November 7, 2018

Last Mile Connection: How Satellite broadband provides the right mix

Last Mile Connection: How Satellite broadband provides the right mix

By Prince Osuagwu (Hi-tech Editor) & Juliet Umeh

Going by the statistics of the telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, internet is fast penetrating and Nigeria could pass as one of the fast rising internet enabled economies of the world.

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As at May 2018, Nigeria achieved 22 percent broadband penetration out of the 30 percent target it set for itself, within five years time frame.

It also claimed that there were over 162 million active mobile connections and over 100 million internet users in Nigeria, at the period, with teledensity standing at over 116 percent.

The regulatory body said the figures are indications that internet is fast penetrating all sectors of Nigerian economy.

However, these figures appear to favour only the macro outlook of the telecom economy.

They do not count so much to the unserved and underserved critical mass in the rural communities. Broadband penetration means so little to them because last mile connection is far fetched.

This is despite the massive investments made by private telecommunications companies, Globacom and MainOne, in landing broadband submarine cables with tones of terrabytes of data capacity lying fallow at the seashores where they landed a few years ago.

The Right of way, Row problem where different states of the federation charge different exhorbitant rates to allow operators deploy broadband facilities, has been the monster holding last mile broadband connections down.

While the nation celebrate statistics primarily made possible by mobile connections, rural businesses, communities and dwellers suffer for inability to sustain business and social lives with mobile data connections, due to cost.

Worried by this trend, the stakeholders in telecoms industry recently decided that at this information age, broadband/communication services cannot continue to be limited to few cities and towns in Nigeria. They want total inclusiveness where the farmer, the market woman, the student and a host of others are all digitally included.

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This however, led to the gathering of telecoms stakeholders consisting of satellite providers, NIGCOMSAT Limited, the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, ATCON, and the media,  to critically examine the prospects, challenges and future plans in attempt to redefine the relationship between fibre and sattelite broadband in this lastmile connection.

The meeting also looked at how telecom operators and NIGCOMSAT can shake hands in deepening broadband penetration nationally.

Speaking at the meeting held in Ikeja, Lagos, the Managing Director/CEO, NIGCOMSAT Limited, Abimbola Alale, said in order to achieve broadband penetration in the country which is long overdue, there is need for a mutual relationship among the industry stakeholders.

Alale said, “Whilst I appreciate the business focus and contribution of ATCON in taking services to our people in urban and sub-urban areas, I also believe that our collective efforts will yield better results across all parts of the country in order to boost the overall business environment.

“A forum like this therefore, is not only timely but also critical to forge the frontiers of telecoms operators and satellite operators for a common good,” she said.

Alale stressed the urgent need to take broadband across the unreached. She said: “It is certainly true that there is tremendous capacity of broadband here in Lagos, but what about other areas in the country? We are therefore faced with a challenge to urgently cover those areas where broadband services are needed. I am hopeful that our resolutions today will chart a roadmap that is achievable.

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“We are all aware that one of the cardinal objectives of ATCON is to ‘bring together under one umbrella all companies in the field of telecommunications and auxiliary services for the purpose of sharing industry information, networking, associating and otherwise enhancing the stature and relevance of telecommunications industry.

“It is on this principle that NIGCOMSAT would like to partner with ATCON to ensure that the federal government’s plan of broadband penetration is achieved. We cannot do this alone without proper engagement with you. You are the vehicle to reach the rural populations and we can provide the infrastructure that you can leverage on.

“I am pleased to inform you that Nigeria’s foremost satellite, NigComSat-1R is performing optimally and the Ka-band payload consists of eight active transponders with a bandwidth of 120 MHz each for communication and broadcasting services. It has three fixed spot beams over Nigeria, South Africa and Europe. For additional support, we have made back-up agreements with more than two satellite operators,” Alale said.

In response, President of ATCON Mr Olusola Teniola, said: “our primary focus with respect to pervasive broadband is to see how our members can leverage on satellite technology for the deployment of broadband for socio-economic development of our country.

“You would have noticed that in the last few years, ATCON has come up with some initiatives that are not traditional. The whole essence of thinking outside the box is to increase our impact on our members and the industry as a whole. This initiative would undoubtedly make our industry to realise its broadband target and invariably help to achieve one set by the federal government.

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“As you may be aware, the continuous existence of our members is paramount to us and as part of adding sustainable value to the business of our members, we designed this strategic business interactive session to foster a mutually beneficial business relationship between our members and NIGCOMSAT with a special emphasis on broadband penetration across the country.

“Other strategic objectives of putting this timely initiative together are; to make NIGCOMSAT offer its quality services at a cheaper rate for the patronage of our members; to create an enduring business relationship and partnership and a treaty between our members and NIGCOMSAT; to support broadband service via satellite technology and to rejuvenate the satellite business among our members,” Teniola said