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Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)

Give Nigerians broadband, not details of how broadband’ll change their lives, businesses

A cross section of Nigerians who use data on a daily basis for their businesses and personal activities have called on the telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to shift emphasis from repeatedly explaining how use of broadband will change narratives of daily businesses and life to deepening broadband availability and affordability.

Report from a recent Vox Pop conducted by Business Hilights Economic Research Team (BHERT) in three Nigerian cities of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt showed that about 95 per cent respondents agree that they have hard enough explanations on how broadband will improve their businesses and life, but  they are yet to feel the availability and affordability.

Only about five per cent say they still need more details on how internet will assist them in their daily business.

Further investigations on the state of broadband delivery in line with the five-year national broadband plan for Nigeria showed that there seems to be a deep drop in related investment by networks.

However, experts are divided on the activities of the regulator, NCC in fast tracking policy implementation of the timetable driving the process after all.

For example, since the beginning of the year, the regulator had been assuring of conducting bids for Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) in remaining zones of the country even as the two zones whose winners have emerged previously are having serious logistics issues in depoloying their infrastructures.

Business Hilights recalls that Lagos and North Central zones InfraCos had been named, but they are yet to effectively do their business of broadband infrastructure delivery even within the given timeframe.

The InfraCos at several forums have cited challenges in the Right of Way (RoW), multiple taxation and poor access to forex.

It was not clear if the listed challenges by existing InfraCos are part of the reasons considered by the regulator for not maintaining its set timetable for conducting bids for InfraCos in the remaining zones as time continue to get wasted after all.

It would be recalled that since Open Access Model (OAM) that was designed to be driven by InfraCos was chosen as the preferred broadband vehicle during the tenure of the immediate past chief executive of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah.

More than two year after, industry observers liken progress rate on broadband delivery to Snail speed.

However, recently in Lagos, the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive of the NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta seemed to have continued with explanations on merits of ubiquitous broadband spread across the country, saying it will boost socio-economic development and growth in the country.

Though he was technically silent on how affordability and accessibility are growing, he was quick to assure Nigerians of government’s efforts to surpass the 30 per cent broadband penetration target by 2018.

According to him, “Broadband has become a key priority of the 21st Century, and its life-changing capability for enabling socio-economic growth makes it an essential tool for empowering people, creating an environment that nurtures technology and service innovations, which triggers positive change in general business processes”.

“It is believed that increased adoption and use of broadband in the next decade and beyond will be driven by the extent to which broadband-supported services and applications are not only made available to, but are also relevant and affordable for consumers.

“Consequently, the Nigerian Communications Commission made broadband penetration the flagship of its 8-Point Agenda. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and UNESCSO had since 2010, established the Broadband Commission whose reports have shown that broadband access in every country is key to any development agenda. Our agenda aligns with the importance accorded to broadband across the world.”

Continuing, Prof Danbatta averred that broadband remains a catalyst for social and economic transformation in this era of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Nigerian’s target for broadband penetration by 2018 is 30 per cent, and the Commission recognises its prime responsibility in the actualisation of the national broadband plan target, Danbatta added.

Though he explained that the Commission has been able to articulate a regulatory framework that will enable strategic and systematic licensing and deployment of broadband infrastructure across the country through InfraCos, efforts to see reality of the performance of licensed InfraCos failed.

Besides, it is getting to six months after the first bidding process for 2.6GHz spectrum, which saw MTN Nigeria Ltd becoming the winner of six slots of 10MHz each, without any other bidder, all assurance by the Commission to conduct another round of bid seem to be extending to couple of months even after series of stakeholders’ meetings.

However, Danbatta recently announced that the Commission has initiated processes for licensing of more broadband services on the 5.4GHz spectrum band, and has opened the process for the allocation of frequencies in the 70/80 GHz band (E-Band).

Many Nigerians who spoke to our correspondent on broadband availability are skeptical that the waiting game may drag till year end and enter next year.

Whereas industry experts traced drop in data network investments to delays in reviewing data price floor, very few still believe that NCC will deliver on meeting the 2018 target of 30 per cent broadband penetration.

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Business Hilights is an online news channel conceptualized and structured to report and track on a daily basis; latest developments in critical business sectors to serve as a one stop news gateway for governments, foreign and indigenous investors.

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