NCC’s InfraCo Initiative Targets Transformation Of Rural Communities 

Yemisi Izuora

Significant development is expected to happen around rural communities in Nigeria following sustained intervention strategy of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.

The Commission is simultaneously driving a number of regulatory policy implementations across various sectors of the economy that have increased access to telephone lines and improve access to high-speed Internet or broadband.

This is in line with the Commission’s mandate of ensuring universal access to telecoms services in the country which is consistent with the International Telecommunication Union, ITU’s goal of achieving digital inclusion, globally.

In a recent media engagement, the Executive Vice Chairman, EVC, of the Commission, Prof. Garba Umar Danbatta said that the implementation of the Open Access Model for infrastructure deployment through the competitively selected Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) called the InfraCo Project, would go a long way to improving wellbeing of rural community dwellers.

According to Danbatta, the InfraCo initiative is expected to provide, at a minimum, broadband fibre and connectivity to every Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the Federation, totaling 774 fibre Points of Access (PoAs) with a minimum speed of 10 Gbps which will translate to, at least,  38,296km of Optic Fibre Cable (OFC) to the Transmission over the next years.

He disclosed that so far, the Commission has licensed six of the seven InfraCos to implement this project and it is intended that the presence of fibre point of access in each LGA will not only spur development, lower cost of entry for telcos and bring about innovative services and applications, but also, improve the conditions of living in the rural, urban and semi-urban areas, especially with respect to access to financial services.

The InfraCo Project is considered as the beginning of the “Next Level” journey towards achieving the 120,000km target of fibre connectivity set by the current administration.

To give impetus to its implementation the Commission, recently begun a process to strategically review the InfraCo framework and its funding options towards ensuring effective implementation of the national fibre project.

Oriental News Nigeria reports that when fully implemented, it will ensure robust and pervasive broadband infrastructure to drive availability, accessibility and affordability of financial services.

The NCC also provided the requisite infrastructure, connectivity and capacity to interconnect four Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Lagos, Enugu, Port Harcourt and Kano in order to localise some of the internet traffic in Nigeria and encourage the creation, hosting and interchange of data within Nigeria.

This has enabled the local hosting of companies like Google, Facebook, Vodacom, China Telecom, Akamai, Juniper Solutions etc. alongside all major Nigerian Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Mobile Network Operators, Sub-Marine Cable Operators as well as major tier 1 to 3 Data Centers.

This has not only reduced cost, which is key to digital financial inclusion  and conserved foreign exchange but also has drastically reduced latency. Thus ensuring sustainability of digital financial services.

Realising the promises of wireless infrastructure for rapid advancement and ubiquitous coverage, which can be leveraged for financial inclusion, among other services, the Commission has put in place a number of guidelines and regulatory measures towards ensuring availability and sustainability of wireless technologies. Some of these include: development of  Spectrum Trading Guidelines to enable operators in possession of un-utilised or under-utilised frequency spectrum to trade such limited assets in the secondary market place, thus freeing resources and eliminating spectrum hoarding; Ongoing efforts to leverage the television white space (TVWS) technology to extend affordable  broadband services to Nigerians in the digitally excluded areas.

Others are effective and proper utilisation of available wireless spectrum frequency resources for widespread service deployment to Nigerians; Trial of Fifth Generation (5G) network in Nigeria, preparatory to its commercial deployment to improve digital services experienced by Nigerians; Development of Guidelines for commercial satellite deployment which has seen the registration of major satellite providers in the country. This will help to provide satellite-based broadband services to those hitherto excluded, among others.

There is also the development of framework for National Roaming Service, which is currently being trialed on some networks as well as ongoing development of licensing framework for Mobile Virtual network Operators (MVNOs), that will ride on and buy capacity from incumbent mobile network operator to provide telecoms services to unserved, under-served  and rural communities sin the country.

Dambatta, also placed on record that the Commission, through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), has been actively stimulating the adoption of ICT in various areas of the society in order to facilitate connectivity and access, thereby building resilient infrastructure and promoting sustainable industrial growth in the country. Some of the projects undertaken in this regard are Tertiary Institutions Knowledge Center (TIKC), School Knowledge Centre (SKC), Base Transceiver Station (BTS), Backbone Transmission Infrastructure (BTRAIN) project, University Inter-Campus Connectivity (UnICC), E-Accessibility or ICT for Challenged Groups/Persons Living with Disabilities (PWD), among others.

He informed the gathering that broadband penetration in Nigeria has been on the upward trajectory, rising to 45.02 per cent as of December, 2020.

Oriental News Nigeria gathered that penetration was far below 10 per cent when  he assumed office in 2015.

The Commission is also poised to further accelerate this growth, as it works with the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy to support the Federal Government’s National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), drive the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2000-2025 targets of 70 per cent broadband penetration, towards boosting digital access across the nooks and crannies of the country.

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