Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Juwah to the World - Expect Broadband Boom in Nigeria

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian telecoms regulatory authority, the Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr. Eugene Juwah, has again told the international community to expect broadband boom in the Nigerian Information Communications Technology market.

Dr. Juwah who stated this in his presentation at the Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Summit of the Ministerial programe at the just concluded GSMA Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona, Spain said that the success of voice services will be replicated in the Nigerian broadband market.

For Juwah, what we had was a telecom revolution. What we are going to have now is broadband revolution that will eventually impact positively in the lives of every Nigerian, he told the capacity audience.

Expect broadband boom:

With optimism, he told the audience to expect mobile broadband boom in Nigeria whose teledensity has grown from 400,000 telephone lines in 2001 to the 120 million subscribers in 2013, representing a ratio of 0.04 per cent and 86 per cent tele-density in 1999 and 2012 respectively.

Nigeria, Juwah believes would fast track the growth of the nation to knowledge economy and the contributions of broadband to GDP growth with a number of initiatives including the successful auction of 2.3 GHz Spectrum, broadband Industry Infrastructure framework fully articulated, Licensing of infracos, among others.

Government to assist potential investors:

He assured that the government has put in place initiatives to assist potential investors with the right framework to set their investments on the right footing for the broadband market boom.

Sharing the successes of mobile services in Nigeria with the capacity audience during his presentation, Juwah was optimistic that broadband availability will be achieved through clear government policy, effective and independent regulation that attracts the necessary investments and spectrum among others.

From voice service to broadband:

While admitting that Nigeria has done well in voice services, he told the international audience that Nigeria was ripe for broadband boom having concluded auctioning of 2.3GHz and the planned licensing of InfraCos company that will provide a national broadband network on a non-discriminatory, open access and price regulated basis to all service providers.

"We are creating enabling environment and incentives for the private sector to roll out broad band networks which will be a one off incentive for last mile to be achieved. We will replicate the success we made in voice in broadband plan as we proceed on the journey.

"We are also going to license more retail services and encourage the operators where possible to extend fibre to homes and businesses on their own. Government is committed to providing incentives to winners of infrastructure licenses, "he said

According to him, InfraCo would enjoy government support , hence would be getting funding from government to rollout nationwide broadband infrastructure.

According to Juwah, for Nigeria to be part of 21st century knowledge economy, there was need to leverage on the potentials of broadband.

While informing that the NCC would license 2.5 and 2.6GHz bands before end of this financial year, he said that, "Looking at the perspective of where we are today resulting from the liberalization and privatization of the sector in Nigeria. If we look at the voice services, we have achieved a teledensity of 86.6 per cent coverage as at September 2013 and we have active subscriber base that has reached 120.1 million.

"We have done quite well in the voice segment, but taking a look at the data segment, our internet penetration rate currently is 32.9 per cent, our broadband penetration rate is 6.1 per cent, taking it to a higher speed broadband, this 6.1 per cent will disappear" he explained.

Open Access Model:

With the Open Access model, Juwah was convinced that the problem of broadband access in Nigeria would be adequately addressed because the establishment of the broadband networks in the metropolitan areas of Nigeria would aid in taking capacities to the households and businesses.

The objective of this initiative, according to him is to stimulate a new national broadband network that is not only more widespread but also faster and more secure than what is available today.

Accordingly, it would offer efficient connectivity as well as ultra high-speed broadband services that is available, affordable and sustainable.

While the proposed industry structure offers InfraCos as entities that complement the existing industry players by focusing on the market gap and offering non-discriminatory open access wholesale bandwidth services to the industry players, he further explained that proposed structure allows existing players to operate on the basis of business-as-usual, with the option of leasing their inter-city and existing metropolitan fibre infrastructure to the InfraCos.

The Model, according to him is also envisaged to address the challenges of congested and unplanned towns, the challenges around infrastructure sharing and other issues such as high cost of Right of way.

The Open Access Model will potentially help optimize the cost of broadband access across Nigeria and ensure that all operators, whether large or small, have equal access to broadband infrastructure.

Potentials:

Juwah who is very optimistic of what broadband will do for Nigeria said that it has the potential to stimulate business activities, providing support for other sectors of the economy as well as providing better living and governance.

To realize Vision 20-2020 , he said that the nation needs to take advantage of broadband and become an e-economy.

With the Nigerian open access model to drive broadband penetration nationwide, he assured that the strategy will be operator-neutral, providing a network that is open to all players on equal terms.

While Nigerian telecom market is seen as a haven for technology businesses,,according to ITU, Juwah further assured that the regulator will continue to create an enabling environment for private sector participation and robust investment in the broadband ecosystem to fast track its penetration.

For Juwah, who has been marketing the nation's broadband potentials, Nigerian broadband market is one of the top markets in the world with highest returns on investment.

Bottlenecks:

Although he listed a number of factors including lack of collocation and sharing of infrastructure among the operators, duplication of intercity fibre, multiple taxation and many more limiting broadband development in Nigeria, Dr, Juwah told the international audience that the Nigerian broadband market is very huge with lots of potentials and opportunities.

But with the intervention of the Ministry of Communication Technology, these challenges, he said were already been resolved as the Lagos State Government has reached an agreement with the telecom operators to remove barriers to infrastructure deployment.

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