Nigeria’s ambitious broadband plan would require an investment of as much as $3 billion by governments and private sector as well as strong political will to ensure every citizen has access to broadband, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek can report.
Broadband is the general term used to describe high-speed Internet service and it is becoming what electricity was to the industry and for economic development to take place.
Unfortunately, despite nearly $3 billion investment in submarine cables and broadband initiatives in the last five years, Nigeria’s broadband is still pedestal because of a catalogue of problems.
Some of the problems include; absence of broadband policy; dearth of principal requirements for providing reliable communication services; lack of effective distribution platform; 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.
For instance, broadband-related initiatives such as the Wire Nigeria Project and the State Accelerated Broadband Initiative, being handled by the Government through the Nigerian Communications Commission ( NCC) have not been well-coordinated due to lack of a broadband policy to give a direction on their execution.
Akinwale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive, MTN, said: “It is critical to develop a national broadband policy which articulates a roadmap and strategy for broadband penetration and service delivery.”
Nodding in agreement, Funke Opeke, CEO MainOne Cable Company, at ATCON’s Broadband Investment Summit called for a multifaceted national broadband policy in Nigeria because it is critical to development.
Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that the absence of direction policy on broadband has resulted in organized chaos in the deployment of broadband with little to show for massive efforts.
Goodluck added that broadband penetration is meaningless without appropriate regulatory environment which enables delivery of converged serbics.
He said government needed to articulate policies and strategies for driving broadband usage through eGovernment, eCommerce and eEconomy services.
Elsewhere, Chima Onyekwere, chairman, Linkserve, blamed faulty spectrum design which gave choice spectrum for broadband services delivery to the military.
Also the absence of last mile infrastructure to take broadband services to homes and offices across the country has served to exacerbate the situation.
While there are avalanche of broadband brought in with the arrival of MainOne cable, Glo 1 cable and West African Cable System (WACS), transporting them to parts of the country has been difficult.
The equipment are also becoming relics and hardly reliable and where they are available, the owners charge premium for their usage.
Onyekwere said most of the base transceiver stations and backhaul infrastructure in use were deployed in 2001 and 2002 for voice services.
According to the Linkserve boss, the infrastructure must be upgraded to new technology that can deliver broadband.
Mohammed Rudman, managing director, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria, said “without moving internet capacity from Lagos to other parts of the country, we may witness a lopsided broadband revolution, only in Lagos and its environs.”
Lanre Ajayi, President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (Atcon) stressed the need to stimulate demand for broadband through local content that addresses the need of the people of different endeavours
He noted that harsh operating environment faced by operators such as vandalization, multiple taxes among others discourages them from investing in broadband provisioning.
Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that the country’s notoriously unreliable power supply has not helped matters as operators depend largely on alternative sources of power to provide services.
“It is only natural for the operators to pass the burden on the final consumers, there is no way, they will source money for everything and still provide services at cost every Nigerians are clamouring for, ” Peter Ibe, an ICT consultant enthused.
As if the problems are not enough, the growing targeted attacks on telecom equipment, infrastructure and telecom workers have led to service disruptions.
For the industry, the way forward is a comprehensive broadband policy that articulates investment, interconnection, transmission and rights of the citizens.
In the medium term, experts said that Nigeria would have to spend some $3 billion to overhaul the now derelict national infrastructure, rejig the various state sponsored broadband projects while the private sector will on their own continue to develop broadband facilities.
Onyekwere said that a robust broadband infrastructure is critical for Nigeria in the 21st century.
Goodluck also explained that the situation where operators build and manage power, diesel distribution and security networks in addition to core telecom networks, dissipates energy and resources. He noted that Nigeria’s widely acclaimed intellectual capacity is yet to be applied to content development. “Terabytes of data capacity is useless without content.”
Chima Onyekwere, chairman, Linkserve, blamed faulty spectrum desisign which has not given rise to optimization of broadband services for poor penetration.
He said that choice spectrum for broadband services delivery is being held by the military, he advocated for spectrum harmonization by the two regulatory bodies, Nigerian Communications Commission and National Broadcasting Commission.
Other barriers to broadband penetration he said include, lack of financial capacity for operators to invest in deploying cell sites and backhaul infrastructure for delivery of broadband services.
He also identified buying power of Nigerians as a major challenge, according to him, because of the harsh operating environment operators find it difficult to deliver broadband at small margin to cost bandwidth from international capacity operators, especially when such operator does not have an encouraging market share.