The Federal Government has said it will strive to grow the country’s broadband penetration to 70 per cent by 2021 with a $100 million loan from the Government of India. Although Nigeria’s broadband penetration level is currently 31.5 per cent, mostly in urban areas, the government said the $100m loan facility would increase penetration to the rural areas.
The Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said this yesterday in Abuja at a conference with the theme: “Post Nigeria National Broadband Plan 2013 to 2018” organised by the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).
While applauding the Federal Government’s effort in moving from 18 to 31 per cent broadband connectivity between 2015 and 2019, Shittu said a lot still needed to be done to attain greater feats.
Within the last three years, the minister said Nigeria had attained 31 per cent from 18 per cent it was for five years before the present government came in.
“It might seem laudable, and I think it calls for celebration, but I think that as a dynamic country such as Nigeria with a huge population and potentials, we should really be thinking much higher.
“My belief is that if we put all the current effort together, in another two years we should be able to attain 70 per cent.
“My ambition is two years rather than the five years that is being postulated,” he said.
He explained that Nigeria would be redirecting effort at using solar-based masts to increase rural broadband connectivity.
The minister pointed out that the move would be facilitated by the $100m loan the country intended to access from India.
“The current mast that all the telecom operators use is very expensive to maintain. They rely on electricity, and we do not have electricity all around the country. So we have a situation where somebody who wants to build a mast of N40m will also have to acquire a 200KVA generator and fuel it.
“For this reason, we now redirect our effort at getting solar-based masts which will also have 50km radius so that if you have a land area of 100km, you will have two masts. It is cheap to maintain and all operators can depend on it, rather than having the rural operators to construct their own masts or lay their own cables.
“We are doing all of these, and I believe that within the next two months we should have an approval from the Indian Government for work to commence on deploying this to all rural areas in Nigeria,” Shittu said. The minister added that broadband connectivity must be seen as a fundamental right of every Nigerian.
NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Danbatta, said a total of 60,087,199 internet subscribers had been connected to broadband networks in December, 2018, taking the penetration level to 31.5 per cent. Danbatta said the commission was working with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to develop guidelines for the introduction of TV White Space (TVWS) in the country.
“This will further deepen broadband penetration,” the NCC boss added.
Earlier, the President of ATCON, Mr. Olusola Teniola, called for increased collaboration among telecommunication companies to create an industry that could attract more investors.