This Day (Lagos)

8 November 2012

Nigeria: Operators Blame Govt for High Cost of Bandwidth

Telecommunications and submarine cable operators have blamed the federal government for the continuous high cost of bandwidth in the country, in spite of the huge broadband capacities from MainOne, Glo 1, and the MTN West African Cable System.

According to them, submarine cable operators have done so well in bringing broadband capacity to the country through their subsea cable projects, but lamented the situation where the broadband capacities were being underutilised, because of government's inability to build a national backbone infrastructure that will take the broadband capacities to the hinterland for last-mile connectivity.

The presence of submarine cables at the shores of Nigeria has helped in reducing the wholesale price of internet bandwidth, but this is yet to reflect on the retail price, a situation that has made the cost of bandwidth extremely high for the consumers, the operators said.

Director, Regulatory Affairs for Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Tobechukwu Okigbo who expressed his displeasure over the matter at the just-concluded software competition in Tinapa Business Resort in Calabar, organised by the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), told THISDAY that government must address the situation, by fully supporting telecommunications operators in taking broadband capacities from the shores of the country, to address the need of the people in the hinterland, instead of allowing the operators to do it themselves.

Delivering a paper on 'Regulatory Impediment of e-Government', Okigbo blamed government for not being open to private sector development in the country, insisting that the responsibility of taking broadband from the shore of the country to the hinterland, to address basic internet needs of the people, should not be left to telecoms operators alone.

He explained that Nigeria had a lot of broadband capacities in the country that were capable of transforming the nation into digital economy, but expressed his dissatisfaction of the inability of government to take the broadband capacities to the people, while blaming the ugly situation for the continued high cost of bandwidth in the country.

"Knowledge is what drives economies and the federal government should be able to tap into the knowledge skills that broadband capacities would bring to the people by making broadband richly available to everyone," Okigbo said.

Chief Executive Officer of MainOne Cable Company, Ms. Funke Opeke, who spoke on the importance of broadband infrastructure, challenged government to build a national backbone infrastructure that will serve as a major carrier of broadband capacities across the country.

She explained that once that was achieved, telecoms operators and the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), would be able to connect to the national backbone from different parts of the country, to provide internet services to homes, offices, schools, business centres, shopping malls, among others, for the use of everybody.

According to her, South African counties were already building their infrastructure, insisting that Nigeria should not be left out.

Analysing the benefits of broadband to a country, Opeke said it would drive development, create opportunity for everyone to get access to the internet as well as boost cloud computing among others. According to her, without sufficient broadband capacities, Nigerians would not be able to generate data that would be hosted in the cloud.

She explained that most Nigerian websites and data were being hosted outside the country, because it was cheaper for ISPs to do so, considering the high cost of bandwidth in the country.

With the coming of several submarine cables into the country since 2010, hopes were raised that they would drive down the cost of bandwidth, and open opportunities for broadband revolution in the country, but two years down the line, Nigerians still groan under high cost of bandwidth.

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