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NCC’s claims of 30.9% broadband penetration can’t guarantee growth—Experts

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Telecommunications industry pundits have smoked out another angle to the growing criticisms trailing end of last year’s report of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that Nigeria has achieved 30.9 per cent broadband penetration.
Whereas observers continue to puncture NCC’s claims, they have further averred that the so called penetration achieved was possible through mobile broadband with very small fixed broadband contributions as such cannot not guarantee development as targeted in the National Broadband Plan (NBP).
According to the President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engineer Olusola Teniola, “NCC stated that we had achieved 30.9% broadband penetration using mobile broadband subscription numbers which includes multiple SIM users and machine-2-machine (m2m) connections.
“So, the next step is to now ensure that unique subscribers denoting individual users are captured going forward to reflect the true picture of our broadband landscape as the National Broadband Plan of 2013 depicted, where fixed line broadband, extensive fiber roll-out and last mile access is predominately via 3G & 4G at 80% and 50% population coverage respectively.
“ATCON will work with NCC to ensure that infraco licensees roll-out the fiber under their terms of reference which should fill the gap identified by NCC as 120,000 km of fiber still required on the back of 70-80K towers to support the increase in 4G Base Station installations, which is forecast to be 12K by the end of this year and in preparation of 5G in the coming years ahead. If we are able to achieve all this and a bit more then there is every possibility that we can attain more than 70% ‘true’ broadband population penetration within the next 2-3 years.”
He said ‘true’ broadband penetration globally comes from fixed line and not mobile.
Corroborating ATCON chief’s views, President and CEO, InfraFocus Technologies, Oladipo Raji, argued that “There is need for the market to be segmented in a way that mobile data providers are allowed to provide only mobile data and fixed data providers are allowed to provide only fixed data.
“More so, bandwidth providers that brought undersea cable to the country’s shores are today marketing bandwidth at wholesale and retail segment. This system cannot bring growth and development to the sector.
“Mobile data is cheap and limited in terms of what one can do with it; fixed data supports a lot of applications such as Pay TV among others. The only way forward is to segment the market and focus on infrastructure build out that will take services to rural areas,” Raji noted.
To experts, even if Nigeria attains over 80 per cent broadband penetration using more of mobile broadband, the expected growth coming from true broadband penetration which is fixed line will remain elusive.

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