Minister Seeks New Measures to Address Broadband Needs 

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By Emma Okonji

Worried about the dearth of ICT infrastructure across the country, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu has said government will continue to seek new ways to bridge the infrastructure gap in the country.

He said the move became necessary in order to cushion the enormous pressure exerted on the existing terrestrial broadband infrastructure, occasioned by the high demand for quality broadband access by Nigerians.

The minister, who spoke at the BusinessDay 4th Annual Broadband Summit in Lagos at the weekend, said Nigeria currently has less than 50,000 base stations and would require additional 700,000 to 800,000 base stations to substantially cover the broadband needs of the country.

Shittu was of the view that the broadband needs of the nation could be better actualised with an appropriate ICT infrastructure design that would incorporate a national broadband infrastructure backbone, metro/intra-city fibre network, last mile services, including fibre to the home (FTTH) and wireless network as well as network connectivity.

He called on industry stakeholders to liaise with the ministry and make quality contributions towards policy formulation that will support an accelerated broadband development in Nigeria.

Stakeholders at the summit however faulted government’s policy and implementation plans in achieving the 30 per cent broadband penetration target for the country by 2018. They advised the government to do more in empowering Nigerians to have ubiquitous access to the internet, which they said, comes with lots of business opportunities.

Chairperson, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Dr. Omobola Johnson, said: “Although  Nigeria is making progress in the area of broadband access, we need more broadband infrastructure to serve the large population of the country.”

With 92 million internet subscribers across the country, Nigeria, no doubt, has the market for investment and we are extending the investment opportunities to both local and international investors, Johnson said.

President of the Association of Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola, who spoke on the impact of broadband on Nigeria economy, while citing best practices, said: “Globally, telecommunications infrastructure is at the heart of any global business in the modern age. From data security and data resilience requirements, through cloud connectivity issues, to low latency and time-based stamping in trading transactions, robust, reliable and resilient networks are critical.”

Teniola, who called for the review of the internet data services provisioning market structure in the country, said without the review there could be a serious risk of market failure with the resultant ripple effect. He said current evidence suggested that with inflation at 17 per cent, input costs at a per unit per megabyte level, shows that retail data prices available on the market are unsustainable even with economies of scale, hence a serious distortion exists that needs immediate regulatory intervention.

Teniola noted that the sector is faced with the challenges of multiple taxation, uncertainty on multiple forex Windows, issues with infrastructure sharing among others, pointing out that these challenges are not helping the industry to grow in any way.