By Emmanuel Elebeke
AS Nigeria searches for the nine per cent left to achieve the 30 per cent broadband penetration target set by the Federal Government for 2018, Nigeria’s Communications Satellite Company, NIGCOMSAT has stepped up to say it can fill the gap.
The Executive Director, Marketing and Business Development, of the company, Hon. Sampson Osagie, told Hi-tech that the agency has commenced moves to expand its business frontiers, establish new offices and new businesses across the country to complement the ongoing efforts by other stakeholders to achieve the target.
He said the agency is also looking at establishing ICT ventures called knowledge and innovation services in every nook and cranny of the country to let people understand NIGCOMSAT’s services better while also connecting more unserved areas in Nigeria.
‘‘Our major targets for 2018 are to be able to contribute hugely to attaining the 30 per cent broadband penetration target, which is part of our national broadband penetration plan. We intend to expand our business frontiers, establish new offices and new businesses across the country to achieve that.
‘‘We are also looking at establishing ICT ventures to let people know that through our satellite, they can even run their business centres better than they are currently doing.
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the Nigerian broadband penetration is at 21 per cent, a 9 per cent gap to hit the 30 per cent target by the end of 2018.
The NIGCOMSAT Executive Director said all the contributions by the agency were being channelled into the pool of the National Council for Broadband Plan, which NIGCOMSAT is part of, adding that the agency is already sourcing for funding for full commercialisation. He noted that full commercialisation of NIGCOMSAT when completed, will improve efficiency in the system.
“That is why we are currently seeking for funds to expand our facilities to be able to contribute very hugely into national broadband penetration. It is a very big project for which we are seeking partnership. We are trying to do that in conjunction with other members of the ICT community.
‘‘We are commercialising every aspect of our businesses, trying to improve the efficiency of our businesses in order to retain the few customers we have maintained over the years.
‘‘Government is also assisting the company to go into discussion with partners that will lead to acquiring additional satellites because every satellite has a life span of 15 years and our satellite, NigComSat-1R, has already done six years. We are looking at another nine years for what we call the end of life in the orbit,’’ he said.
He also explained why NIGCOMSAT has low patronage from the public: ‘‘People’s perception of NIGCOMSAT is largely informed by their lack of understanding of what satellite communication company does. I don’t blame them because I also suffered the same fate before I came here.
‘‘Satellite communication is not like every day business. That is why you do not see many satellite communications companies around. We see all manners of ICT businesses everywhere, but satellite communication business is not a common thing. As far as Nigeria is concerned, NIGCOMSAT is the only satellite operator.
‘‘This has become a challenge because rather than people patronising their activities, they are talking the company down as if it does not have the capacity to perform at all. Maybe, because of their connection with foreign satellite companies, or because they feel that in procurement process with foreign satellite, they are not too sure of doing business with local satellites because we don’t like anything local, we like anything foreign. And so, they don’t have confidence, that is what we are trying to tell them.
‘‘People prefer to patronise foreign satellites over NigComSat because they feel we do not have a back-up. But our services are now well embraced and a lot of people are beginning to get more confidence in NigComSat-1R because we recently signed MoU with Belintersat of Belarus. Of course we have same Chinese company that launched both satellites involved in the agreement. As we speak, we now have a back-up satellite but we need additional satellites to increase our capacity and render much more wide range of services to both public and private organisations.
‘‘With respect to the back-Up satellite, it has started yielding results. That has expanded our business frontiers. It may interest you to know that in Botswana, Cote Voir, Benin Republic, Garbon, we are rendering services right now.’’
The ED, further noted that NIGCOMSAT has delivered on its mandate except for those who do not know that NigComSat-1R which is being managed by NigComSat Nigeria limited is very much able to dispense its services in the area of broadband, broadcast network and ancillary services that flow from them.
On whether the MoU with Berlintasat has put to rest the quest for additional satellite, explained that ‘‘No, what we are saying is that, as satellite start getting old, it starts becoming weak. That is why, when you have additional satellites, you begin to migrate customers to the additional satellite that are newer.
‘‘It is not as if, we have exhausted the capacity for NigComSat-1R. The utilized capacity is still far less than 60 percent. So, we still have a long way to go in terms of capacity utilization of our current satellite.’’