Minister, ALTON Disagree over Broadband Penetration

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Emma Okonji

The Association of Licenced Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has picked holes in the pronouncement made by the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu over the level of broadband penetration in the country.

The minister had declared at a telecoms forum in Lagos that the country would soon witness broadband revolution, owing to the fast rate at which broadband services are being deployed by the telecoms operators, coupled with the level of broadband penetration that the country has attained in recent times.

But in a swift reaction, the Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, told THISDAY that Nigeria is still far from experiencing broadband revolution. “I disagree with the minister that Nigeria will soon witness broadband revolution, because a lot of work has to be done before Nigerian can experience broadband revolution. Yes we have broadband capacities at the shores of the country, brought in from Europe by SAT3, MainOne, Glo 1 and MTN WACS, but it is unfortunate that less than 10 per cent of the huge capacities of broadband seated at the sea shores are being utilised by Nigerians, because there are no national backbone infrastructure to transmit the broadband capacities from the shores of the country to the hinterlands,” Adebayo said.

He further explained that although the cost of mobile data is gradually reducing, but insisted that Nigerians still pay more for data services, when compared with what is obtainable in other countries of the world. According to him, unless sufficient broadband capacities are transmitted from the shores of the country to the hinterlands where they are most needed, Nigeria will not be able to witness any form of broadband revolution.

“So we have a lot of broadband capacities at the shores of the country, but we are not able to use them, due to limitations in the distribution process to the hinterland. Unless the bottlenecks are removed and those things that impede broadband development are removed, Nigeria will not experience broadband revolution in the near future,” Adebayo stressed.

Giving analogy with the state of economic recession that Nigeria is currently passing through, Adebayo said the cost of virtually everything in the country across all sectors have gone up, with exception of the telecoms sector, where the cost of telecoms services continues to come down, even though it is gradual. He therefore called on the government to introduce some palliative to help sustain the gradual reduction in the cost of telecoms services in the country.

We promise not to allow cost of telecoms services to escalate like in other sectors, provided government is able to provide some form of palliatives that will cushion the effect, Adebayo said.
Speaking on the impact of telecoms on the Nigerian economy in the last 15 years, Adebayo said; “So far so good, there has been significant improvement in the telecoms sector since 15 years ago when GSM operations was introduced in the country. But that does not call for celebration because a lot still has to be done in the sector and we need continuous investment in the sector to enable us catch up with the rest of the world.”

For the telecoms sector to continue making progress, government policies must be friendly to investors and our regulatory environment must remain transparent so that we can continue to make more progress, Adebayo added.

The telecoms industry in making good progress and the country is making good progress as far as ICT is concerned, but we are not near to achieving broadband revolution yet. But even at that, we are glad to say today that the most functional infrastructure that we have in Nigeria is telecommunications, Adebayo said. According to him, when look at the trend from 2001 when telecoms services were first rolled out in the country, to date, I will say that the industry is doing well in spite of the social challenges we face as a country.