BY EMEKA AGINAM
Following the bidding process for the 2.3GHz spectrum auction in Nigeria, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, at the just concluded GSMA Mobile World Congress held recently in Barcelona, Spain was given a rare privilege of addressing the cream of the global telecom stakeholders at the Ministerial Programme where he elevated the potentials of Nigeria’s broadband programme.
The Ministerial Programme of the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, is a privileged event where decisions makers, ministers, investors, service providers, global mobile providers among other top industry players.
At this year’s programme, a session was dedicated to Nigeria and Dr. Juwah seized the opportunity to make a profound presentation to the world about what to expect in Nigeria, which is at the threshold of unleashing a broadband revolution that will impact the Nigerian nation and the African continent.
“We are going to fast track the nation to a knowledge economy and the contributions of broadband to GDP growth will increase considerably. We have successfully completed the auction of the 2.3GHz Spectrum and we have outlined a number of programmes under the broadband infrastructure framework while licensing of infrastructure providers, tagged Infracos is about to begin”, he said
Dr. Juwah also had a mouthwatering offer for investors in the Nigerian broadband infrastructure deployment programme using the Open Access Broadband strategy with the planned licensing of InfraCos that will provide a national broadband network on a non-discriminatory, open access and price regulated basis to all service providers.
“We are creating enabling environment and incentives for the private sector to roll out broadband networks which will be a one-off incentive for last mile to be achieved. We will replicate the success we made in voice in broadband plan as we proceed on the journey.
“We are also going to license more retail services and encourage the operators where possible to extend fibre to homes and businesses on their own. Government is committed to providing incentives to winners of infrastructure licenses, “he said.
According to him, InfraCo would enjoy government support , hence would be getting funding from government to rollout nationwide broadband infrastructure.
“We are ready to provide subsidy to simplify entry. However, such a subsidy will come on the basis of milestones achieved to ensure that we are realistic in the venture”, he said.
Recasting the history and revolution of the voice communications in Nigeria, Dr. Juwah said the nation will witness a boom the broadband segment of the business as we have done in the voice segment.
The NCC boss said for for Nigeria to be part of the 21st century knowledge economy, there is need to leverage on the potentials of broadband.
“We have done quite well in the voice segment, but taking a look at the data segment, our internet penetration rate currently is 32.9 per cent, our broadband penetration rate is 6.1 per cent, taking it to a higher speed broadband, this 6.1 per cent will disappear” he explained.
He gave an insight into the structure of the growth when he said broadband access in Nigeria would be adequately addressed through the establishment of the broadband networks in the metropolitan areas of Nigeria to facilitate the extension of capacities to the households and businesses.
The objective of this initiative, he affirmed is to stimulate a new national broadband network that is not only more widespread but also faster and more secure than what is available today, and to also offer efficient connectivity as well as ultra high-speed broadband services that is available, affordable and sustainable.
While the proposed industry structure offers InfraCos as entities that complement the existing industry players by focusing on the market gap and offering non-discriminatory open access wholesale bandwidth services to the industry players, he further explained that proposed structure allows existing players to operate on the basis of business-as-usual, with the option of leasing their inter-city and existing metropolitan fibre infrastructure to the InfraCos.
The Model, according to him is also envisaged to address the challenges of congested and unplanned towns, the challenges around infrastructure sharing and other issues such as high cost of Right of way.
“ The Open Access Model will potentially help optimize the cost of broadband access across Nigeria and ensure that all operators, whether large or small, have equal access to broadband infrastructure”, he said.
Juwah who is very optimistic of what broadband will do for Nigeria said that it has the potential to stimulate business activities, providing support for other sectors of the economy as well as providing better living and governance.