FG Targets Heterogeneous ICT Backbone in 5 Years

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Mrs. Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communications Technology

Mrs. Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communications Technology

The Federal Government has said that it will build a national backbone that will provide heterogeneous broadband services for Nigerians in the next five years.

Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson who dropped the hint in Lagos at a Broadband Forum organised recently by Accenture, said the plan to build a national backbone was sequel to the low internet penetration in the country, which she puts at 6 percent, coupled with the high cost of bandwidth, in spite of the avalanche of fibre optic cables in the country.

According to her, FG would involve the participation of the private sector investment and the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in achieving the desired result in five years.

She explained that insufficient bandwidth as currently being experienced in the country will continue to stifle business, if appropriate measures were not taken to address the situation.

According to her,   the national backbone would boost access to broadband and create employment opportunities for many Nigerians.

“Despite the fact that we have internet penetration of 28 percent, which is about 45 million users, only 9 percent, which is about 14.5 million users of the population are actually internet subscribers and broadband penetration is mere 6 percent. Even though access to broadband using mobile phones is increasing, which amounts to increase in the number of subscribers, what the statistics tells us is that most Nigerians still access the internet through public venues like offices, cyber cafes computer laboratories, among others. This is as a result of not only the lack of ubiquity of the broadband network, but also the cost of access. Today Nigeria has the highest costs of access in the world, and the average speed of access is still very low,” the Minister said.

She called on the information technology stakeholders to see the broadband project as a national project that needs the input of all technology practitioners in the country.

In his response, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah who equally presented a paper at the broadband forum on ‘Facilitating Broadband Growth Through Regulation,’ said Nigeria and other developing world aspire to enjoy broadband revolution because of its economic benefits.

He  however,  explained that there are some challenges impeding broadband revolution in such developing countries, Nigeria inclusive.

According to him, “one of the most difficult challenges to wide scale broadband infrastructure deployment in Nigeria is the issue of right of way. While the issue seems intractable, there are obvious solutions to the challenges.”

He challenged state governments to move away from the current practice of imposing one off charge for right of way, based on distance to a new regime of periodic revenue streams from their right of way assets.

According to Juwah, one way to  realise the stream was to contribute the assets as participation in the project and that alternatively, state governments may choose to barter their right of way assets for a specialised service from infrastructure operator.

Also in his presentation, Managing Director of EALA Communications Industry Group for Accenture, Mr. Stuart Orr spoke on broadband policies of different countries and how such policies could make or mar broadband penetration.

He however,  advised government to invest in both mobile and fixed broadband penetration, as both projects compliment each other.

In : Technology

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