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Mixed response to Nigeria's broadband penetration success

Mixed response to Nigeria's broadband penetration success

According to the 2018 ITU/UNESCO Policy Forum Nigeria's broadband penetration stands at 22% - and while the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) believes it has achieved its target of between 20 and 30 percent by 2017, the global non-profit organisation Internet Society is not convinced.

In a media statement issued and published by the NCC on its website, Executive Vice Chairman Professor Umar Garba Danbatta confirmed the achievement and added, "Nigeria's broadband penetration was between 4 to 6% in 2013 when the target was set and the NCC has since, licensed infrastructure companies (Infracos) to deploy fibre network in various regions of the country. There is an initiative under the office of the Vice President, but being driven by some licensees of the NCC to deploy 18000 km of fibre infrastructure. The whole idea is to add 18,000km of fibre in addition to the 38,000km of fibre that we have already on the ground, to make it 56,000km."

Danbatta also confirmed that a subsidy of N3 billion had been secured to support infracos, based on specific targets or milestones achieved.

Michuki Mwangi, Senior Development Manager for Africa at Internet Society, said broadband penetration targets often ignore the reality that an increase in broadband penetration is generally the result of the quality of user experience.

"Having increased broadband penetration is great and I would commend the efforts by the NCC for creating an environment where the investments are being made by the private sector, but we should also pay attention to the factors that will lead to more uptake ... because if there is a hundred percent demand in an entire country it means there is a market for the investors to build that infrastructure. But right now the targets are set because the demand is not at the levels which will draw significant interest for inv0estors to continue to build at that same level."

Mwangi said there is a need for policies and regulation that would help stakeholders 'monetise' content.

"There is an issue of third party liability. For example, who (between the operator and owner of the content), is liable when content it is hosted on a network. In many countries the operator is liable. Many operators are hesitant and use different mechanisms to ensure that they are not liable. This puts up a barrier and limits what goes online because as a content hosting provider, you have to vet all the content that comes online because you don't want to be held liable. There is also no clear way of being able to load content and ensure that it will be sustained because from a policy point of view, there is nothing that supports online markets. We have seen this before where if you have an app and try to put it up on some of these online app stores, then you are not able to get revenue out of that app. You can only give it away."

According to Danbatta, challenges experienced by the NCC in its drive to increase broadband penetration include multiple taxation and Right of Way issues which the NCC is working to address through talks with the Nigerian Governors Forum.

Mwangi believes Nigeria can learn from other African countries.

"The policy issue identified is not unique to Nigeria and these issues are being discussed in a number of firms across the region. The right of way is basically where an operator who wants to put fibre into the ground is required to obtain permission from the relevant authorities to be able to dig up a certain path and bury their fibre. There have been many solutions that have been proposed, which range from infrastructure sharing to open access. What is being encouraged is for policy makers and governments to see what has worked in other countries and what can be emulated to suit a particular state or country. These challenges are not unique and have been experienced in Kenya and South Africa and they are finding ways to address them."


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