By Prince Osuagwu, who was in Barcelona, Spain
Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah, at the just concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain said that the country may not fully harness the potentials of broadband deployment for wealth creation and employment generation until the fixed line segment of the telecommunications market is revived.
Juwah said that even with the growing number of submarine cable systems which has reduced cost of wholesale bandwidth capacity, the fixed line segment was very important for national penetration.
He said that although statistics has shown that for every 10 per cent increase in broadband there is a one per cent increase in GDP, Nigeria’s abysmal broadband penetration rate at 1.1 percent, was because the country’s fixed line system is in limbo.
According to Juwah, there was a significant opportunity for local and foreign investors to take advantage of the gap in fixed-line infrastructure to further expand the broadband market.
His words: “The majority of broadband we have now is through mobile networks. We have very little practical broadband on fixed networks. We cannot make appreciable progress in broadband without first of all treating our fixed-line broadband infrastructure.
Actually, the reason why mobile broadband in Nigeria is not working too well is because there is no fixed broadband infrastructure. There is no in-land fibre to backhaul all this capacity back to their various switches.”
Juwah however disclosed that operators are reluctant to invest heavily in fixed broadband infrastructure because voice services are still profitable. He revealed that his commission has decided to fast-track activities in this area with the creation of a broadband-focused infrastructure sector.
According to him, “building good fixed broadband infrastructure will impact on the quality of service of operators because they can now backhaul their traffic which is what they have been doing now using microwave. Microwave is a thin route and very unreliable. The NCC is making a regulatory intervention into the provision of fixed broadband so that an infrastructure sector is created, which includes within itself a sophisticated sharing of resources.
“This is not a question of an operator monopolizing it and charging very high prices as is evident right now.”
Juwah said the commission is prepared to put in government funds in the infrastructure sector to ensure that the end-point prices comes down in order to ensure that internet access is available to the entirety of Nigerians at affordable costs.
“My administration is really focused on developing broadband for employment creation. I am strongly looking at this issue from a policy and implementation standpoint. We are also looking at killer applications for broadband.
Essentially, the development of applications and the building of broadband infrastructure in this country must go hand-in-hamissed he regretted that the country missed a great opportunity due to the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL’s) inability to massively deploy fixed lines when other development-focused nations of the world, such as the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) did.
Even though the country by end of 2011, has attained over 90 million lines, Juwah said that NCC was very conscious of the importance of fixed lines infrastructure in broadband deployment. He was optimistic that by the time the commission finished with the modalities of providing the enabling environment for private investors to expand the country’s broadband infrastructure, the fixed line sector would have been revived.