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Pantami drafts MainOne CEO, others into National Broadband committee

The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami has unveiled the Nigerian National Broadband Plan Committee for the Development of the 2020-2025 National Broadband Plan.

The 28 member team which is being chaired by Funke Opeke, CEO of MainOne were selected, according to a statement from the ministry, based on competence, integrity, and professionalism.

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The minister of communication and the digital economy had on November 30, signed a letter of intent with the UK government through the Prosperity Fund’s Digital Access Programme, as part of efforts to draft the new National Broadband Plan. The minister had also promised to engage industry stakeholders through the process of the draft which is expected to conclude 31 March 2020.

The new broadband plan has taken almost one year to commence after the previous plan ended with an abysmal result. The previous plan’s headline target was to achieve 80 percent penetration of 3G mobile wireless broadband by 2018 and the five-fold increase of broadband penetration, from the 2013 penetration of 6 penetration to 30 percent, by the end of 2018. While the 30 percent target was achieved the five-fold increase was not. By prioritizing mobile wireless broadband, little was done about fixed broadband penetration which remains at 0.06 percent in 2019 according to data from Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

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.

Presenting the new committee on Monday, Pantami acknowledged the importance of increasing investment in fixed broadband penetration. According to the World Development Report 2016, a 10 percent increase in fixed broadband penetration leads to an average increase of 3.19 percent in per capita GDP of a country.

The new National Broadband Plan when concluded is expected to set a target of 65 to 66 percent penetration from 2020 to 2025. But experts have said Nigeria needs more than.

Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) had said in January 2019 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.

 

One of the biggest problems hindering fixed broadband rollout which was also highlighted prominently in the previous broadband was the disparities in Right of Way (RoW). Right of Way charges constitutes a major hindrance to fixed fibre deployment, sometimes constituting 50 to 70 percent of the cost of fibre deployment in some states in Nigeria.

Pantami in his speech to the committee said resolving RoW is being prioritised.

“The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy under my watch is working hard to address the challenges of the telecommunications sector such as Right of Way (RoW), consideration of Telecom Infrastructures as Critical National Infrastructures among others,” he said.

The government also said it is working on an executive order to declare telecom infrastructures as Critical National Infrastructures.

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