The federal government has made it a "personal priority" to bring Nigeria to the forefront of broadband service, a remarkable pledge which if implemented could fuel economic development, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek can now report.
Nigeria currently scores very low in availability and affordability scales for broadband services even with the numerous submarine cable initiatives with landing points on the shores of the country.
And while other countries including less endowed nations are starting to invest in new, fibre-based infrastructure, delivering considerably higher bandwidth, Nigeria is tottering under the weight of distribution challenges.
The challenges include; lack of adequate national transmission backbone; unavailability of spectrum for last mile connectivity; low demand for broadband; and lack of local content and e-services.
Others are absence of broadband policy; unreliable electricity supply; and vandalization of equipment.
Lack of policy means there is no clear roadmap for spectrum planning, particularly with the harvesting of the digital dividend spectrum.
But the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is to make regulatory intervention including incentives for broadband network roll out.
Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that in the absence of reliable statistics, broadband penetration of Nigeria is said to be about 6 per cent.
Dr. Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman, NCC, said that high speed internet is a new engine of growth and job creation and that his commission is to intervene by deepening broadband penetration in the country by taking the technology to a larger segment of the Nigerian society.
Speaking at the Nigerian Broadband Forum held in Lagos last week, Juwah said “the consumption needs for ICT products are so vast and availability so infinitesimal” resulting in “an overwhelming opportunity for investment, much like the pre-GSM era.”
Juwah said efforts are being made by the Nigerian government including the states to welcome more participation and investments in the telecoms industry.
Before now, the NCC came up with initiatives such as the State Accelerated Broadband Initiative (Sabi) and Wire Nigeria Initiative (Win) to deepen broadband penetration in the country but they failed to impact due to lack of a broadband policy to give a direction on their execution.
Raising hopes, Juwah affirmed that there can be no adequate broadband without fixed infrastructure, adding that the 2.5GHZ which is under the custody of the broadcast community in different slots would be opened up as broadcasters are to vacate the frequency in 2015 as a result of digitization.
By this, he said huge frequencies would be available for LTE come 2015, noting that the broadband penetration initiative would be a win-win situation for operators and subscribers as there would be sufficient base stations to aggregate mobile traffic.
Omobola Johnson, minister of Communication Technology noted that: “The challenge for us in Nigeria is not the proverbial last mile but the last hundreds of miles- taking that landed capacity to cities, communities, institutions and homes.”
She said the average broadband speeds today are slow and with a penetration rate of just 6 percent or thereabout, “it is not ubiquitous-demand has already far outstripped supply.”
Johnson opined that clear government policy, effective and independent regulation that attracts investments and fueled the country’s success in voice will fuel the success of broadband services delivery in Nigeria.
According to the communications minister, objectives for broadband penetration in the country are to accelerate the penetration of reasonably priced broadband internet in the country, foster broadband usage for national development and to ensure the rapid development of a broadband policy support and implementation framework.