Last week’s announcement by Globacom to build a second optic fibre submarine cable from Lagos to the southern part of Nigeria, will address the current gap in last mile connectivity for broadband penetration, writes Emma Okonji
Nigeria has huge volume of broadband capacity at the shores of the country, around the Lagos axis, courtesy of the berthing of several submarine cables by Glo1, MainOne, MTN WACS, Sat3, among others. It is, however, shocking to know that less than 10 per cent of the total volume of broadband capacity in the country is currently being utilised. This situation has created a wide margin in last mile broadband connectivity as well as a sharp differential in the cost of bandwidth between cities close to the shores of the country and cities in the hinterlands. While cities like Lagos, Ibadan and Abeokuta that are close to the shores of the country where the submarine cables are berthed and enjoy relatively cheaper cost of broadband bandwidth and easy access to broadband connectivity, cities in the hinterlands like Benin-City, Enugu, Owerri, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kaduna and Kano, among others that are several miles away from the Lagos and suffer high cost differential in broadband connectivity and they could hardly have access to broadband.
Telecoms experts, who understand the dynamics of broadband penetration, have blamed the situation on lack of national backbone infrastructure that will transmit broadband capacities from the shores of the country to the hinterlands, where demand for broadband is high.
Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo had said unless there is national backbone infrastructure that would transmit broadband capacity from the shores of the country to the hinterlands, Nigeria would continue to suffer underutilisation of its broadband capacity, as well as high cost of internet access.
But last week’s announcement by Globacom to commence the Glo2 Project, which has to do with the building of a second multi-billion naira optic fibre submarine cable from Lagos to southern part of Nigeria, otherwise known as the national backbone infrastructure, has continued to receive commendations from telecoms experts and industry stakeholders. They are of the view that the Glo2 Project, when completed, would bridge the gap in last mile connectivity and crash the cost of bandwidth and internet access in Nigeria.
The Glo2 Project
Globacom, last week, signed a landmark contract with Huawei Technologies to build a second multi-billion naira optic fibre submarine cable from Lagos to the Southern part of Nigeria.
The new fibre optic submarine cable, known as Glo2, when completed, will have 12 Terabit capacity per second, spanning 850km, providing last-mile connectivity to businesses and oil companies in the Southern part of the country and beyond.
Nigeria has several submarine cable berthed at the shores of the country, but none has the capacity to provide broadband connectivity service in the hinterlands where broadband service is in high demand. The situation has compelled telecoms subscribers to call for last-mile connectivity that could cushion the effect of the high cost of broadband bandwidth at the hinterlands as well as the price differential in bandwidth between Lagos and the hinterlands. The Glo 2 optic fibre submarine cable is expected to address the challenges when completed.
The plan for the Glo 2 project was unveiled at a contract-signing ceremony between the national operator, Globacom, and global telecom solutions vendors, Huawei in Lagos.
Giving details of the project, Globacomâ€™s Regional Director, Technical, Mr. Sanjib Roy, said the submarine cable would be built along the Nigerian coast from Alpha Beach in Lagos, where Glo 1 landing station is located, to the southern part of Nigeria. The facility will enable ultra high capacity connection to South-south region and provide capacity to offshore oil platforms and the communities.
He stated that the Glo 2 project would boost telecommunication service delivery in the country by providing economic as well as social empowerment of the communities in oil producing regions.
It will also provide high speed internet connectivity as well as digitalise oil platforms to improve productivity, upload data to remote oil platforms at the speed of light.
â€œGlo2 will be the first submarine cable in Nigeria to land outside Lagos as the five existing submarine cables only landed in Lagos. Glo 2 will have capacity of 12 Terabit per second and will provide ultra-high speed connection to oil platforms and communities to empower data coverage and support enterprise market growth in this part of Nigeria,â€ Roy said.
The facility, he added, would be the first to provide dedicated sub-marine optical fiber to oil platforms to support the growth of Nigerian economy and allow oil communities to reduce their operational expenditure.
â€œIt is also designed for further expansion southwards to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, among others,â€ he added.
According to Roy, Glo2 would enable high capacity connections between oil companiesâ€™ offices onshore and their offshore locations.
â€œThe new submarine cable will be approximately 850 kilometres long and will be named Glo2. The cable will be integrated to Globacomâ€™s existing terrestrial Backbone Network to provide additional service redundancy, especially Abuja and other parts of the country,â€ he said.
He also disclosed that the cable would contain three fibre pairs, with the first pair connecting Lagos directly to southern part of Nigeria with terrestrial extension to other parts of the country for redundancy and maintenance purposes. The second will be equipped with eight switchable Branching Units (BUs), which will deliver high capacity to offshore oil stations and communities connected directly to BUs, while the third pair will be equipped with two switchable BUs to deliver high capacity to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.
Glo2 complements the Glo 1 international submarine cable built by Globacom in 2010. It is the only international submarine cable in Nigeria managed end to end, from Lagos to London, by one company and currently provides sufficient bandwidth for the West Africa sub-region.
Managing Director of Huawei Nigeria, Mr. Li Beifang, said: “Huawei is proud to partner Globacom to build a revolutionary submarine cable using innovative and leading technology. We believe the cable would bring a new era of digitalisation to the Nigerian economy.”
Considering the disparity in cost of bandwidth and the need for Nigeria to have ubiquitous broadband penetration, industry stakeholders have hailed agreement between Globacom and Huawei Technologies to build the Glo2 optic fibre submarine cable, which they said would serve as the national backbone infrastructure that would make broadband capacity available in the hinterlands at a cheaper cost.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are also excited about the coming of Glo2. Some of them, who spoke to THISDAY, expressed their excitement and confidence in the planned Glo2 Project. Chief Executive Officer, Swift Networks, Mr. Charles Anudu said the project would address the challenge in last mile connectivity in the hinterlands and also boost broadband availability and penetration in Nigeria.
In order to boost broadband penetration across the country, the federal government, in 2013, developed a-five year National Broadband Plan (2013-2018), with a mandate to achieve 30 per cent broadband penetration in the country, up from the 10 per cent penetration in 2012.
Riding on the initiative of government to provide ubiquitous broadband access to all Nigerians, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in 2016, rolled out eight-point agenda, built around broadband access and penetration.
The plan to facilitate broadband penetration was listed as the first on the agenda. The strategy, according to Danbatta, is to facilitate and support availability of broadband services by promoting deployment of universally available, fast and reliable network infrastructure that will stimulate seamless broadband penetration to drive technology innovation and overall productivity of the economy.
Since the commencement of the implementation of the agenda in 2016, mobile broadband penetration has jumped from 14 per cent to 22 per cent in 2018, and Danbatta is optimistic that the 30 per cent broadband penetration target would be achieved by the end of the year.
Aside plan to achieve fast and reliable broadband connectivity, Danbatta said telecoms investment was on the increase and that fast rollout of broadband would further increase the investment.
From a paltry $50 million investment in the sector in 2001, the investment figures stood at $70 billion as at September, 2017. Value Added Services segment of the sector investment is over $200 million and estimated to reach $500 million by 2021.
â€œThe industry has provided direct and indirect employment to millions of Nigerians and over 150 million subscribers are connected to various networks with broadband penetration currently at 22 per cent according to the UNESCO/ITU Sustainable Development Goal (SDG),â€ Danbatta said.
To further boost broadband penetration in the country, NCC has licensed four telecoms Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos), to provide broadband infrastructure that will further facilitate broadband rollout to every nook and cranny of the country.
Berthing of submarine cables
The berthing of submarine cables from Europe to Nigeria by most submarine cable operators in 2009 and 2010, elicited a lot of joy among Nigerians, based on the promises from the submarine cable operators that the cables would deepen broadband penetration and access at affordable price.
Globacom for instance, berthed Glo 1 submarine cable in September 2009 at the Alfa Beach in Lagos. According to Globacom, the landing of Glo 1 was expected to mark the beginning of cheap bandwidth which in itself would translate into many possibilities in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
â€œThe project jointly executed by Globacom and its partners, Alcatel Lucent, will give Nigeria lead in telemedicine, eCommerce and eGovernance among other practices that transform economies,â€ Globacom said.
The telecoms company noted that the 9,800km cable, which came from Bude in United Kingdom (UK ) and connecting Nigeria to the rest of West Africa and the UK, with landing points in Nigeria, London and Lisbon in Portugal, would provide excess bandwidth to all the cities connected to the cable.
â€œThis will translate into much faster and more robust connectivity for voice, data and video,â€ Globacom promised.
MainOne berthed its submarine cable in July 2010, stretching some 7,000 kilometers along the West African coastline, a submarine fiber-optic cable that is designed to help bridge the digital divide on the continent.
Dubbed Main One Cable, the system links West Africa with Europe, bringing ultra-fast broadband in the region. It runs from Seixal in Portugal through Accra in Ghana to Lagos in Nigeria and branches out in Morocco, Canary Islands, Senegal, and Ivory Coast.
The cable, which has a capacity of 1.92 terabits per second, assured Nigerians of open-access and broadband capacity.
The Chief Executive Officer of MainOne Cable Company, Ms. Funke Opeke, said the cable would deliver high-speed, low-priced, reliable broadband that would transform African economies and create job opportunities.
The SAT3 submarine cable gained its route from Portugal, down the West Coast of Africa. Although it was owned and controlled by 36 nations, with the majority of the landings in African states, its services were fraught with challenges, which ranged from high cost of internet connectivity to loss of internet connectivity, whenever the cable suffered some cuts from countries along the West Coast of Africa.
But in spite of the large volume of broadband capacities from all the submarine cables at the shores of the sea, none is able to transmit broadband capacity to the hinterlands to boost last mile broadband connectivity, a challenge that Glo2 is designed to address on completion.