By Emeka Aginam
Accelerated work on a Critical National Infrastructure Bill that covers issues critical to rapid broadband deployment is in progress, courtesy of the National Broadband Council. Issues central to broadband deployment which will need attention from various perspectives include damage to all infrastructure including telecoms, a spectrum audit, and a wholesale pricing audit that will lead to reduction in the cost of deploying telecommunications infrastructure. These, among others will be addressed by the Infrastructure bill, which when passed into law, will help achieve national broadband plans by 2017.
The Broadband Council inaugurated by the Honourable Minister of Communication Technology on the 16th of July 2013 had met at the weekend in Abuja, and top on the agenda, it was learnt, was the progress of public and private sector efforts against projections of the broadband plan.
Accordingly, the President’s goal to see broadband penetration increase by 2017 (80% of the population will have access to mobile broadband, and 20% to fixed broadband), it was gathered was re-emphasised.
In attendance at the meeting presided over by Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson were the secretary of the USPF, Alhaji Abdullahi Maikano, Engineer Ernest Ndukwe, Mr Jim Ovia, Mr Lanre Ajayi, Mr Titi Omo-Ettu, Professor David Adewumi, Mr Olayinka Oni, Mrs Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor, Mr Bayo Banjo, Mr Muhammad Rudman, Mr Junaid Dikko, and Mr John Ayodele.
So far several steps have been taken, and there are a number of core deliverables to be seen by the end of the year, chiefly increased awareness of the importance of broadband to the social and economic agenda (increased broadband penetration has a direct correlation to increased economic activities and GDP contributions).
At the meeting the progress against the plan was reported under the following categories. On the issue of Policy & Regulation, a nationwide publishing and communication of the agreed right of way guidelines will commence in November. Also a legal services firm has been appointed to draft a Critical National Infrastructure Bill. The firm has submitted an inception report and initial requests for comments by stakeholders have been made and are now under review.
Also on the matter of an Open Access framework, a preliminary report that will enable broadband penetration is being developed and is expected by the end of November 2013. Further to this Long Distance fibre interconnectivity is planned through the Nigerian Internet Exchange. A stakeholder forum on developing an Interconnect scheme for National and Long distance operators to actualize this will be held in November. To support this, GIS Mapping of fibre infrastructure is also underway with the 6 zonal maps produced for each geo-political zone being integrated into one by December 2013.
The Council also deliberated on collaborations with state governments on resolution of issues affecting the rollout of base stations. On the issue of spectrum, the Council noted that a spectrum audit has been initiated and will be completed within six months. Following this an auction of spectrum is being planned by the NFMC in collaboration with the NCC and NBC.
Under the topic of affordability, a cost-based pricing model for guiding fibre duct leasing is being drafted and will be ready by the end of November as part of the open access framework.
Among the key wins the council wishes to see are clear targets for increased collocation on Base Stations, and increased rollout to improve nationwide coverage. These targets are yet to be collated but work has started.
The Council is also looking into resolving thorny issues to do with the speedy roll out of base stations between NESREA, NCC and the Ministry of Environment.
The Broadband Council was inaugurated on the 16th of July and is made up of 19 members chaired by the Honourable Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson. The Council is charged with the responsibility of working on implementation modalities for the newly developed and approved Nigerian National Broadband plan for the period 2013 – 2018.