Cryan: Affordable Broadband Access Will Bridge Digital Divide

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Mr. Sean Cryan,

Country Manager, Ericsson Nigeria, Mr. Sean Cryan, speaks about the opportunities around mobile broadband subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa and the need for affordable broadband access. that will bridge the digital divide. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:

How will you describe telecoms’ growth rate in Nigeria and what could be done to further improve it?

The November 2020 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report reveals that mobile data traffic in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to grow by almost 6.5 times the current figures, with total traffic increasing from 0.87EB per month in 2020 to 5.6EB by 2026. Meanwhile, average traffic per smartphone is expected to reach 8.9GB over the forecast period. With Nigeria currently holding the highest number of mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa, superior network performance is imperative. As the demand for capacity and coverage of cellular networks continues to grow, service providers are expected to invest in their networks to meet evolving consumer requirements. Mobile broadband connectivity not only offers great potential to transform cities and industries, but it enables connectivity as a basic human right; fostering inclusion and making a positive, sustainable economic impact. With our commitment to innovation and long history of engaging in Africa’s telecom industry, we at Ericsson are driven to deliver the next-generation technology solutions to Africa. These can enable sweeping changes to industrial production, allow seamless access to societal services and provide people with ways of living harmoniously with their environment.

What are your views about telecoms regulation in Nigeria, and how has the regulatory policies made or marred your service offerings in the Nigerian market?

A conducive, enabling policy environment that generates regulatory certainty is key to encouraging market development through partnerships, entrepreneurship, job creation and knowledge sharing. Factors like: Timely availability of ample cost-effective and harmonised spectral resources; support of long-term stable network regulations that uphold the principle of technology neutrality, stimulate investments and foster infrastructure competition; provision of free flow of data, while ensuring data protection, privacy and security regulation, are ideal regulatory framework.

Ericsson has a long history of close collaboration with various regulatory entities in Nigeria. We at Ericsson Middle East and Africa are constantly looking for opportunities to collaborate and engage with partners across the board to facilitate such policy development to fast tracking digitisation across the African continent and our recent collaboration with the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), is one clear example.

How will you describe the growth of 3G and 4G technologies in Nigeria and what is your advice for the government on the planned rollout of 5G technology in Nigeria?

Connectivity is a critical enabler of social and economic change. Its dynamism constantly offers us new ways to overcome both global and regional development challenges. If leveraged for good, the introduction of 5G and expansion of LTE networks across Nigeria can accelerate this process exponentially. Ericsson is working with key service providers across the continent, helping them create new services, new customer bases and new digital ecosystems. As a partner, Ericsson is deploying next-generation technology with built-in customizations and innovations to deliver rich consumer experience while building a robust, future-proof network. The 5G-ready solutions in the Ericsson Radio System portfolio will help boost the capacity of our customers’ network and broaden the availability of high-quality mobile broadband services for its subscribers.

Most Nigerians have been apprehensive of the perceived health risks in the rollout of 5G networks. As a technology service provider, how will you advise the government and the citizens on 5G rollout?

The aim is for 5G networks to be highly efficient, faster, support more users, more devices, more services, and new use cases without a corresponding impact on cost or carbon footprint. 5G will revolutionize five key industries including: TV and media; manufacturing; healthcare; telecommunications; and transportation and infrastructure. In Nigeria, the evolution of 4G into 5G could be a powerful economic growth engine, particularly as this advanced mobile technology is deployed looking into improving productivity in key vertical industrial sectors. From an organisational perspective, Ericsson’s radio products, including those for 5G mobile communication networks, are designed and tested for compliance with established radio wave exposure limits. Ericsson is involved in the development of technical standards for testing and installation of 5G products to ensure that the EMF exposure is at safe levels for the general public and workers.

To what extent is the Ericsson mobility report on the telecoms market in Africa empowering a sustainable and connected Africa and how eager is Ericsson to further grow Africa’s business opportunity?

Digital revolution has enabled various forms of innovation. We all agree that Africa is witnessing a major technology shift and the pace of change in Africa is becoming exponential. In sub-Saharan Africa, mobile subscriptions will continue to grow over the forecast period as mobile penetration today, at 84 per cent, is less than the global average. Over the forecast period, mobile broadband subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa are predicted to increase, reaching 76 per cent of mobile subscriptions. In addition, Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology is estimated to account for around 15 per cent of subscriptions by the end of 2020. Driving factors behind the growth of mobile broadband subscriptions include a young, growing population with increasing digital skills and more affordable smartphones. At Ericsson, we have launched #AfricaInMotion to accelerate technology roll-out in Africa together with our partners and reiterate our commitment to the continent.

What are your views about the impact of Ericsson’s operations on the Nigerian telecoms market and the Nigerian economy?

We believe that ICT is the catalyst for digital transformation, with mobile networks being the crucial ingredient in increasing Nigeria’s economic competitiveness in the global arena. We are proud of Ericsson’s contribution to the telecoms industry in Nigeria, while we have witnessed impressive market developments in recent years, the country’s ICT sector still has growth potential compared to leading economies. As digital infrastructure and transaction become increasingly impactful to the development of the Nigerian society and economy, affordable broadband access is important to bridge the digital divide and enable individuals to reap the benefits of the digital economy.

Small businesses are key drivers of global economies, but they are faced with challenges that impede their growth. What are your plans for SME growth in Nigeria and how is Ericsson leveraging technology to enhance local content development in Nigeria?

When it comes to empowering young talents and innovation, we can proudly mention the Ericsson Innovation Awards (EIA), a global competition that gives university students the opportunity to turn their ideas into reality by collaborating with EIA mentors. This year we are excited to launch the same competition very soon and we look forward to receiving ideas from young students from Africa and across the world.

As Country Manager for the Nigerian market, what are your strategies to further grow the local ecosystem in Nigeria, while leveraging on emerging technologies?

Our key focus is on being the best partner to our customers by consistently delivering operational excellence and technology leadership. Highlighting public-private partnerships and collaborate to create the necessary environment for knowledge sharing and execution is also a key priority – leading to continued collaboration with industry players and regulatory bodies. To accelerate digital inclusion, we all have a role to play. Technology has proved to us that it has the power to improve the lives of people all around the world. This is why Ericsson plans to continue investing in and leverage the tremendous young talent in Nigeria. We can create historical change with technology as a key enabler; a society where more people have the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from what many of us take for granted.

How will you describe the rate of adoption of emerging technologies among telecoms operators in Nigeria and how will the technologies impact growth and business sustainability?

The development of LTE and 5G digital infrastructure is an integral part of Africa’s growing economy and has proved to be an essential driver of an inclusive information society that integrates digitization in all critical aspects of life, such as education, transport, health, energy and even homeland security. We believe Nigeria is on the cusp of 5G and will be one of the main drivers of 5G in Africa in the years to come. While there are parts of the continent trialing 5G services, majority of countries remain focusing on 3G and 4G as smartphone affordability improves year on year, and this continues to be a key focus for Ericsson .The development of advanced wireless digital infrastructure is an integral part of Africa’s growing economy. Mobile broadband access has proved to be an essential driver of an inclusive information society that integrates digitization in all critical aspects of life, such as education, transport, health, energy and even homeland security. Never has this been more evident than during the current COVID 19 pandemic.

2020 was a challenging year for businesses as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19, which affected a lot of businesses. How was Ericsson able to manage the situation and remain in business?

Mobile networks are increasingly recognised as a critical infrastructure. We are continuing to stay close to our customers to understand their needs and we are doing everything possible to support customers to maximize their network capacity and performance. Our engineers and field staff are part of critical teams deployed during a crisis. Even when a country goes into lockdown, our engineers were still active in order to keep the networks up and running. Despite some changes in our delivery model, we are proud of the fact that our people have supported service providers to continue to deliver high quality services to their customers throughout this entire period.

What were your major challenges in 2020 and what are your projections for 2021?

Addressing customers’ needs and ensuring proactive customer care is one of the key business priorities for operators today. A satisfied user is generally less likely to switch operator, adding considerable competitive advantage and eventually leading to higher operator revenue. In 2021, we aim to continue excelling in delighting our customers and delivering best performing networks. Globally, Ericsson will keep investing in new technologies like 5G, AI, IoT, EDGE Computing and Cloud. Our goal is to unleash the creativity and innovation to fully leverage and propel 5G in the region – this will not only help develop new 5G-based applications and business models, but also contribute towards achieving economic prosperity and Industry 4.0. We will also spend a lot of time on promoting local talent and leveraging our long-standing experience and expertise in the field of 5G-networked industry to contribute towards mapping the digital future of Nigeria.