With licensed infrastructure companies (InfraCos) expected to roll out services before the end of the year, the about 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) is to be mapped out for Point of Access (PoA) to aid broadband deployment in the country.
This PoA is expected to unlock new opportunities and drive growth in the telecommunications industry and the economy as a whole. Though, this is expected to be completed within four years, the PoA will also give expanded access to rural connectivity across the regions.
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), optimal deployment of broadband infrastructures through the Infraco model in the face of existing challenges was critical to driving broadband availability, accessibility and affordability in the country.
NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who revealed this plan, at the Nigeria ICT Impact CEO Forum, in Lagos with the theme: ‘Broadband Access: National Scorecards and Road Map to 2020’, noted that the move was in line with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recommendation that broadband should be treated as an essential service like electricity and water.
Noting that there is inadequate metro fibre infrastructure coupled with distribution challenges in several towns and cities, Danbatta said the regional license handed InfraCos on a regional basis, would help them to provide metropolitan fibre and wholesale transmission services on a non-discriminatory, open access and price regulated basis.
The Guardian can report that NCC has three more InfraCo licenses to issue for the North West, South West and South South. The Commission had issued licenses to MainOne for Lagos; IHS for North Central and Abuja; Zinox Technology Limited for South East and Brinks Integrated Solutions Limited for North East.
At the event organized by ICT Watch Network, Danbatta noted that increasing access to fibre would lead to a second wave of growth in the telecommunications industry after the exponential growth of voice service which was 8.66 per cent contribution to the economy in 2017.
On the theme of the event, he described broadband as technology enabler and vehicle for socio-economic transformation
He stressed that there is a higher economic growth in countries with more broadband penetration than countries with less broadband penetration and assured that the process for new spectrum auctions and assignments to drive mobile and wireless broadband is ongoing.
“Broadband deployment has a strong impact on GDP, employment and productivity in all economic sectors. Hence, governments and regulators worldwide are strongly in support and make every effort in promoting broadband deployment to stimulate the development of the economy and the society,” he added.
Danbatta, who was represented by Head of Technical Standards, Bako Wakil, said the open access model, which was adopted for the peculiar Nigerian market will be adopted and added that “initially, the Infraco would only play in layer 1B (Metro dark fibre), and layer 2 (active infrastructure layer) of the broadband ecosystem. However, the Commission in its wisdom and for the good of the market decided to allow Infraco’s play in every segment of the value chain, and use regulatory tools such as accounting separation to discourage/mitigate/punish cross subsidization.”
He stressed among other trends in industry that insurgency in the North-East threatened the operations and network expansion plans of service providers in the region. He added that operators now focus on growth of data services and provision of optimal quality of service delivery. On the current status of broadband infrastructure in Nigeria, he said there is adequate international bandwidth from International Submarine Cable landings such as WACS, Main One, GLO-1, SAT3 and others at our shores, with over 38,000 km of inter-city fibre lay.
Speaking on the challenges of broadband deployment in the rural areas, the Managing Director, VDT Communications, Abiodun Omoniyi, while making reference to a World Bank study involving 120 developing and developed countries, it was noted that 10 per cent increase in fixed broadband penetration would increase GDP growth by 1.21 per cent in developed economies and 1.38 per cent in developing ones.
Challenges to broadband deployment in the rural areas, according to him, include worst condition or absence of infrastructure, condition or absence of electricity power supply, poor total absence of security, low patronage, poor returns on investment, non-viability of investment especially on the short-run, scarcity of quality manpower, excessive cost of telecom licenses/multiple taxation and inadequate support.
For broadband to develop in rural areas, the VDT boss noted that deliberate government policy to promote broadband penetration, tax waiver on rural broadband investments, better economic management to expand general development to rural areas, increased extension of infrastructural development to rural areas, low license fees, integrated taxation system to eliminate multiple taxation, deliberate government policy to protect broadband infrastructure in rural areas.
According to him, broadband infrastructure requires huge upfront investments which make rural broadband investment not viable amidst myriads of other challenges.
“Chances for rural broadband development vary directly with the general infrastructural development in rural areas. The more development extends into the rural areas from urban extents, the more rural broadband investment becomes more attractive.
“Unless government makes friendly policies for rural broadband investment and take deliberate steps to make rural broadband investment attractive to operators, the chances of broadband development in rural Nigeria, to a great extent, will continue to be in the same space as the general infrastructural and economic development in the rural areas of Nigeria,” he stated.