Nigeria's most innovative and fastest growing telecommunications company, Etisalat Nigeria, has thrown its weight behind one of the nation’s first campaigns for increased broadband awareness, access and development through its sponsorship of the Business Day Broadband Summit 2012.
The summit which was organized in conjunction with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and endorsed by the Ministry of Communication Technology, took place at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Lekki, in Lagos.
The Summit which had the theme: 'Opportunities in Nigeria's Emerging National Broadband Policy,’ focused on how the Nigerian government and investors could leverage on broadband for economic and business development, especially in e-commerce and local content, while increasing citizens’ access and empowerment.
Speaking on the topic, ‘Investing in Broadband Infrastructures in Nigeria: The Experience of a Foreign Investor’, Director Regulatory Affairs, Etisalat Nigeria, Ibrahim Dikko, expressed concern that despite the investment of four major operators in high-capacity fibre-optic cable, pricing still presents an obstacle to rapid growth because of inland transmission cost. “With transmission cost of data from Lagos to Abuja being over ten times higher than Lagos to London, the impact of broadband is currently not felt in Nigeria,” he said.
Dikko emphasized the importance of a nationwide inland transmission network to facilitate broadband growth in the economy. “The capacity provided by the subsea cables is mostly concentrated along the shores of the country. To fully realize the benefits of the subsea cables, concerted effort has to be made to provide infrastructure that will make the capacity available inland”, he stated.
According to him, “Research shows that broadband is key to the development of African economies creating positive social, micro-economic and macro-economic impacts. The social impact makes possible an improvement in social links, creation of social capital and empowerment. The micro-economic impacts include improved market information flow, increase in business productivity and job creation. At the macro-economic level, it boosts GDP.”
He suggested that to achieve the broadband target in Nigeria, the government should release low frequency mobile spectrum using innovative auction methods that focus on deployment and not necessarily revenue generation, address multiple taxation and expedites approval of permits and Rights of Way. Subsidies for rural infrastructure to stimulate the fast deployment of infrastructure to the more rural areas will help and the development of local content development is key to stimulating the use of broadband internet.
Dikko concluded by stating that Etisalat Nigeria is enabling broadband penetration through its investments in its 3.75G network and data services. “We will continue to roll out services to enable businesses become more productive, students more informed and citizens become more engaged,” he said.
Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson, spoke in the same vein. According to her, availability of spectrum was an important part of delivering wireless broadband. She revealed that the ministry was actively pursuing the conversion from analogue to digital and hoped to complete the process by 2015, in order to free up critical spectrum resource within the 460 – 790 MHz frequency band.
“Network service providers are an important part of our supply side of the equation for broadband. Without them, other resources are not useful; therefore they are the most important resource from a policy perspective in a liberalized environment. Today, broadband is no longer viewed as a luxury but a necessity,” she said.
The minister said in the next decade, it would be doubtful any nation would be able to effectively compete globally without availability of broadband infrastructure and services for its citizens and businesses. ‘The speed of broadband service is bringing about innovations that were impossible at narrow and medium band speeds. Nigeria’s path to a broadband policy takes into cognizance our local realities and context. Broadband connectivity for accelerated communication is now a sine qua non for any country that wants to remain globally competitive,” she said.
She stated that after the approval of the National ICT Policy, President Goodluck Jonathan set up a Committee on the National Broadband Strategy and Roadmap. The committee is charged with the responsibility to chart solid action plans and strategies for achieving universal broadband infrastructure, services and usage in Nigeria for national development and benefit.
Speaking also at the Summit, the Director, Public Affairs of the NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo said the impact of broadband on the nation’s GDP could be translated into growth in business and economy. “This is why every country is working hard to increase broadband. Nigeria is not an exception. Telecoms services in the country are some of the most efficient today. Telecom has become an indispensable tool among Nigerians. We want to get it right,” he said.