UK hits 95% broad­band pen­e­tra­tion as Nige­ria strug­gles at 21%

Stake­hold­ers worry over de­lay in li­cens­ing of In­fra­cos

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - GUARDIAN TECH - By Adeyemi Ade­petun

THe­u­nited King­dom Govern­ment has dis­closed that 95 per cent of premises within the coun­try now have ac­cess to su­per­fast broad­band.

U.K. Min­is­ter for Sec­re­tary of State, Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport, Matt Han­cock, who an­nounced the mile­stone, praised the govern­ment, es­pe­cially for deem­ing it pos­si­ble to en­cour­age su­per­fast broad­band roll­outs in ar­eas deemed less com­mer­cially at­trac­tive by op­er­a­tors.

This is com­ing on the heels of Nige­ria’s strug­gle to­wards at­tain­ing a 30 per cent pen­e­tra­tion set for end of this year. Nige­ria cur­rently has 21 per cent pen­e­tra­tion.

Han­cook ex­plained that over the last five years, the govern­ment’s roll­out of su­per­fast broad­band has made su­per­fast speed a re­al­ity for more than 4.5 mil­lion homes and busi­nesses, who would oth­er­wise have missed out.

“We’ve de­liv­ered on our com­mit­ment to reach 95 per cent of homes and busi­nesses in the U.K., but there’s still more to do in our work build­ing a Bri­tain that’s fit for the fu­ture. We’re reach­ing thou­sands more premises every sin­gle week, and the next com­mit­ment is to mak­ing af­ford­able, re­li­able, high speed broad­band a le­gal right to ev­ery­one by 2020,” he stated.

The U.K. Govern­ment cat­e­gorises su­per­fast broad­band as a con­nec­tion which is able to de­liver speeds of 24 Mbps or faster. In the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and those less at­trac­tive to profit-hun­gry tel­cos, these govern­ment ini­tia­tives are claimed to have 50,000 new lo­cal jobs and gen­er­at­ing an ad­di­tional £8.9bil­lion in turnover.

Though, the Nige­rian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (NCC), has as­sured that Nige­ria would meet and sur­pass the 30 per cent pen­e­tra­tion tar­get, how­ever, stake­hold­ers are sort of scep­ti­cal. They based their ar­gu­ment on the Na­tional Broad­band Plan (NBP), which is not been fol­lowed ad­e­quately.

Ac­cord­ing to them, the NBP is a five-year plan (2013 to 2018), with each year hav­ing a par­tic­u­lar tar­get, “but as it is now, we are nowhere near achiev­ing any sub­stan­tial part of the plan. So, achiev­ing 30 per cent pen­e­tra­tion by year end ap­pears bleak.”

Be­sides, they ex­plained that the op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment and poli­cies of govern­ment in re­la­tion to de­ploy­ment and pro­tec­tion of telecommunications in­fra­struc­ture does not en­cour­age in­vest­ment.

The Chair­man, As­so­ci­a­tion of Li­censed Telecommunications Op­er­a­tors of Nige­ria (AL­TON), Gbenga Ade­bayo, ex­pressed con­cern over is­sues of in­ter­fer­ence by state govern­ment agen­cies and their con­sul­tants in shut­ting down op­er­a­tors’ base sta­tions as well as lack of strong will on the part of the Fed­eral Govern­ment in driv­ing stake­hold­ers to bring about sta­bil­ity in the in­dus­try.

“How can you achieve 30 per cent broad­band pen­e­tra­tion when ef­forts that are sup­posed to be chan­nelled to net­work op­ti­mi­sa­tion are used in re­pair­ing shut down tow­ers by state govern­ment agen­cies?” he queried.

From his per­spec­tive, a tele­coms ex­pert, Ke­hinde Aluko, agreed that there is no ba­sis for com­par­ing Nige­ria with U.K., es­pe­cially from the level of de­vel­oped in­fra­struc­ture to favourable govern­ment poli­cies, to har­monised tax sys­tems, to var­i­ous in­cen­tives and reg­u­lar power sup­ply. “So in Nige­ria, all these are not avail­able. You can imag­ine how dif­fi­cult it has been for us to meet 30 per cent. I think our govern­ment should wake up.”

To the Pres­i­dent, As­so­ci­a­tion of Telecommu- nica­tions Com­pa­nies of Nige­ria (ATCON), Olu­sola Te­niola, “the in­dus­try is wor­ried about the fact that at the end of Jan 2018, NCC has not of­fi­cially ap­proved the re­main­ing In­fraco li­cences. Be­sides, the 21 per cent pen­e­tra­tion has stag­nated with no ob­vi­ous in­vest­ments be­ing made by our mem­bers and others in the in­dus­try to roll out ex­ten­sive op­tic fi­bre or carry out any rel­e­vant CAPEX pro­gram spend­ing.

“The Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions has cre­ated a com­mit­tee to look into the har­mon­i­sa­tion of Rights of Ways in the coun­try. How­ever, there isn’t yet any im­ple­men­ta­tion and a way for­ward in ad­dress­ing the many mar­ket gaps that ex­ist in the broad­band land­scape. As al­ways, ATCON is en­gag­ing with govern­ment to ad­dress the is­sues that are de­lay­ing the ap­proval of the re­main­ing In­fraco li­cences and is placing em­pha­sis on the need to work with govern­ment to re­move bar­ri­ers to Rights of Ways.”

The Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Chair­man of NCC, Prof. Umar Dan­batta, had at dif­fer­ent times promised to com­plete the li­cens­ing of the re­main­ing five In­fra­cos to fa­cil­i­tate whole­sale broad­band de­ploy­ment across the var­i­ous re­gions of the coun­try. At the last quar­ter of 2017, Dan­batta, who dis­closed that about 60 com­pa­nies had submitted bids for li­cens­ing, said the com­mis­sion would com­plete the process last year, but noth­ing of such hap­pened.

The Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Main­one Ca­bles, Ms. Funke Opeke, stated that Nige­ria has im­mense broad­band ca­pac­ity be­cause of the sub­ma­rine fi­bre op­tic ca­bles con­nected through Europe. She how­ever, lamented that only about 10 per cent of that ca­pac­ity has been utilised.

Opeke be­lieved that the ad­van­tages brought by broad­band out­weigh this, par­tic­u­larly for ru­ral ar­eas. Ac­cord­ing to her, “One has to con­sider the en­able­ment that such ac­cess to the In­ter­net would bring in terms of ed­u­ca­tion, job op­por­tu­ni­ties, en­tre­pre­neur­ial op­por­tu­ni­ties, ac­cess to so­cial ser­vices, and the abil­ity to se­cure our en­vi­ron­ment.”

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