By Emma Okonji
Fresh facts have emerged on how Nigeria attained and surpassed the country’s 30 per cent target for broadband penetration in December 2018.
The Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Mr. Sunday Dare, said at the weekend that the NCC used the UN data and available statistics as baseline in arriving at 30.9 per cent broadband penetration.
According to him, the UN data has been consistent over the years, adding that the same data is equally used by the International Telecoms Union (ITU), which is an arm of the United Nations that oversees global telecoms activities.
Dare noted that Nigerians predominantly relied on mobile networks to access the internet, including broadband networks, adding that broadband penetration is typically measured by the percentage of total population with access to broadband networks.
He, therefore, explained that although Nigeria had hovered around 21 and 22 per cent broadband penetration over the last couple of years, mobile subscribers in the country as at November 2018, reached a total of 168,729,005.
Of this figure, 108,457,051, subscribed to internet access services provided by the major operators.
“In terms of broadband services, a total of 58,965,478 were connected to the internet through 3G and 4G networks, including those provided by the Long Term Evolution (LTE)-only service providers, such as Smile and nTel,” Dare said.
According to him, NCC took the total active broadband subscription figure of 58,965,478 and divided it by the country’s population figure of 190,886,311, and multiplied it by a percentage of 100, using the UN’s projection as at December 2017, and arrived at a broadband penetration percentage of 30.9 per cent.
He said issues could of course be raised about using the UN figure as baseline, but he further explained that the NCC used that figure for consistency since that appears to be the baseline used by the ITU in its earlier studies.
“This is why the World Bank asserted that increasing broadband by just 10 per cent in developing economies would deliver at least 1.38 per cent GDP increase per capita, while a 10 per cent increase in internet penetration would lead to about 1.12 per cent increase in GDP per capita”, Dare added.
Although some stakeholders are still sceptical as to how Nigeria suddenly attained and surpassed the 30 per cent broadband penetration, since the country hovered around 21 and 22 per cent broadband penetration for too long, Dare clarified that mobile broadband usage among Nigerians surged with smartphone penetration, which gave it a further boost.
According to him, as Nigerians became heavy users of smartphones to access the internet on the go, broadband penetration in the country deepened.
“As everyone knows, telecoms networks and infrastructure are critical enablers for any nation desirous of participating in the opportunities driving the next phase of world economic growth. The fourth industrial revolution demands democratised access to super-fast networks and digital platforms. Indeed, emerging economies which underperformed in previous economic evolutions have a leapfrogging opportunity, which can be realised by giving their citizens affordable access to broadband networks and digital services,” Dare said.
He explained that although the telecoms sector was faced with challenges like Right of Way (RoW) charges, tedious approval processes across the states of the federation, issues with approvals for towers and masts, imposition of unstructured taxes and charges among others, the sector still managed to attain and surpass the 30 per cent broadband penetration target.
“Despite being dogged by a myriad of issues, the sector has always held its own. Its contributions to GDP have been contritely high, peaking at 10.43 per cent in the second quarter of 2018. It has continued to boost employment both directly and indirectly, and it has provided a strong infrastructure backbone, which has facilitated higher levels of efficiency in practically all other sectors of the economy. The attainment of 30 per cent broadband penetration indeed entitles the industry to a collective pat-on-the-back,” Dare said.
He added that the NCC’s assertion that Nigeria has attained 30.9 per cent broadband penetration was logical and supported by available data in the commission’s custody.
The federal government, in 2013, issued the National Broadband Plan (2013-2018), which sets penetration targets for both fixed and mobile broadband throughout Nigeria. Of the many targets set by the document, the most prominent one was the projection that Nigeria must reach 30 per cent broadband penetration by December 2018. There was however a large dose of pessimism about the country’s ability to reach this target before the December 31, 2018 deadline. But few months before the deadline, Nigeria narrowly reached and surpassed the 30 per cent broadband target.