• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Lagos’ 28,000 fibre gap explains slow internet

Lagos’ 28,000 fibre gap explains slow internet

Lagos needs 36,000 km of fibre to provide fast-speed internet to every nook and cranny of the state, according to Olatunbosun Alake, commissioner for science, innovation and technology.

However, only 7,864.50 km of fibre has been laid in the commercial capital, leaving a 28,135.5 km gap, as highlighted in the Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy’s white paper entitled, ‘Broadband Access for All: Deepening Nigeria’s National Backbone and Middle Mile Infrastructure.’

The ministry noted that the reported fibre could be overestimated by 20 – 25 percent due to duplication across providers, damage from construction and poor maintenance.

Despite Lagos having the most laid fibre in the country, the gap between what is needed and what is available continues to manifest in the slow internet speed in many parts of the city.

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The Ministry of Communications has revealed that Nigeria’s average download speed is 26.48 megabits per second (Mbps), ranking the country 89th globally. Reliable and affordable connectivity is crucial for economic growth, job creation, and social mobility. Only 39 percent of the Nigerian population resides within 5 km of fibre networks, with Lagos at 85 percent.

“Fibre technology, in this case, will enable significantly higher bandwidth capacity and speed. This is because optical fibre carries data as light pulses, thereby avoiding the electronic signalling limitations of traditional mediums,” the ministry said.

To close this gap, the ministry announced a $2 billion special-purpose vehicle (SPV) to support the delivery of an additional 90,000km of fibre optic cable for universal internet access in the country. This will increase the country’s capacity from 35,000km to 120,000km of fibre.

While the Federal Government’s SPV is still in the planning stages, Lagos recently announced that it has completed 2,700km of fibre and hopes to add 3,300km more by 2027.

Alake disclosed this on the sidelines of the recently concluded Africa Technology Expo 2024 event, stating, “We have expanded to 2,700 kilometres of fibre. We have also done 2,700 kilometres of fibre optic ducts infrastructure.”

In 2021, Hakeem Fahm, the then-state commissioner for science and technology, announced that the state was laying a 6,000km fibre metro connection, with 3,000km laid in 2020 and the remaining 3,000km to be completed in 2021.

As the country’s commercial nerve, internet connectivity is crucial for Lagos’ over 15 million inhabitants. With its population and size, an industry expert noted that a state like Lagos “needs several thousand kilometres of fibre infrastructure, from VI to Ikorodu and to Epe.”

However, internet downtimes and slow connectivity persist. “Last-mile infrastructure (fibre) is important to the end-user experience,” said Chris Wood, chief executive officer of WIOCC Group, an open-access digital infrastructure firm.

“The last mile, the fibre network, is probably the most important thing that needs to be built out, and we are talking about buried fibre, not strung between poles, which becomes very vulnerable to cuts. You want to have a resilient and protected network built underground.”

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Despite the presence of eight sub-sea cables bringing high-speed internet capacity to Lagos, the end-user experience suffers if there is no efficient way to deliver this capacity, Wood explained.

As of December 2023, Lagos had 18.93 million internet subscriptions, and the consistent rollout of fibre networks is essential for ensuring fast internet access. “Fiber is essential. The goal is to get broadband to people in any way possible,” emphasised Ayotunde Coker, managing director of Open Access Data Centers (OADC).

Alake, earlier quoted, noted that Lagos’s investment in broadband infrastructure also aims to encourage telcos to roll out broadband in underserved areas.

He said, “The 6,000 kilometres cannot serve the whole of Lagos; you need 36,000 kilometres but the private sector is in the best position to do that.”

However, many private sector players the state may be banking on have announced breaks in infrastructure rollouts due to the rising cost of operations in the country. In their recent financials, MTN and Airtel indicated that they would focus on existing infrastructure.

The commissioner noted that the already rolled-out fibre infrastructure is enabling the digitalisation of government facilities like hospitals.