Prince Henry Ise-Okojie, executive vice chairman, Broadbased Communications, is an experienced international business entrepreneur with over 25 years in starting and managing various successful companies.
Prior to his position at BroadBased Communications, he was a co-founder, chairman and 50% owner of M&B Products Limited, a highly successful household appliances company with 122 distributive outlets in Nigeria.
Ise-Okojie has been involved in several local and international startups which have become successful corporations.
He spoke to peter ugwu during the Company’s launch of Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) equipment, aimed at tackling the challenges of laying fiber optic cables in the country.
Broadbased Communications in the Nigerian IT Space
Broadbased Communications is fiber optic metro access gateway. In other words, it is an infrastructure company. What are we trying to achieve? We found there were gaps in the system.
To give a kind of description about happenings in the space, some of understand this because we all suffer it.
Now, in Nigeria, we have five sub-marine cable providers as four of them are active. One is ‘ill’ right now, because it has had severed cables for over year and it has not been able to fix it. That is SAT3n owned by NITEL. NITEL SAT3 is owned by a consortium of 35 countries of which Nigeria is one. But we have other cables such as Glo 1, MainOne, MTN’s WACS, and Dolphin Telecoms’ ACE.
ACE has not been performing optimally, but they are trying to be active. However, the combined capacity of the five sub-marine cables bring to Nigeria is about 14.5 terabyte.
But, the dedicated frequency available to all to distribute wirelessly account for only 2.5% of that entire lots.
Treat that product as the fuel for your car; without that product, the mobile and other devices we use today cannot be of utmost meaning to us.
As we know, daily, weekly and yearly these devices are becoming quite congested; you are having more drop calls.
Failed calls, because more people are entering the same network that hardly had the capacity to handle what it has.
In other words, you ask somebody to lift a trailer load of fuel of about 33,000 liters, but then, he arrives with a Volkswagen, telling you he is ready to lift the fuel.
That is what the industry is currently doing. What we need exceeds what is readily available and everybody is struggling to get a lot of attention.
Traditionally, wireless does not work well with large bodies of water. That is why when you are driving through places like the 3rd Mainland Bridge you drop a lot of calls.
It is the same reason when it is raining your DSTV shuts becomes shaky. It does not mean wireless is not good, rather both should complement each other.
Wireless is supposed to be utilized when you are mobile, but you still need your fixed lines or devices. For instance, when you get to office, you are using your fixed line; your mobile will rest.
It’s mainly while on transit that wireless becomes so much important. But we have converted mobile to 100% device that we utilize; as a result, we do not have the capacity to do it as an industry.
Utilizing Surplus Bandwidth
People have severally asked why we cannot find a way of utilizing the surplus material and make it available to the consumer.
But, you cannot use what you do not have. There is no metro gateway to make it happen; especially, one that has large capacity to carry it.
In other countries such is driven by the national carrier like NITEL. In the United Kingdom, it is the British Telecom; US-AT&T.
They own the fiber optic backbone that carries heavy bandwidth. All the bandwidth we have can enter two or three cables.
But if you do not have that metro access, how can it be achieved? That is what we are suffering in Nigeria.
Therefore, Broadbased Communication is building a metro access to carry fiber around town; such that all telcos can rent from us and there are others that have cable who can rent from them, because this business requires redundancies.
If you use ‘A’ you still need ‘B’, should ‘A’ fails. And ‘A’ and ‘B’ do not necessarily come from the same path. So, our role is very simple: to provide that platform for all telecos to ride on. We do not put content; we are not the ones to make it ‘work’, rather the telcos and others. Still, we are utilizing a verity of success including LCC, NITEL; and we are creating rooms for redundancies, so that the cables will be in LCC’s, other will be in our manhole, or in NITEl’s.
So, it is robust and the idea is to build a mesh where if your cable is located somewhere and gets cut, it can re-route itself through another cable; that is the long term goal.
The essence is to get it right, infrastructure-wise; today is so far away from five years ago in Nigeria. All we wanted then was just to make a call, but today that is not good enough.
We want to send videos, pictures, be on Skye and be in these other applications that require a lot of bandwidth. If you have a car with 20litters fuel capacity, you cannot force 50 litters into the tank.
Partnerships and Spread to Rural Areas
The truth is that you cannot execute this kind of project without the backing of the financial institutions. We have the backing of some banks in the country. They have the right vision and can understand where we are headed.
They are strategic investors who are willing to wait till the time to recoup the investment. They are not thinking of investing in the morning and reap the profit by same evening.
Our technical partners are from ZTE, presently, the largest telecom manufacturing company around the world. They are the manufacturers of the all important transmission networks which helps us isolate where we have problems and quickly fit it.
They have a support team in Lagos that works with us. As for why an ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ Company may go to a rural area; that is difficult for me to answer. But from our point of view, we have to do a research on a particular location.
There must be a business case that forces us to go into a particular location. If there is no business case, there is body that wants to invest and lose the money.
Remember, we are trading with finances from banks and they are extremely expensive to utilize. So, if we take cables to locations that cannot pay, then, how do we pay the banks; except government institutions are willing to encourage telcos to go to certain locations.
With all sense of purpose and highest degree of sincerity the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) is doing the best within its powers to support and encourage telcos to deploy certain services at the rural areas.
But there must also be concerted commitment from all of us to encourage more local players participating in this space. Whether we believe it or not, we were not there during the industrial revolution, so we couldn’t influence it. This is the technological revolution; we can participate and influence it or contribute to it.
Plans for Networking Lagos Metropolis
We have talked about our clients and partners. Actually, we are not starting, but have been engaged in this business for four years.
We have all banks connected to us; it is just that most of them have spent a lot on wireless devices. So, trying to get there to where they ought to have been is very difficult.
Those who have accepted it are seeing the values in it. Also, we are not alone, there are other players doing good jobs in the industry. Meanwhile, migrating from wireless to wired is a different process.
Now, the biggest wireless provider in Nigeria has 6,000 base stations, with 53 million subscribers; in fiber, if you have 1,000 subscribers you have wired 1,000 locations. It is a totally different ball-game. Looking at how do you run cables in a metro location.
Four years ago we had what the industry called Trouble Tickets. In other words, a link laid has problems. No company wants trouble tickets because you are spending good money after bad money.
That is why we acquired the ‘monsters’. Do you know a road that is 6-feet high in Nigeria? The cables and manhole the equipment will lay will be 6-feet deep.
Our manhole covers cannot be lifted by two or four men; it must be opened with a Crain. Those are the investments that are eating us up and why we need these partners.
So, one of the reasons we need these rigs is because we are working in a city that is already developed, so you cannot be breaking the roads.
One of the rigs we have has a range of 500 meters; which means we can penetrate up to 500 meters of the road without anybody seeing signs to show we worked there.
That way, if a construction comes five years down the way, our cables are too far down to be damaged, because they have a lifespan of 25 years.
Perception of Infracos Licenced by NCC
The Infraco mandate is to ensure point to point presence. We already have several points of presence. We will help them move from one PoP to the other.
It is a brilliant idea coming from the NCC; it segments the process to smaller pieces. So, people who own certain segment will be forced to do a good job. Why is it that these prices have come down to the point it is; it is competition.
As long as there is competition in the space, everybody will be struggling to do better. It is for the overall good of the consumer. Before now, the mentality has been ‘I own this base station; therefore, nobody can come here’.
But, five companies can use it as far as your frequencies are different; there will be no interference. It reduces the cost of running business on your side. However, there is a transition in Nigeria for better business models.
Although, they do not have a choice to change; should they maintain that old business acumen, they will be out of business.
The ultimate is that your cost of doing business must come down; otherwise, people can under-cut you in pricing.
We must have a share-services platform, but that platform must be none-compete, because if today you ask Company ‘A’ to go and share with Company ‘B’, he wouldn’t be willing to do that. They have created an environment of lack of trust. Shared services require trust.
Telcos’ Responses towards Broadbased’s Services
At first, it was treated with a lot of suspicion. However, there was a period in our industry (in Nigeria) where we were asked to focus more on IP, because there was only a player, thus, the cost of IP was very expensive.
But on the process, we discovered that what we have supported a strategic investment in a long-term model. At the time, 1Mbps was $1,500; in 2009, I bought it at that rate! It was one pound in the UK. So, how did we get to $1,500.
The whole country was sharing 6Stm ounce, which is about 1gigg; while we are presently giving one empty pipe that is 1gig in a branch.
So, the space is changing and they must change. So, the model is really a telco model, because they are the ones that need a fiber to take them from point ‘A’ to ‘B’ and they put their dark devices to see each other.
Provision for Infrastructure Liaise
It is a conscious choice we have made. We are the first and the equipment have been around for some years. We didn’t ask anybody not to approach the company to buy them. It is a choice they made, probably, to cut corners.
They may be right, we may be right, but time will tell. The chief operating officer of the Company told us when we thought we should be in the IP business, that, we are in for infrastructure.
When we finish those who wants to sell IP can come, rent and put their contents. We could have been selling at that initial time, but that could have dented our plan.
NCC Arrests Man for Hacking into DSTV System
Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC), has arrested one Mr Aliu Olalekan, for allegedly hacking into DSTV system and watching the channels free without subscription.
Mr Matthew Ojo, NCC Director in the Lagos Directorate Office said this while speaking with newsmen in Lagos, on Tuesday.
He said that the suspect used to watch DSTV channels free without subscription on his Android phone via an app which he downloaded on google play store.
“This suspect distributed the know-how to his telegram followers and on his blog with the aim of gaining more followers and viewership on his blog and makes more money through google ad-sense.
“The operation was based on surveillance which had earlier been carried out by the Multi-choice team and verified by a copyright inspector, ” he said.
He added that the arrest was made in collaboration with a team of copyright inspectors led by the Head of Enforcement Department, Mr Charles Amudipe.
Others included; a team from Multichoice Nigeria led by Mr Umar Ibrahim and policemen from Lagos Command Headquarters, Ikeja.
Ojo said that the joint team conducted an anti-piracy operation at the premises of the culprit in Amukoko, Lagos.
According to him, the suspect was contacted on phone by a member of the operation team on the disguise of patronising him. “The suspect came out to meet the caller and in the process of discussion, he was apprehended.
“The suspect took the team to his resident. The squad paraded his one-room apartment and recovered his laptop and phones used in perpetrating the ungodly act. “He was arrested and brought to the copyright commission office for further investigation, ” he said.
Ojo said that, on getting to the commission’s office, the statement of the suspect was taken and the inventory of items seized from him taken. He said that investigation on the matter was still ongoing and if found guilty the suspect will be charged to court.
NCC, Digital Encode Support NITRA Innovative Tech Forum On Post-COVID-19 Strategies
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator and Digital Encode, Cybersecurity and Compliance advisory company, have indicated interest to partner with the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), the national umbrella body of ICT reporters, as it organizes a forum that will x-ray the industry’s future plans for ICT growth post pandemic era.
The event, slated to hold on October 15, 2020, will seek to discuss the needs for a fortified ICT sector after the COVID-19 era, and the level of preparedness of ICT stakeholders to embrace the challenge of being pivotal to the stability and growth of all other sectors.
A statement from NITRA National Secretariat in Lagos indicates that due to the pandemic and need to observe the COVID-19 protocol on social distancing, the event will be held via a Webinar.
This year’s theme, “Multi-stakeholder Approach To National Recovery Post-Pandemic”, is in line with the annual event’s generic theme, ‘NITRA Innovative Tech Forum’, a contribution by NITRA to the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) innovations and policies in Nigeria.
Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC is expected to deliver the keynote speech at the event and will throw more light on Federal Government’s plans, programmes and policies on post-pandemic strategies using ICT.
Dr. Adewale Obadare and Dr. Seyi Akindeinde, founders of Digital Encode, while accepting to support the event expressed their readiness to offer their expertise in Cybersecurity for organisations to prepare against cyber- attacks with the new normal.
They will also highlight areas that are high risks that need fortification in terms of cybersecurity.
Speaking on the event, Mr. Chike Onwuegbuchi, national chairman, NITRA, noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave its negative trails across the globe, economic reboot for countries will not only depend on how well they readapt to the new normal, but also more on their recovery plans.
According to him: “While the federal government has consistently expressed its willingness to set all policies in place to engender growth, and accelerated implementation of these policies, private sector firms have also shown great hunger for the task ahead in post-COVID-19 era.
However, the question that needs to be answered is whether all stakeholders are ready for the required task ahead.”
The event will also offer participating companies opportunities to publicize some of their individual efforts at contributing to reacting a soft landing or lifeline for SMEs and other ancillary companies as the pandemic threatens their survival.
Digital Encode is a multi-award winning and leading consulting and integration firm that specializes in the design, management, and security of business-critical networks, telecommunications environments and other Information Technology (IT) infrastructures.
NCC Threatens Illegal Users of GSM Boosters with Arrest, Prosecution
Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has warned telecom consumers to desist from using illegal GSM boosters.
The commission also said that anyone caught using a GSM booster without obtaining approval of a duly licensed network operator will face arrest and prosecution.
GSM boosters are devices that transmit and receive telecommunications signals and can therefore interfere with other radio frequency equipment.
Ikechukwu Adinde, director, public affairs, NCC, said in a notice published on NCC website, that only licensed network operators are allowed to use GSM boosters.
The booster, also known as amplifier or repeater is made up of three main elements – exterior antenna, amplifier, and interior antenna.
They form a wireless system to boost cellular reception
“Members of the public should note that, willful interference with any wireless telegraphy is an offence under Section 16 of the Telegraphy Act, 2004,”it said
The agency said it will not condone any flagrant breach of this law.
It has also enforced measures to prosecute offenders.
Accordingly, monitoring mechanisms have been put in place and anyone caught using a GSM booster without obtaining approval of a duly licensed network operator will face arrest and prosecution.
“Any member of the public with useful information regarding the illegal use of GSM Boosters should contact the Commission on 09-4617000/7351 or send an email to [email protected],” the notice said.
“Individuals desirous of using GSM Boosters should note that they can only do so in conjunction with licensed network operators,” it added.
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