Telecoms sector regulator Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said going by the long and short term targets of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), the country has achieved 70 per cent broadband penetration.
Its Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Prof Garba Umar Dmanbatta, who spoke in Abuja with IT editors during a media interaction, said though the country has gone beyond the 20 per cent minimum broadband penetration as envisaged by the NBP, it is yet to hit the maximum target of 30 per cent.
He said: “Our performance shows that we as a nation have achieved 70 per cent broadband penetration. To meet the maximum target of 30 per cent broadband penetration, all other agencies that have roles to play, must perform the roles assigned to them by the NBP document.
“The NBP stated that the country must achieve five-fold in broadband penetration, but this of course depends on the minimum and maximum threshold.
“By multiplying four per cent minimum level of broadband by five, which represents the five- year broadband plan, it will give 20 per cent minimum broadband target and by multiplying six per cent maximum broadband penetration as at 2012 by the five years broadband plan, it will give 30 per cent broadband penetration, which is maximum target at the end of 2018.
“Nigeria had in 2017, surpassed the minimum target of 20 per cent, working towards achieving the maximum target of 30 per cent by the end of 2018. This is according to the NBP.
“As of today, Nigeria has achieved 22 per cent broadband penetration, which is close to achieving the 30 per cent.
“The achievement in broadband penetration gave rise to the first phase licensing of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) to drive broadband infrastructure deployment that will enable broadband penetration.”
According to CEO, the licence was planned to cover six geopolitical zones of the country, as well as Lagos that was mapped out as a zone for the purpose. MainOne was licensed to cover Lagos Zone, iConnect, a subsidiary of IHS was granted licence to cover Northcentral zone.
“These two zones were licensed before I came on board as NCC’s EVC, and it was during my tenure that we licensed additional five zones. They include Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast, Southsouth.
“The beauty of the licence is that it is cheap because the NCC is not keen at making so much money in licences. We are building a system that will make Nigeria Inter and interconnected,” he said.
He recalled that on assumption of office in 2015, the management of the Commission unveiled the Eighth-Point Agenda for the industry, among which is broadband penetration, stressing that Commission, under his leadership, is keen at driving broadband penetration in the country.
“Before we came on board in 2015, there was a Presidential Broadband Committee set up by the Federal Government and the committee was chaired by the former NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe and Zenith Bank Chairman, Mr. Jim Ovia. The committee did a good job in coming up with a detailed five-year National Broadband Plan (NBP) from 2013-2018 for the country.
“On Page 9 of the NBP, it stated that broadband penetration as at 2012 was between four and six per cent and there were measure through which broadband penetration could be achieved,” Dambatta said, adding, however, that the achievement of broadband penetration is not the responsibility of NCC alone, but a combined responsibility of agencies, such as the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), NigComSat, Galaxy Backbone, and other critical stakeholders, such as telcos. “NCC and other agencies of government were given their roles to play in other to achieve faster broadband penetration,” he insisted.
On the challenges facing the achievement of NBP, he said there are national and regional challenges to broadband penetration. “In these two broad areas of challenges, there are backbone infrastructure challenges as well as challenges of broadband access in underserved and unserved areas of the country.
“In the area of access, we have about 200 access gaps but through the effort of NCC, we have been able to reduce them to about 190. Nigerians living within the 190 access gap areas, are not experiencing telecommunications services and this is a challenge we need to address as a country.
“It addresses the challenges, there is need for capacity building in order to leverage ICT to do greater things and in better ways. So, we need to sensitise the people and empower them with ICT tools that will make them achieve their dreams.
“NCC for instance, is pioneering the Advanced Digital Acquisition Programme for tertiary institutions, where we have the highest concentration of talented youths. “By the time they acquire the skills, they will be able to develop ICT Applications. NITDA is also involved in ICT training and skills acquisition through its sponsored scholarship programme for students studying ICT related courses up to doctorate level.”