The Problem Statement
With over half of Nigeria’s population under 25 years, the country is confronted with the challenge to put this largely unemployed and underemployed population to work and yet, about 70 million of its adult population are offline, according to the available records.
As at December 2019, the telecommunication market served over 184 Million Mobile lines, with 126 Million of those lines connected to Internet services.
According to the NCC, telecommunication services in the country have grown from a teledensity of lower than 1% on fixed wireline and wireless networks before the DML auctions, to reach approximately 89% population coverage for voice services in 2019 primarily based on 2G/2G+ networks.
Internet services in the country are currently provided on 2G, 3G, and increasingly 4G mobile networks.
However, 4G coverage is available to only 37% of the population and download speeds in the country are seen to be generally uncompetitive with other countries in the same income bracket.
The Policy Solution
The new Broadband Plan is designed to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria at a minimum of 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available to at least 90% of the population by 2025 at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data.
In order to achieve these ambitious targets, the plan is focused on recommendations in 4 critical pillars which are namely:
- Demand Drivers
- Funding & Incentives
|1||Infrastructure||Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) – Issuance of Executive Order to Declare Telecoms infrastructure as CNI and full implementation of Plan|
|2||Infrastructure||Establish a coordinating body for Fibre Builds – to ensure open access, prevent overlap and facilitate RoW issuance at statutory rates|
|3||Infrastructure||Satellite – Leverage existing NIGCOMSAT infrastructure to reach unserved/rural areas|
|4||Infrastructure/ Policy||Implement and enforce national uniform RoW charges for fibre builds at a rate of N145/m and ensure Open Access/Accounting Separation|
|5||Policy||Base Station Site Acquisition – Work with States to implement One-stop Shop to accelerate approvals and harmonize fees|
|6||Policy||Spectrum: Ensure efficient use of Spectrum; Use it or Lose It Policy, Open and transparent spectrum planning including TV White Space deployment for broadband|
|7||Funding / Demand Drivers||Affordability – Incentivize low-cost smartphone devices and promote local assembly /manufacturing of Telecom network and end device components.|
|8||Funding/ Demand Drivers||Co-ordinate Government spending, Schemes and Programs to ensure access in public institutions e.g. schools, hospitals and MDAs.|
Due to constrained Government spending and significant expenditures focused on electricity and other infrastructure areas, the plan relies on being funded by the private sector, coupled with appropriate incentives from the Government.
This would require better alignment of interests between industry players and the Government to achieve optimal success.
The government will be required to provide necessary incentives to private sector players and to create a more enabling environment for existing operators and potential new investors to drive additional investment into broadband infrastructure and services in the country.
Some of these efforts are already underway with progress towards the finalization of the Executive Order on Critical National Infrastructure Protection being quite advanced and significant positive engagement between the Honourable Minister of Communications & Digital Economy and the Nigerian Governors Forum on agreeing to hold RoW fees at N145/linear meter, contrary to the prevailing non-uniform fee regimes.
The Nigerian National Broadband Strategic Plan aims at expanding broadband development to increase broadband penetration, adoption and usage plus ensure availability of broadband services at affordable prices.
The vision behind the Nigerian broadband plan is to accelerate high-speed internet and mass broadband access and as a result prompt socio-economic growth for the nation and prosperity for its citizens in addition to removing barriers to expanding services to the mass market for deeper penetration and adoption.
Broadband is an infrastructure of the Information Society to further create wealth and it’s a key driver of economic growth & national competitiveness that lead to social and cultural development.
Broadband penetration has a positive impact on per capita GDP growth and has a major impact on the way in which we live and work.
It also encourages innovation, stimulates growth in an economy, and attracts foreign investment.
Through the broadband plan services, various socio-economic challenges will be tackled such as economic growth, job creation, expansion of the tax base, improvement of digital literacy and educational standards.
This will also address identity management and security challenges through the effective use of technology, increase financial inclusion and deliver a broad range of services to the people to improve the quality of life and work towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN for 2030.
NIGAC Constructive Position/Take
Though the National Broadband Plan is a capital-intensive project, it will be driven primarily by the private sector which will in turn encourage small and medium scale enterprises and cooperatives.
To make this plan work, the government needs to put some things in place. One of which is solid telecommunications infrastructure such as the deployment of fibre optics, communication tower etc.
The amazing thing with this plan is that Nigerians will enjoy faster internet speed to at least 90% of the population by 2025 at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data.
Over the next five years, the government is also planning on connecting all tertiary institutions in the country to the internet.
The plan includes a 50 per cent reach for secondary schools and 25% for primary schools ensuring that these institutions are located within five kilometres of fibre infrastructure or fixed connection.
However, to make this plan feasible, the government should focus on providing overall policy, legal and regulatory platform for attracting the required investment for the sustainable development of the sector.
An implementation committee should also be set up because a policy without implementation is of no use.
A monitoring and evaluation committee should come into play to ensure that the short- and long-term targets were achieved.
Therefore, it is important that the government remove all bottlenecks that impede rapid broadband deployment, in order to increase broadband penetration.