How Nigeria Achieved 42.02% Broadband Penetration In 5 Years

Yemisi Izuora

The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has significantly deepened broadband penetration in the country making the sector one of the most vibrant and contributing largely to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

According to statistics, from an insignificant 6 per cent broadband penetration in 2015, the NCC, exponentially grew penetration to an impressive 42.02 per cent as at July, 2020.

This achievement Oriental News Nigeria learnt was as a result of key policy initiatives to improve broadband penetration embarked upon by the Commission.

These include increasing the number of licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCo) to six across the geo-political zones, spectrum refarming, spectrum re-planning, spectrum auctions, and administrative spectrum assignments, among others.

The Commission is presently in the process of finalizing the six Infraco’s counterpart funding agreement to ensure the full rollout of broadband infrastructure on an Open Access Model (OAM) and this will ensure there is Point of Access in each of the 774 local governments in the country.

The increase in broadband penetration has enabled the growth of the subscriber base which was 199,307,796 as at June 2020.

Also, teledensity, has risen to 104.41 while the percentage contribution to GDP in Q2 2020 was 14.2 per cent.

The NCC is equally working with the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competiveness Advisory Council (Critical Infrastructure Sub Committee) under the auspices of the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo GCON, on various initiatives towards improving Broadband Penetration.

To underscore the importance of the sector to the economy, in June 2020, the Federal Government designated telecoms facilities as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI).

The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and all security agencies have since been notified of Mr. President’s directive to that effect.

On assumption of office in 2015, the Chief Executive Officer,and Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission Prof. Umar Garba Dambatta, gave priority to Quality of Service and observed that two prominent factors identified as “technical” and “non-technical” were impacting its delivery.

The Commission took steps to address the issues by constituting an Industry working group on QoS, Short codes and Multiple Taxation; Deployment of QoS and Spectrum Tools, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Colocation Service Providers. In 2018, the adoption of 3G and 4G KPIs was formalised, as well as that of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Collocation Service Providers (CSP) and their monitoring has since fully commenced. These regulatory initiatives have put operators on their toes to improve quality service delivery to consumers.

To optimize the usage and benefit of spectrum, a number of initiatives such as spectrum trading, infrastructure sharing, satellite infrastructure and wireless infrastructure were put in place to drive socio-economic development.

For instance, the transfer of the spectrum licence of 2X 10MHz in the 900MHz E-GSM Spectrum band from Intercellular Nigeria to Airtel networks Limited amounted to the sum of N8.9 billion. The amount generated through that singular initiative has brought significant revenue to Government.

The Commission has also remitted N362.34 billion from 2015 to date to the Federal Government Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) through spectrum fees and operating surplus, which has helped to boost the revenue-generation drive of the current administration.

It is interesting to mention that all the initiatives above have helped the Commission in identifying potential frequency bands to be harmonized for 5G deployment, which include 26 GHz, 38GHz and 42GHz.

Also, in recognition of the fundamental role of research in innovation, in 2016, the Commission created a Research and Development Department. The department has continued to collaborate with the academia to support the development of innovative services and life-changing solutions with the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to promote Indigenous Content Development. The Commission has so far awarded the sum of N336.4 million as research grants to the academia and has endowed professorial chairs in two Nigerian universities.

More importantly, NCC has empowered Nigerian youths by promoting their ingenuity and innovation in the development of locally-relevant technology solutions.

The latest of such was the 2020 NCC Virtual Hackathon, where it gave N9 million in grant to three top promising tech startups for solutions aimed at addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and epidemic diseases in the thematic areas of Health, Community, Productivity, Economy and Transportation.

The Commission further recognizes that the key to the survival and growth of the telecommunications industry in Nigeria is sustained investments.

In the last five years, the Commission has deliberately and consistently engaged investors in different fora to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs).

The NCC showed investors the Commission’s roadmap for Broadband, which includes the Open Access Model Initiative, the Infraco Project, our 5G readiness and the Access Gaps for market opportunities that new entrants could leverage on in the Nigeria’s telecom space.

To build confidence in the sector and ensure that current investors and new players flourish, the NCC has activated mandatory compliance to the Code of Corporate Governance for the telecoms industry. This initiative seeks to further strengthen telecoms entities, sustain sector’s role as a driver of economic growth and social transformation, and attract investments.

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