‘Nigeria Lacks Policy Direction to Achieve 30% Broadband Penetration By 2018’

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Emma Okonji

Worried about the slow growth rate of broadband penetration in Nigeria from 6 per cent in 2011 to 10 per cent in 2016, industry stakeholders have said that unless government comes up with a clear policy direction on broadband deployment and penetration, it is unlikely for the county to achieve 30 per cent broadband penetration come 2018, as contained in the country’s five-year National Broadband Plan (2013-2018).

Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, who made the disclosure in Lagos while assessing the impact of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on the telecoms industry in the past one year, expressed his displeasure over the slow rate of broadband deployment in the country, despite the avalanche of broadband capacities that are lying low at the shores of the country, from the various submarine cable that have berthed in the country. He said the shortage of broadband capacities across the country was responsible for the high cost of broadband services, even as he blamed the Buhari’s government for lack of clear policy direction that will boost broadband penetration in the country.

“We are yet to see a clear policy direction from the Buhari’s government in the last one year on broadband deployment and penetration, in spite of the huge benefit that broadband brings to a nation. By 2020, Nigerians are supposed to have as first right of choice, ubiquitous broadband capacities and infrastructure that will enhance unhindered access to telecommunications and broadband services, yet the possibility of achieving this is far-fetched because there are no clear policy direction on broadband from the current government,” Adebayo said.

Aligning with Adebayo, the former President of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Lanre Ajayi, said Nigeria has abundant broadband capacities from submarine cables from Glo 1, MainOne and MTN WACS, but expressed disappointment that less than 10 per cent of the total capacities was being utilised in the country, because government has failed in its duties to build a national broadband backbone infrastructure that will transmit the capacities from the shores of the country to the hinterlands, where they are most needed by Nigerians.
Adebayo also called on the government to have a rethink of its forex exchange policy and begin to consider placing telecommunication companies on the list of foreign exchange beneficiaries, since they depend heavily on foreign currency for the purchase of telecoms equipment, for network expansion and maintenance.

He insisted that the country’s policy direction should focus on achieving ubiquitous broadband access, since broadband is a technology tool for national development.

Having acknowledged the internet and broadband as the foundation for knowledge-based economy, the federal government, in 2012, inaugurated Presidential Committee for a national broadband strategy and roadmap.
The committee, which had 15 core members representing various stakeholder groups in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector and was co-chaired by the former Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Earnest Ndukwe and the Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia, had since 2013 submitted a five-year broadband plan for the country, but its implementation has been an issue, following the lack of clear government policy implementation on broadband, according to Adebayo.