Main One upbeat on broadband improvements


Image: Funke Opeke. By Main One Cable
Funke Opeke

Main One CEO Funke Opeke says her company is investing heavily in expending its infrastructure to cover under-served areas; building its own distribution infrastructure if necessary.

She says the investment has become imperative amid growing demand for better, more affordable internet across Nigeria.

"People know they want better access to the internet. They want it faster, cheaper, and they want to be able to drive new kinds of applications, access different types of content," she said.

Main One Cable Company  is the first privately owned sub marine fibre optic cable company in West Africa to connect the sub-region with the rest of the world. It has laid a submarine cable over a distance of 7,000 kilometers along the West African coastline, with a capacity of 1.92 terabits a second and providing a high-speed, low-priced, reliable broadband.

However, Opeke noted recently that despite the big decrease in wholesale cost, consumers have not seen a difference in the price they pay.

"The people who own the distribution networks are not passing on the saving, there's no open-access distribution or common carriers like you would have in a developed market," she said.

She said that Main One Cable, which does not sell its capacity directly to homes or small and medium-size businesses, has also started investing in distribution infrastructure, building its own networks when it can't find "commercially reasonable rates.  "The biggest challenge that we see is getting the capacity we have in this big pipe that we brought into Nigeria and Ghana across the region to reach the people and businesses where they need the service," she says.

Opeke further added that as part of Main One’s effort to ensure that Nigerians have increased access to broadband at even cheaper prices, the company has started a campaign for the development of national broadband policy. According to her, such a policy document will accelerate the ambitious push by the ITU as well to achieve its four-point agenda.

“At Main One, we have taken time to study the multifarious challenges facing the sector and which impedes efforts to enhance increased broadband access and penetration in the country. What we came up with was a document which has crystallised into a campaign for the enactment of a national broadband policy by the Federal Government. Such a policy must also accommodate input from industry players to ensure that the objectives are achieved. We think that a national broadband policy will set up the framework to remove the bottlenecks around last mile, collocation of facilities and right of way for the good of Nigerians”.

Main One says its push for enhanced national broadband access is already attracting support from other players in the sector as well as key stakeholders. The Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), during its last annual convention in 2011, called on the Federal to among other things, set in motion a machinery for the development of a national broadband policy.

In addition to championing calls for a national broadband policy, Main One has also commenced efforts to land another sub-marine cable in the Niger Delta region to extend access to the hinterlands of Southern Nigeria. Opeke says the project is capital intensive but it underscores Main One’s effort to break new grounds.

“We are already working round the clock to ensure that another fibre optic cable is landed in the Niger Delta any time soon. The project, when completed, will further drive down cost of broadband access and spur economic development in the region and the Southern part of the country. We believe that there is no better way of demonstrating our commitment to driving broadband penetration in Nigeria other than this,” Opeke added.

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