About 56 percent of Nigeria's rural population will be connected to broadband services through the use of television white space (TVWS) technology, officials have said.
To this end, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in collaboration with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), is set to develop a framework for the use of TVWS technology to extend affordable rural connectivity to Nigerians.
The initiative, which was the fulcrum of discussion by stakeholders at a one-day consultative forum organised by the NCC in Abuja, yesterday, is mid-wifed by the Ministry of Communications, following approval for the use of the TVWS technology by the National Frequency Management Council (NFCM).
TVWS is the unused spectrum in the broadcasting band which can be used to deliver affordable broadband services in the rural communities, thereby bridging the rural-urban digital divide. In Nigeria, TVWS is being deployed to extend connectivity to over 56 per cent of Nigerians living in the rural areas.
In his opening remarks, Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, said the government approved the use of TVWS so as to "extend broadband internet coverage, especially to rural communities and other far-flung communities and increase broadband penetration in Nigeria."
Already, pilots, through proof of concepts (PoCs), have been conducted to confirm the suitability of TVWS in delivering rural connectivity in terms of coverage and quality of service.
Speaking at the stakeholders' consultative forum, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said connectivity of every Nigerian is a priority to the commission.
Danbatta, who was represented by the Director, Spectrum Administration of NCC, Engr. Austine Nwaulune, said the quest to achieving the rural connectivity goal led the commission to embark on several initiatives.
He stated that one of such initiatives is the collaboration with sister agencies such as the NBC to explore the use of TVWS in the lower spectrum band to deliver low-cost broadband services to Nigerians in rural communities.
"NCC takes the connectivity of every Nigerian irrespective of where he or she resides very importantly. So, what we do is to look out for technology that fits into making this happen for us. TVWS is one of such technologies because it is coming to utilise the spectrum in the lower megahertz band and as it is, the spectrum is very good because it propagates very far.
"So, you need less number of base stations to deliver services on TVWS and the fact that rural communities are very challenging does not mean that people in those communities should not be connected, hence the use of this innovative technology," he said.
Danbatta further stated that through the stakeholder forum, the commission has demonstrated its recognition of TVWS technology as capable of delivering rural connectivity service in the country, stressing that stakeholders at the forum were expected to guide and advise the commission towards drafting a regulatory framework to have TVWS spaces provided to deliver rural connectivity.
A Director from the NBC, Engr. Victoria Ngozi Ekeh, who represented the Director-General of the commission, Malam Is'haq Modibbo Kawu, enjoined stakeholders to make valuable suggestions and inputs that would help the NCC in coming up with a framework that addresses interference issues in the use of TVWS.