobile operators to improve on their quality of service, as well as capture multi-service segment of the market, they must invest in fibre optic backbone.
Efforts in this regard
The absence of terrestrial infrastructure in the telecommunication industry is being felt in all service deliveries. For instance, in direct-to-home satellite television broadcasting, it is a common occurrence for service to be disrupted each time it rains, more so, the hope of offering broadband internet service cannot be realized without a fibre optic infrastructure, its absence is responsible for the narrow band services rendered by operators in the sector.
It is against this backdrop that telecommunications giant; Globacom initiated its fibre optic ring project across the country. So far, it has completed Abuja to Kano, Minna, Enugu, Owerri, Uyo among others even as works on the last link between Lagos and Benin has reached advance stage.
Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (Nitel) has fibre optic ring that is not being used probably because of the monopolistic tendencies of the moribund company, which resulted in the federal government parastatal’s refusal to lease out the infrastructure to GSM operators that requested for it during their early roll out plan.
This however led to them embarking on similar project. MTN in order to meet the growing high-capacity transport and connectivity needs of the industry has almost completed a world-class quality Metropolitan Area Fibre Networks in Ibadan, Kano, Warri, and Aba. When completed, it will support anticipated voice, data and video growth in these cities by providing superior transmission capacity, reliability, robustness and quality service. This is in addition to 3,885km of fibre optic backbone networks popularly referred to as ‘Blaze’ network. Blaze was implemented in four phases, namely: Phases 1 and 2 southern and eastern rings with a total of 2,422km. Phase 3, Northern ring with a total span of 1,116km, Phase 4 Niger Delta with a total span of 347km. MTN is leveraging on this infrastructure to provide connectivity of some commercial banks as well as Central Bank of Nigeria.
Zain is not left out in this effort to improve service through effective transmission infrastructure of fibre optic. The company having taken delivery of its first fibre optic project 4,000km from Nokia Siemans has awarded another contract to the same company for the expansion of its existing 4,000km nationwide fiber backbone network by a further 6,000km.
Zain Nigeria, explained that the aim of the project is to create wide capacity for Nigeria’s growing number of customers demanding high quality broadband services by deploying self owned fiber.
Zain awarded the original project in November 2007, but Nokia Siemens Networks speed up the project’s preliminary deadline of June 2009, and completed Phase 1 of the project by end February. This phase 2 of the project has been completed.
In essence, Nigeria will begin to witness emergence of an improved and unlimited telecom services, massive expansion of networks and benefits or their existing market goodwill, and a significant increase in the demand for multi-service.
The market will begin to offer bundled services, as costs come down. The competition between wireless and wired line services would begin to grow.
Gbenga Adebayo, chief executive officer, Communications Network support service, said that aside improved transmission of voice call, data and video occasion by the expansion of fibre optic by telcos, there will be emergence of wired services. He said wired line services offer multi-service at very affordable rate without compromise on quality. According to him, the fixed nature of the service of wired line, provide for a long tern relationship between operators of the service and their customer. He said that, market research has shown that in the urban areas, a large number of residential customers have a higher retention of their fixed lines with better quality than mobile services.
Deolu Ogunbanjo, president of National Association of Telecommunications subscribers of Nigeria (Natcomms) said that transmission of telecommunication services via microwave contributes to poor quality of service being experienced by subscribers of telecom services, and that with a shift to more effective transmission by fibre optic backbone, Nigeria subscribers will begin to witness unmatched service delivery especially in video, and data service.
It is a known fact that challenges for wired network operators in the country range from the difficulty in infrastructure deployment, right of way approval processes, and unwillingness of operators to co-share ducts among others. But as these are gradually being addressed through the growing of national fibre optic transmission backbone, Nigerians are expecting the emergence of wired line services as telecommunications development is moving to the next level of value added which ultimately required bandwidth.