NCC, NBC Seek Affordable Rural Connectivity for Nigerians


Emma Okonji

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in collaboration with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) are set to develop a framework for the use of television white space (TVWS) technology to extend affordable rural connectivity to Nigerians.

The NCC said the initiative on TVWS technology was in line with Nigeria’s plan to achieve pervasive broadband connectivity.

Both NCC and NBC discussed the possibility of using television white space technology to boost broadband connectivity at a one-day consultative forum organised by the NCC in Abuja recently.

The Ministry of Communications has given its nod, following approval for the use of the TVWS technology by the National Frequency Management Council (NFCM).

In technical parlance, television white space is the unused spectrum in the broadcasting band, which can be used to deliver affordable broadband services in rural communities, thereby bridging rural-urban digital divide. In Nigeria, TVWS is currently being deployed to extend connectivity to over 56 per cent of Nigeria living in the rural areas.

In his opening remarks, Minister Communications, Adebayo Shittu, said the government approved the use of TVWS so as to, “extend broadband internet coverage, especially to rural communities and other remote communities and increase broadband penetration in Nigeria.”

Already, pilots, through proof of concepts, have been conducted to confirm the suitability of TVWS in delivering rural connectivity in terms of coverage and quality of service.

Speaking at the stakeholder consultative forum, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said connectivity of every Nigerian remained a priority to the Commission.
Danbatta, who was represented by the Director, Spectrum Administration at NCC, Austine Nwaulune, said the quest to achieving the rural connectivity goal has led the Commission to embark on several initiatives.

He stated that one of such initiatives was the collaboration with the sister agencies such as the NBC to explore the use of TVWS in the lower spectrum band to deliver low-cost broadband services to the Nigerians in the rural communities.

“NCC takes the connectivity of every Nigerian irrespective of where he or she resides very importantly. So, what we do is to look out for technology that fits into making this happen for us. TVWS is one of such technologies because it is coming to utilise the spectrum in the lower megahertz band and as it is, the spectrum is very good because it propagates very far.

“So, you need less number of base stations to deliver services on TVWS and the fact that rural communities are very challenging does not mean that people in those communities should not be connected, hence the use of this innovative technology,” he said.

Director at NBC, Victoria Ngozi Ekeh, who represented the Director-General of the Commission, Mallam Is’haq Modibo Kawu, enjoined stakeholders to make valuable suggestions and inputs that would help the NCC in coming up with a framework that addresses interference issues in the use of TVWS.

“NBC will continue to support the TVWS initiative provided adequate measures would be put in place to prevent harmful interferences to the broadcasters using the spectrum band,” Ekeh said.