Broadband Council seeks accelerated implementation of national plan

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria 

Nigeria's National Broadband Council has tasked stakeholders in the information communications technology (ICT) industry on the need to accelerate the implementation process of the National Broadband Plan which seeks to raise the level of broadband penetration in the country to appreciable levels.

Rising from its meeting chaired by Communications Technology Minister, Dr. Omobola Johnson, it acknowledged the progress made on the implementation of the Broadband Plan in the last 18 months, especially the increased capacity rolled out by telcos and other infrastructure providers which had resulted in a two per cent increase in broadband penetration last year.  The Council also said the successful auction of the 2.3 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum, licensing of the first two (infrastructure companies (Infracos) for metro fibre rollout were giant strides, adding that companies that won should quickly rollout to improve the pace of implementation.

It commended the trial of TV White Spaces approved by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) geared at reducing cost of internet access.

The Council also commended the telcos for their leadership in the area of base station infrastructure sharing and deployment and resolved that this needed to be extended to fibre.

“Of particular concern to the Council, and the subject of extensive discussion during the meeting was the need to increase the landing points of international submarine cables beyond Lagos to other coastal states. Additional landing points in the country would not only reduce vulnerability and  risks associated with a single point of failure but would make it faster and cheaper to lay terrestrial cable from these points to other parts of the country. Council called on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) to look into the possibility of providing financial incentives to accelerate this. Council acknowledged that some milestones were missed due to schedule delays.

“Council resolved that Bitflux needs to accelerate pace of rollout and NCC should aim to release 2.6GHz in the first quarter of this year,” the statement added.

Council at the meeting also reviewed progress on the Ministry’s Smart State initiative aimed at getting concessions from State governments (right of way reductions, standardization on levies and charges on telco infrastructure)

States that had signed the MoU on the Smart State Initiative with the Ministry were singled out by the Council for commendation and other States yet to join were urged to do so to accelerate the pace of broadband infrastructure rollout within their States. Bayelsa, Ondo, Katsina,  FCT, Lagos and Cross Rivers State are Smart States while Anambra, Delta, Gombe and Osun State have agreed to become Smart States. Council reiterated that the Smart States initiative geared at engaging authorities at the state and local government level to address the issue of multiple taxations will accelerate the roll out of critical infrastructure across Nigeria and help Nigeria meet its broadband target of a five -fold increase by 2017.

Council also resolved that the Nigeria Internet Registration Association, NiRA must reduce cost of .NG to be globally competitive.  Council proposed that to accelerate the uptake of.NG domains NITDA would close the funding gap in NiRA if pent up demand did not result in the anticipated high levels of uptake. Council members were tasked with following up on this resolution.

In recognition of the crucial role broadband plays in inclusive development and in a bid to increase awareness and drive demand, the Council acknowledged the work of online market spaces in encouraging SMEs to bring their products/services online and urged SMEDAN to fund or drive an awareness campaign that will get many more SMES online.

Recalling that the Broadband Council at its 4th meeting pushed for increased 3G coverage to 50% of the Nigerian population by the end of 2015, the Council commended the USPF for the timely completion of its ICT Access Gap Study and concluded this would further help operators to service latent demand. Council stressed that the significant work by the USPF has given real empirical data to the issue of which areas of the country have connectivity.

The Council members scored overall progress as good but needing acceleration on items such as pricing and metro fibre. Following the recent announcement of the Infraco License winners the NCC’s work on Wholesale and Cost Based Pricing to improve the affordability of access to the internet would soon be available. Council concluded that progress was still too slow and challenged the ICT industry to see to it that the broadband plan targets were met.

The Broadband Council inaugurated on the 16th of July 2013 is made up of 19 members chaired by Dr Omobola Johnson. The Council charged with the responsibility of monitoring implementation modalities for the approved Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2013 – 2018 has been working to ensure that Nigeria achieves a five-fold increase in broadband penetration by 2017/2018. 

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