31 December 2012

Nigeria: 'Nigeria's Fibre Optic Cables Still Under-Utilised'

Three years into the landing of submarine cables also known as fibre optic cables in Nigeria from separate cable operators, Nigeria is yet to make maximum use of the cable capacities.

Main One, one of the cable operators, told THISDAY that Nigeria was yet to utilise 5 per cent of its cable capacities, and that the same was applicable to other cable operators like Glo 1, and MTN WACS.

Chief Executive Officer of Main One Cable Company, Mrs. Funke Opeke, who disclosed this in Lagos, lamented a situation where Nigeria has more than enough broadband capacities from several submarine cables at the shores of the country, yet less than 10 per cent of the total broadband capacities from the three cable operators was being utilised in a country of over 160 million persons.

Glo 1, operated by Globacom, with capacity of 640 Gbit/s, covering distance of 10,000 km from Lagos to UK, connecting 17 African and European countries, landed the shores of Nigeria in 2009, while Main One, which landed in 2010, covers over 7,000 km distance from London, with initial landing stations in Nigeria, Ghana and Portugal.

MTN's West African Cable System (WACS) commenced operation in 2011, and is delivered to Nigeria by MTN. It has links from Europe, West Africa and South Africa, with bandwidth capacity of over 5.12 Terabytes (Tbps) and spanning a distance of 14,530 km.

WACS has the mandate to deliver international connectivity and provide International Private Leased Circuits (IPLC) to any location across the globe, with an extensive terrestrial Internet Protocol (IP) and broadband infrastructure to deliver connectivity anywhere in Nigeria.

All these broadband capacities, Opeke said, remained low on the shores of the country, with less than 10 per cent utilisation. She however said the cable operators were able to reduce cost of bandwidth in the wholesale market, but that the retail market, which affects the consumers directly, still operate at high cost of bandwidth.

Comparing Nigeria with other African countries, Opeke said Kenya and Tanzania have gone far in Internet access penetration because the government of those countries built a nationwide infrastructure backbone and allowed the private sector to run it at a determined low cost and that every Internet Service Provider (ISPs) has equal access to available broadband capacities.

But in Nigeria, each cable company is building its own broadband infrastructure and fixing prices at will, which in most cases are very high because the operators have to add the cost of building their own infrastructure backbone.

According to her, there should be infrastructure framework policy in Nigeria where government would consider existing backbone infrastructure and make the available capacities accessible to operators at reduced cost.

"Government should step in, look at existing infrastructure and set a regulatory policy that will enable people buy bandwidth at a government determined price, instead of each operator building its own backbone and putting its own price," Opeke said.

She insisted that so much could be done with various broadband applications if Nigeria has better Internet penetration. "Students in tertiary institutions need the access for research, and government needs the access to become e- compliant, and Main One is doing its best to increase Internet penetration in the country", she said.

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