By Emma Okonji
Given the weak broadband penetration level attained by Nigeria in 2017, which is put at one per cent penetration, the Managing Director of VDT Communications, Mr. Biodun Omoniyi has said unless Nigeria addresses the major issues impeding broadband penetration across the country, it would be difficult for the country to attain the status of a full broadband economy.
According to Omoniyi, whose company provides broadband services to corporate organisations and financial institutions, Nigeria’s broadband penetration in 2017 was 21 per cent, up from the 20 per cent penetration it attained in 2016.
“We only achieved one per cent broadband penetration between 2016 and 2017, when we should be talking of five per cent increase as a nation where demand for broadband services is high. This means that with one per cent growth, Nigeria still has huge deficit in broadband growth, when compared with the 30 per cent national broadband target by the end of 2018,” Omoniyi said.
The VDT boss, who blamed the slow pace in broadband penetration on several factors, said Nigeria lost out in the first, second and third industrial revolutions, for lack of coordinated efforts between government and the private sector.
He stressed the need for Nigeria to catch up with the fourth industrial revolution, which he said was all about knowledge economy.
According to him, Nigeria has all it takes to be part of the knowledge economy, given its population size and the broadband capacities that were berthed at the country’s seashore by several sub-marine cable operators, since 2010.
“Nigeria cannot attain a full broadband economy if we fail to address some thorny issues like multiple taxation and arbitrary levies imposed on telecommunication operators by various governments, who see telecoms business as ‘honey pot’ to exploit,” Omoniyi said.
He added that the National Broadband Plan (NBP), for instance, was an initiative of the federal government, explaining that it is either the federal government failed to share its vision with state and local governments, or that these other arms of governments have made up their minds to frustrate the efforts of the federal government in deepening broadband penetration across the country.
Citing an example with right of way(RoW) permit for the laying of fibre optic cable for broadband access across states, Omoniyi said the states were busy frustrating the plans of the federal government to deepen broadband penetration in the country.
He said the Lagos State government, the Ogun State government and some other state governments have not granted any RoW permit in the last two years, and that some states have actually suspended it, thus making it extremely difficult to increase broadband penetration across the country.
Broadband cannot exist in its abundance in such states and it will affect mobile broadband penetration because we need fibre to be able to backhaul all the services going into the mobile phones.
” We have several landing of submarine cables at the seashores but the capacity of bandwidth we have is not transversing the entire country the way is should, because of government bureaucracy that has caused a lot of bottlenecks that are currently impeding broadband penetration in the country,” he said.
He therefore, called on the federal, state and local governments to encourage broadband deployment in their various jurisdictions.
“Government has not given the required support, which should take the sector out of the woods, instead, government sees it as an avenue to make more money for itself. Government must give support to the sector, which can come in the inform of tax holidays. The federal government can come up and harmonise the various laws on ground if they are really interested in moving the telecoms sector forward,” Omoniyi said.
According to him, “There is need for a functional system in the country, because so many things are not just working well, and there are limits to what operators could do.
“Fibre, we all know is very broad and being a mobile nation, most of the people that does eCommerce today runs on high speed internet. For Nigeria, we must understand that we are a mobile nation and that both fibre and mobile complement each other. They both work hand-in-hand and both have their own advantages.”
He said: “Government must understand that being a mobile nation, we need a particular bandwidth that can be deployed in base stations, and that particular bandwidth is what everybody that owns a mobile phone shares. But something brought it there and that is fibre. So if fibre is not entrenched, the mobile will not work.”