ATU Secretary General Abdoulkarim Soumaila, NCC head Eugene Juwah, Minister Omobola Johnson, and Desire Karyabwite of the ITU

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria’s efforts to join the global broadband community has crystallized into a focused master plan unfolded by the Chief Executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, at the Nigerian Broadband Forum at the Eko Hotel in Lagos.

The Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Dr. Hamadoun Toure, commended the government for its support for broadband connectivity.

The plan as unveiled by the Commission has, more or less, confirmed the ‘Open Access Model’ earlier indicated by the Commission as Dr. Juwah presented a clearer perspective on the plan, which, he said, encompasses the current State Accelerated Broadband Initiative, SABI, and the Wire Nigeria Initiative, WIN, programmes of the Commission.

“The Open Access Model is expected to help Nigerian’s plug into the global knowledge grid and stay competitive with other countries”, he said.

The key elements driving the objective focus on open access deployment of fibre infrastructure, according to Dr. Juwah, is to achieve high level of penetration across all geo-political zones, contribute to GDP growth and development of knowledge economy, provide commpetitive and affordable pricing, ensure intelligent incentives to support industry players while equipping Nigeria with leading infrastructure in Africa.

The ultimate imperatives for this objective, he said, is to realize affordable prizing, high speed connectivity, high level of coverage and targetted government support.

Dr. Juwah spoke to an international audience including Nigeria’s Communications Technology Minister Omobola Johnson, Representative of the ITU Secretary General, Desire Karyabwite, the Secretary of the Africa Telecommunications Union, ATU,  Abdoulkarim Soumaila, and a wide range of experts and Nigerian stakeholders. He said the plan was focused on accelerated broadband connectivity at affordable rates.

The message of the ITU Secretary General was relayed to the forum on video, where he commended the efforts of the drivers of Nigeria’s broadband efforts and encouraged the government to support every effort directed towards broadband availability in Nigeria as this is the focus of the global ICT community.

Dr. Juwah, who dissected a graphic representation of Nigeria’s model, said the essence of the presentation was to equip stakeholders and the investor community on the direction of the plan to enable their input before the implementation, having completed the preliminary studies of the Nigerian situation.

Dr. Juwah also presented a stakeholder mapping where the Commission would be responsible for provision of licenses, regulation of services, facilitation of agreements. This relationship is guided by an indsutry structure of the open access model of the type being implemented in Australia.

In explaining the market service structure in the Nigerian model, Dr. Juwah said it involves the provision of non discriminatory broadband access and services to end users, and provision of e non-discriminatory equal wholesale broadband connectivity using active infrastructure, while NetCos build and operate passive infrastructure.

Dr. Juwah said the integration of the SABI and WIN in the current plan was to expand the horizon in the pursuit of the mandate of the Commission to promote the provision of modern universal efficient, reliable, affordable, and easily accessible communications services of the widest range throughout Nigeria”.

Dr Toure emphasized the need for establishment of transparent and effective regulatory framework and policy for broadband development in Nigeria.

Minister of Communications Technology, Omobola Johnson had earlier assured of the support of the Federal government towards this initiative with a planned setting up of a Presidential Committee on Broadband deloyment while indicating that appropriate pricing and availability is critical in achieving universal access to Broadband, especially in rural areas. Global phenomenon such as the scissors effect and economic recession pose significant threat to the capacity to finance broadband infrastructure developments. Stakeholders at the event concluded among other things that:

• Broadband would facilitate the growth and availability of innovative and evolving ICT services which will increase the national GDP.

• Provision of incentives by government will stimulate investments in Broadband deployment similar to the tax exemption granted to GSM operators at the inception of GSM mobile services in Nigeria.

•Recent study shows that there is huge demand gap for broadband services in Nigeria. However, there is insufficient infrastructure to support the provision of broadband to meet the demand.

They also concluded that: strong government and political commitment towards broadband provision is required and that migration to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology will require high-level investment. It was also recommended that spectrum congestion will need to be addressed through variety of available options,  while 4G frequency spectrum will need to be licensed by 2015.

One of the conclusions reached at the forum as part of the processes for provision of robust broadband services in Nigeria was that rapid deployment and availability of broadband will lead to the introduction of innovative services.

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