• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Nigeria’s delayed 6-year National Plan to raise broadband penetration by 66%

broadband penetration

The Nigerian government said it is in the process of drafting a new National Broadband Development Plan which would raise penetration level between 65 percent and 66 percent within the next six years.

To achieve the drafting, the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy signed a letter of intent with the UK government through the Prosperity Fund’s Digital Access Programme.

“This project contributes to the UK government’s Prosperity Fund objective of promoting inclusive, affordable, accessible, safe, and secure Internet access for the socio-economic development of underserved communities in Nigeria.”

Following the end of the previous National Broadband Plan which lasted from 2013 to 2018, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said in January 2019, it will come up with a new plan that will consolidate the gains achieved and take the country on a new journey of digital transformation. However, almost one year after the promise, the commission has been unable to constitute a committee to draft the plan.

It should also be noted that while the 66 percent target may seem ambitious, it is a more cautious projection from the 71 percent target declared in January 2019 by the former Minister of ICT, Adebayo Shittu and the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Umar Garba Danbatta at a conference with the theme ‘Post Nigeria National Broadband Plan 2013 to 2018.’

Although Nigeria surpassed the 30 percent target set in the previous National Plan, much of the provisions of the plan were not achieved. Even the 30 percent penetration NCC claimed it achieved was mostly gains in mobile broadband investment as fixed broadband remains untapped.

The previous administration of the Ministry of ICT kept procrastinating action on issues such as the harmonisation of Right of Way (RoW) levies that give operators access to deploy services. At some point, even the National Assembly tried to intervene but little came of the effort.

By 2018, only a paltry 38,000km of fibre out of about 120,000km of fibre network required for pervasive coverage has been deployed in Nigeria.

This is after billions of dollars in investment have been made by the government and private operators in the telecommunications sector. For instance, Nigeria has about five fibre optic cables lying on its shores with terabytes of capacity. The Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (now nTel), South Atlantic 3(SAT3) Fibre optic cable is an investment of over $600 million; MTN’s West African Cable System’s is worth $650 million, ACE Cable by Dolphin Telecoms is worth $700 million, MainOne is worth $300m and Globacom’s Glo cable is worth $800 million.

Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) had said in January that for Nigeria to be fully digitised in 2019, government must raise broadband penetration level to 50 percent at the end of 2019 and further raise it to 80 percent by 2020, when the country will be expecting 5G rollout.

Although the NCC is yet to release the new numbers on broadband penetration, it is, however, unlikely that it is anywhere near 50 percent. This is given that investment fixed broadband has not changed from less than 1 percent since the beginning of 2019.

The drafting of the new plan is expected to be concluded by 31 March 2020, but experts have said the real work lies in the implementation of the plan. Would it suffer the fate of the previous plan?