By Prince Osuagwu
ON the heels of the inauguration of the national broadband committee by President Goodluck Jonathan last month, Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah has predicted that broadband cost could crash to the barest minimum if the Dubai campaign comes off successfully.
Juwah however revealed that all the developments including the creation of the committee and other initiatives to make broadband available, were all geared towards this mission, adding that that paucity of investment in the broadband sector of the Nigerian telecommunications industry was also a strong reason why the country wants to showcase its broadband potentials at the ITU Broadband Forum 2012 in Dubai.
According to Juwah, many corporate organizations, high net-worth individuals and even MDAs have had to depend largely on imported bandwidth by foreign operators until recently when MainOne, Glo 1 and NigComSat-1R began to offer broadband services, but even at that, the high investment profile of these organizations, the cost of acquiring bandwidth by Nigerians has not come down significantly and this is a major reason the FG believes that more investors are needed.
Such investments, according to him, will also boost Foreign Direct Investment which in turn could cushion the pains and high cost of acquisition of the essential instrument that can quickly expand internet availability in the nooks and cranies of Nigeria.
The latest ITU broadband enabled and Internet to home ranking put Nigeria at 87 out of 127 countries surveyed and 4.6 per cent penetration against a world average of 20.5 per cent.
For Juwah, “its an irony even with Nigeria’s sizeable progress in GSM and voice telephony, internet penetration is still a far cry, as many people have had to contend with high cost of bandwidth from the few broadband operators in the country.
Nigeria currently ranks behind economies including Egypt; Tunisia; Namibia and South Africa among others and we are determined to put a stop to this kind of development.
The EVC said that in reality, only urban and semi-urban centres of the country can today boast of access to the Internet.
According to him, a larger part of the population, which resides in the rural areas are grossly underserved, “again this is not acceptable. So we really need investors to help expand the process in the country.”
The NCC boss reiterated that though so much progress had been made in voice telephony but data aspect of the sector was still poor and far between, adding that indeed, operators in Nigeria spend an average of between $400m and $500m yearly on bandwidth imported from Foreign Service providers and this has accumulative negative effect on the end users who have no choice but bear the high cost of this all important tool for fast Internet speed and data transmission.
Juwah indicated that the theme of the country’s participation at the ITU World is: “Nigeria Broadband – A Connected Nation”, adding that the country will use the occasion to assure the international community of Nigeria’s readiness to protect investments and promote competition in the spirit of deregulation and private sector participation will canvass this point.
At the forum, He said Nigeria is also expected to host the global ICT leaders to a closed door meeting and lunch while a special day has been set aside for hosting key participants at the forum including presentations at the Nigerian Pavilion where public and private institutions and companies are provided spaces to showcase their potentials to the world.
“We want to tell potential investors that Nigeria remains the preferred investment destination in Africa. We will also explain to the investors the areas that still need their attention since we have sizeable progress in voice telephony.”
Juwah said, though, Nigeria was said to be doing well in Internet penetration, the high cost of bandwidth due to its unavailability on demand called for worry.
According to him, because of this poor state of broadband penetration and the attendant high cost of bandwidth “government will be emphasising our investment drive in this direction.”
Only recently, worried by the poor broadband penetration in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan, who is billed to lead Nigeria’s delegation to ITU conference in Dubai, inaugurated a 15-member committee to among other things articulate acceptable definitions and perspectives of broadband and related issues that are current and dynamic for the country.
The committee has former EVC of the NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe and former Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia as co-chairman.