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Broadband, Next Digital Revolution

Posted: Jun 23, 2015 at 12:32 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Stories by Emmanuel Okwuke


 The broadband revolution has been touted as the next big thing to happen to Africa and the world. This was the summation of the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), Prof. Tim Unwin as he flagged off the Commonwealth Broadband forum 2015 in Abuja recently.

The two-day event with the theme ‘Broadband for All: From Access to Inclusion’ had attendance from most members of the Commonwealth, industry players and several stakeholders.

Unwin whose tenure as Secretary General of CTO ends in September, said he was excited that the forum was holding in Nigeria whose son, Shola Taylor would over from him at the expiration of his tenure.

He told participants, particularly government officials and policy makers that all must work hard if the nations within the Commonwealth are to make broadband available to their citizenry especially those in the un-served and underserved areas.

Unwin heaped encomiums on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for spirited navigation to the reality of broadband for all in Nigeria adding that the NCC had put in place pervasive broadband penetration through regulatory commitment.

He commended the NCC Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) Dr. Eugene Juwah for his commitment to transforming the Nigerian economy through implementation of appropriate broadband deployment strategies for the country especially the National Broadband Plan (NBP) 2013-2018.


Broadband, Catalyst To Development

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Communications Technology, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, who declared the event open, described it as very important for Nations of the Commonwealth.

He said the theme was well thought out considering that broadband is the catalyst for achieving global knowledge based economy. “It potentially influences the entire economy and as a general purpose platform used as key input across various sectors ranging from health, commerce, education, banking,” among others.

Olaopa said the forum is coming at a time when issues relating to broadband development are getting global attention.

According to him, the economic impact of broadband penetration has been found to be quite impressive. “World Bank studies show, quite conclusively, that in low and middle-income countries, every 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration accelerates economic growth by 1.38 percentage points indicating the need for the world to do everything possible to ensuring the roll out of broadband infrastructure”.

He added that the world has taken voice telephony as basic telecommunications service while moving fast into the new world of data transmission that defines the speed with which businesses are conducted in the cyberspace.


Critical Infrastructure Deployment

Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah updated participants of Nigeria’s broadband plan.

Represented by Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management, Dr. Okechukwu Itanyi, the EVC noted that: “The catalytic role and contribution of broadband services to any economy is well documented. Some of these are its positive impact on education delivery, health care provision, energy management, security, and information dissemination. For Nigeria, the lack of a robust fixed network infrastructure and the need to rapidly develop the infrastructure to provide universal broadband services required a coordinated national approach.

“This led to the crafting of a National Broadband Plan covering the period 2013 to 2018. The policy and regulatory strategies for accelerated broadband infrastructure development was thus articulated taking due cognisance of the unique conditions prevailing in the country”.


Journey So Far

According to Juwah, “it is important to state briefly where we started from before the articulation and coordinated implementation of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan.

He noted that before the broadband plan was rolled out, the status of the telecommunications industry shows that: There were three International submarine cables, SAT3, Glo1 and MainOne at our shores, 3G mobile internet services was available in less than 20 towns and cities across the country, no Broadband infrastructure framework was in place and there was less than 15million internet subscriptions across the country.

Also, about 22,000km intercity fibre  was deployed across the country with low utilisation due to duplication in several routes and lack of metropolitan fibre networks, deployed networks  was mainly voice based, relatively high cost of internet subscription and low internet speeds.


National Broadband Plan (NBP)

On the Nigerian NBP, Juwah told the audience that the supply side of the NBP aims to address the broadband infrastructure deficit in towns and cities across the country.

According to him, some of the objectives include: To achieve a 30 per cent broadband penetration rate by 2018 from 6.1 per cent in 2012, to have a coordinated strategy towards the provision of a broadband infrastructure ecosystem in the country and to develop strategies based on the peculiarities of the different geographical areas to enable the deployment of broadband infrastructure.

Others are: to expand broadband access to more localities, to ensure optimal input costs for infrastructure to service providers and affordability for consumers, to ensure open non-discriminatory access to broadband infrastructure for all service providers and to expand broadband penetration across the country using different access technologies as appropriate.


Targets of NBP

Speaking on set targets,  Juwah noted that the NCC has set a target to achieve the following amongst others during the 5-year Broadband implementation plan: facilitating the provision of a resilient broadband infrastructure across the country, license seven (7) Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) to rollout metropolitan fibre across the country and auction available slots in the 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz and 700MHz band for wireless broadband access.

Also,  implement cost based pricing model and price caps for leased transmission capacity to drive affordability, implement open non-discriminatory access to broadband infrastructure for all service providers and open new high capacity spectrum bands for licensing (for example the 70/80GHz).

Others are: Interconnect all Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Nigeria with fibre optic cable transmission, provide incentives to drive the rollout of broadband infrastructure and increase wireless broadband access across the country.

The EVC noted that the following progress have been made in the NBP. They are: Open access broadband infrastructure framework concluded and under implementation, Two (2) InfraCos have been licensed for Lagos and North Central Zones to drive the rollout of metropolitan fibre in these zones and additional submarine cables from WACS and ACE in operation thus further increasing the Bandwidth at our shores.

Also,  3G wireless broadband service has been launched in over 500 towns and cities across the country from less than 20 towns before 2010, over 30,000km intercity fibre laid from about 22,000km and over 83million internet subscriptions as at February 2015 from less than 15million in 2010 among others.