Ernest-Akinlola, Managing Director/Chief Executive ntel

Emma Okonji

Contrary to public perception that Nigeria may not achieve its target of 30 per cent broadband penetration by the end of this year, given that the country is currently operating at 21 per cent broadband penetration, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ntel telecoms company, Mr. Ernest Debo Akinlola has said that with collaborative effort, Nigeria can meet the 30 per cent broadband target.

Akinlola, who was optimistic about Nigeria meeting the target, told THISDAY in an exclusive interview that the country has all it takes to meet the target, in terms of her readiness to boost the nation’s broadband infrastructure. He therefore called on industry stakeholders, especially those in the private sector, to show more commitment in advancing the technology development of the country.

“As a county we have a target of 30 per cent broadband penetration by the end of 2018, but we are presently at 21 per cent and we have nine months to go. It is an ecosystem objective that could be achieved through collaborative efforts between the government and the private sector led initiative. All stakeholders and the government in particular, have to play their roles to achieve the target, and it is achievable if the right policies are put in place and the private sector is incentivised to play their roles properly,” Akinlola said.

He added: If the right policies are put in place and the right motivation and encouragement are given, I am convinced that by the end of the year, we should as a country, be able to achieve the 30 per cent broadband penetration.

The 30 per cent is even an aspirational goal for the industry, but what the industry really needs is a significant penetration of between 60-70 per cent broadband penetration.”
Nigeria had in 2013 came up with a five year National Broadband Plan from 2013 to 2018, targeting 30 per cent broadband penetration by the end of 2018.

Although the broadband penetration level as at 2013 when the National Broadband Plan was released, was put at 10 per cent, the country was able to increase the penetration by 11 per cent in four years, a situation, which many believed was too slow to achieve and surpass the targeted 30 per cent broadband penetration by the end of 2018.
Although the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had earlier assured Nigerians that the set target was attainable, many are still pessimistic about the possibility of achieving the target.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta who gave the assurance, said the licensing of the additional two InfraCos in December last year, was part of the strategic plans of the commission to meet the country’s broadband target. The additional two InfraCos brought the total number of licensed InfraCos in the country to four. They include MainOne, IHS, Zinox Technologies and Brinks Solution. The InfraCos were licensed to provide broadband infrastructure across the country that will boost broadband penetration.

Speaking on telecoms contribution to GDP, Akinlola said: “There is strong correlation between improvement in broadband and GDP growth. So broadband is a major factor for our growth as a nation, if we must catch up with developed countries of the world in the area of technology advancement. Telecoms contribution to the country’s GDP is huge and the business of telecoms is far more than sales of mobile phones. The demand for telecoms services is huge and the growth opportunities are there.”