13 December 2012

Nigeria: Main One Seeks Specific Policies for Broadband Penetration

The Main One Cable Company has called on the Federal Government to come up with specific policies that will further drive broadband penetration in the country.

General Counsel to Main One, Kazeem Oladepo, who made the call in an interview with THISDAY in Lagos recently, spoke extensively on several ways by which government could achieve broadband penetration.

He said the government must be ready to push certain policies that would be tailored towards achieving broadband penetration in the country.

According to him, "Government needs to play its role in investing and protecting existing broadband investments. It needs to put in place specific broadband policies to address some of the critical demand and supply issues, and the regulator should then play its role in implementing and enforcing such policies."

He insisted that the need to drive broadband across the nooks and crannies of the country should not be left to the private sector alone.

Giving instances on the broadband model proposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Oladepo said: "We are still trying to study the business model proposed by the NCC, even as information provided suggests that it plans to have three layers of infrastructure providers- 'Active, Passive and Retail,' and that no single operator will be allowed to participate in more than two of the layers."

"What is of concern is the impact of the model on the existing regulatory and licensing structure for broadband operations in Nigeria, where some operators are already participating in all the three distinct layers," he added.

Explaining some of the reasons for slow broadband penetration in the country, Oladepo said internet service providers (ISPs) were reluctant to take broadband services from its landing points at the shores in Lagos, to far-away cities like Sokoto and Maiduguri, because of its cost implications.

According to him, the reason an ISP would not immediately go and get service into Sokoto today is because the cost of providing services between Lagos and Sokoto is twice the cost to deliver same service between London and Lagos.

"Between London and Lagos is about 7,000 kilometres, but from Sokoto to Lagos is probably about 900 kilometres at best. So ISPs will pay twice, what they were supposed to pay for coverage of 900 km when compared to what would be paid for coverage of 7, 000 km, essentially because people who own infrastructure are not sharing it, and when they share it, they share it at high prices that are discriminatory and non-transparent," he explained.

He insisted that government must come up with policies that would address the issue of cost, if Nigeria must achieve high broadband penetration.

He further explained that another major factor for low broadband penetration was demand. According to him, if ISPs were to take broadband capacity to everywhere in Nigeria today, there will be no commensurate utilisation, because demand is low.

"There is a demand issue whereby the level at which people use broadband services needs to be stimulated and one of the quickest ways to fix it is to get all government services online," he said. Oladepo equally urged government to provide internet services to all university campuses. "This is one area that the government needs to look into by funding the provision of broadband services to universities and encouraging the development of requisite local content that will sustain usage and improve overall productivity," he added.

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