Worried by the low broadband penetration in the country, which is put at 6 per cent, the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson said government had taken some measures that would deepen penetration by additional 14 per cent by 2017.
Omobola who spoke in Lagos at the weekend at a broadband forum organised by BusinessDay Conferences in conjunction with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said government had already set up a committee on broadband, with a mandate to achieve 20 per cent broadband penetration by 2017.
Listing some of the hurdles to broadband penetration, the Minister blamed low penetration on exorbitant demand from several government agencies over right of way in laying fibre cables. "The situation where over seven Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government are demanding between N500 million to N1 billion from a single operator to grant permit for right of way to lay fibre optic cables, speaks volume of the imminent danger that such action could generate. What it means is that government is simply shooting itself on the foot, because such demands have over the years, stifle the growth of broadband in the country," the Minister said.
She called for concerted efforts on the side of government to put more of government services online, in order to create demand for broadband across the country. She explained that government would partner more with the private sector to further boost broadband penetration in the country.
In his opening speech, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah who was represented by the Director, Public Affairs. Mr. Tony Ojobo, said in the past two years, broadband dominated discussions in the telecoms industry globally and that Nigeria must not be left out.
According to him, the NCC, in collaboration with industry stakeholders, had been in a mission to get it right and had earlier proposed the 'Open Access Model' for broadband penetration in Nigeria.
Speaking on the theme: 'Operational Challenges: Critical Success
Factors for an Operator in Broadband Investment,' Chief Executive Officer of MainOne Cable Company, Mrs. Funke Opeke said the issue of pricing and demand must be addressed by government, if Nigeria must achieve a 20 per cent growth in broadband by 2017.
Listing key ingredients that would enhance operators' success in broadband penetration, Opeke said skills acquisition among youths, affordability and availability of broadband, as well as the right broadband policies, together with the development of broadband content, were key elements that would further drive broadband penetration in the country. She was of the view that the right broadband policy would attract foreign investment that would further increase broadband penetration.
The forum blamed lack of backbone connectivity for low broadband penetration and called for more efforts to improve the middle and last mile connectivity in broadband penetration.
In technical parlance, the middle mile is the operator that will take broadband capacity from the shores of the country to the hinterland, while the last mile is the operator that will deliver broadband services from the hinterland, to homes and offices for the use of customers. Both middle mile and the last mile connectivity must be strengthened and supported, if Nigeria must achieve 20 per cent broadband penetration in 2017, the forum said.