Senate Moves to Address Delays in Licensing InfraCos, Infrastructure Rollout

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Emma Okonji

Disturbed by the low broadband penetration in the country, the Senate Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Cybercrime, has pledged its readiness to expedite the licensing of the second phase of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) that are supposed to drive broadband rollout in the country.

The Senate Committee gave the assurance during its recent working visit to MainOne’s Data Centre, MDXi in Lagos, as part of its oversight function. Specifically, the committee promised to facilitate the rollout of broadband infrastructure by the two InfraCos that were already licensed to provide broadband infrastructure in the first phase licensing.

A recent data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) put the current broadband penetration at 21per cent. The NCC had in January, 2015, licensed two InfraCos: MainOne for Lagos zone and IHS for North-central zone, to deploy metro fibre optic network.

Shortly after the licensing of the InfraCos, the NCC published a notice of the commencement of the process for the licensing of more InfraCos on Open Access Model for the deployment of optic fibre infrastructure broadband network in the remaining five zones- North-east, North-west, South-south, South-east and South-west. Till date, the InfraCos for the remaining five zones have not been licensed and the initial two that were licensed have not commenced full rollout of broadband infrastructure, a situation that the ICT stakeholders blamed for the low broadband penetration in the country.

The Senate Committee on ICT and Cybercrime, led by its chairman, Senator Buhari Abdulfatai, also stated that the delay in licensing Infrastructure Companies and deploying network infrastructure after licensing, posed a major threat to the achievement of the nations’ technology goals, which he said, largely depended on broadband infrastructure to be provided by the InfraCos.

He however pledged that the Senate would do all it could within its powers to facilitate ICT/broadband development and give legal substance to ICT policies including the National Broadband Plan and the Cybercrime Act.
During the tour of the MainOne Data Centre facility, Abdulfatai described MainOne’s Data Centre as a world-class facility and reiterated the importance of having Nigerian institutions host data locally within the country in order to ensure national security, drive job growth, improve the quality of online services and guarantee Nigeria’s participation in the emerging global digital transformation.

The Committee commended the incredible capacity available on MainOne’s submarine cable system and data centre, which it acknowledged to represent the most significant infrastructure of its kind in Nigeria. It acknowledged that with the kind of capacity already available in the country, there is no reason for the country’s broadband penetration rate to remain as low as 21 per cent, given the booming demand for data and connectivity services in the country.
In her remarks, MainOne’s Chief Executive Officer, Funke Opeke lauded the Senate Committee’s efforts in ensuring the development of ICT across the country via its support of homegrown enterprises and called for legislation especially in the areas that would positively impact on infrastructure development including possible interventions to address the high cost of capital crippling telecoms companies. She said the situation has stalled new infrastructure projects in Nigeria, adding, this is critically needed in bridging the gnawing gaps in the ICT industry.

“Nigerian content is arguably the most globally recognised African content today, but South Africa and Kenya are perceived as digital leaders in Africa because of the infrastructural gaps in the country. MainOne has made significant investments in ICT infrastructural development in Nigeria and West Africa and will continue to do so, but we require full government support to enable the ICT industry in Nigeria surpass other countries,” Opeke added.