The delay in approving the proposed national broadband policy for the country is threatening the over $1bn investment in fibre optic cables, THISDAY has learnt.
Specifically, the Glo submarine cable and Main One fibre optic cable valued at about $700 million and $300 million respectively, had landed at the coast of Lagos more than two years ago, but the impact of these cables are yet to be felt both in data and voice services.
Quality of telecoms services have dipped in recent times, forcing the Nigerian Telecommunications Commission (NCC) to fine the operators.
Senior Director, Management Consulting, Accenture Nigeria, Mr. Usen Udoh, told THISDAY in an interview in Abuja that the cables were still idling away at the coast because the much-needed broadband policy, which is needed to bring the cables into the hinterlands, was lacking.
He said the last-mile connection had remained poor while a huge portion of the capability lied near the coast.
According to the Accenture Senior Director: “It is that broadband policy that would then be able to expand or ensure access into the hinterlands and then bring huge bandwidth that is on our coast to the hinterlands.”
He said: “Without that last mile connection, it is like somebody who just brought a huge pot of soup and put it in front of your house and there are no plates to go there and serve the food and bring them in.”
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company.
Udoh said the continued delay in coming up with a national broadband policy to push the bandwidth to rural areas is currently bringing people’s creativity to waste.
He said: “Someone has to make the investment in putting in the infrastructure. So when you’ve got all those huge bandwidth that is sitting on the coast, how do you get it in; it is either you build broadband highways into the hinterlands; put fibre optic cables into the ground or use Wimax connections into the hinterlands.
“But someone has to pay for it. Someone has to make that investment and frankly, there’s no incentive to make the investment.”
Continuing, he said: “In some countries, we see that governments make that investment; in Australia for example, it’s government that made the investment and once they made the investment. Their own point of view was that by making that investment, small entrepreneurs could get onto that bandwidth and begin to be creative. So, someone can come up with an M-Health solution that ensures you can get health from the cities to the villages sitting on that bandwidth: deploy that technology that enables doctors sit in the city, who don’t want to go to the village anyway-and be able to talk to a first level health assistant in the village and diagnose a disease, and prescribe a solution for the person to deal with a patient without them physically coming to the village.”
He explained that although a few companies had invested in last mile connection, such investments are for strategic competitive reasons as opposed to national interest.
“You have to give them an incentive to do that or create a policy or environment that enables them to do that or you make your own investment. So, there’s a cost implication and it is significant.
“It is not the telecoms company that would develop that solution; it is the individual. Even if that solution exists today, by the way, several solutions do exist, but you don’t have that highway on which to put it,” he said.