May 11, 2016

How FG plans nationwide broadband penetration with new microwave bands


By Prince Osuagwu

FEDERAL government of Nigeria is not leaving any stone unturned in its quest to deploy massive broadband connections necessary to give ubiquitous internet experience to Nigerians. This is considering that Broadband has now become an essential feature of modern life. It affects everything people do or even aspire to do.

broadband-cableTo think that broadband, across the world, is at the heart of quality education, , healthcare delivery, clean water, efficient power supplies or good governance, all ofwhich are essentially scarce commodities in the country. Investments in this area are bound to yield desirable results for the country.

Desirable results

The first shot the government took at achieving this was the formation of broadband policy plan in 2014. The plan sets out to achieve at least 30 percent broadband penetration in the country by 2018. Invariably the government also knows that without putting in place proper mechanisms and adequate vehicles, the dream of achieving that mileage may just end a mirage.

So, last week, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, rolled out plans to review the channelling plan of existing 23GHz Microwave spectrum band, while opening up two new radio spectrum bands, 38 and 42GHz bands, for use in Nigeria.

Much as these initiatives were practically meant for the country to keep up with international best practices, they were also designed to help achieve average quantity of broadband traffic needed to bring ubiquity in internet and other related services in the country.

The 38GHz band is the range of Electromagnetic Frequency Spectrum that falls within 37GHz – 39.5 GHz . The Band has a total of 2.5 GHz Bandwidth and supports an extremely high degree of frequency reuse due to high directivity of antennas.

Meanwhile, the two spectrum bands which are entirely new and have not been opened in the country before, are expected to further open up the Nigerian telecom space.

Announcing the development at a stakeholders consultative forum in Lagos, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, said the two developments were necessary considering that the emerging trend in telecommunications market in the Nigeria today is broadband which will certainly require massive deployments in terms of critical infrastructure for Nigeria to achieve the 30 percent broadband penetration by the year 2018.

Growth in broadband traffic

Danbatta who was represented by the Director Public Affairs, Mr Tony Ojobo, said that besides that, the growth in broadband traffic is on the increase and therefore additional spectrum resources would be required to avoid network challenges.

He listed some of the benefits licensing of these bands would bring to include; addressing the growing demand of spectrum by operators, for high speed and high quality capacity links for data centric services, assisting the commission’s drive for national broadband wireless initiative; reduction of pressure and management challenges experienced with traditional microwave frequency bands as well as helping the Nigerian consumer to leverage on the resources to enjoy better broadband services, among others.

NCC said it invited stakeholders to discuss spectrum plan, pricing scheme and licensing of service providers in the 38 & 42GHz bands as well as the Re-planning of the 23GHz Microwave Spectrum band within the Nigerian telecoms industry in line with global best practices.

Stakeholders discussed channel plan, licensing model and pricing at the meeting. Meanwhile, the Deputy Director, Spectrum Administration of the NCC, Mr Oluwatoyin Asaju, said that the regulatory moves were in line with the commission’s tradition of carrying people along in its decision to accelerate the achievement of deepening broadband penetration.

Asaju,said that the timeline for stakeholders to aggregate their decision based on the document presented and get back to the commission was between three to six months and encouraged strict compliance to the timeline before the take-off of the scheme.

He said the licensing option would be in an administrative method of first come, first serve in three categories: licence spectrum, light licensing and licence exempt.

Recall that NCC also, recently, announced that it was going ahead to auction the 2.6GHz spectrum licence slated for May 16, 2015 in Abuja. The spectrum is offered by the commission on a technology neutral basis and can be used to provide any telecommunications services.