The Broadband Big Bang

Having achieved 96 per cent penetration in voice telephony, NCC is now concentrating on the development of broadband that has immense potential for all sectors of the economy and personal life


Ernest-Ndukwe

Ndukwe: Pioneered the telecoms revolution in Nigeria

In a valedictory interview with TELL in 2010, Ernest Ndukwe, former executive vice chairman of NCC, after 10 years of pioneering the telecoms revolution in Nigeria, forecasted that the next frontier in the revolution was broadband deployment. “The future of the telecoms industry is very bright. I think we will continue to see much more rapid expansion in the area of Internet and broadband because data communication will rule the next phase of the telecoms evolution,” he predicted.

According to him then, it was difficult to draw a line between data and voice networks but with initiatives like the submarine cables coming into the country, with cheaper broadband or bandwidth costs to the operating companies, and by so doing the end users, “we will see widespread broadband and Internet in the country.”

He confirmed a teledensity of over 50 per cent in terms of the number of lines to the population and further predicted that “in future, we will be nearing a teledensity of 90 to 95 per cent, may be in the next 10 years, if not earlier, depending on how fast we continue to roll out and also the general operating environment.”

Less than five years down the line, Ndukwe’s forecast has been largely achieved as Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman, confirmed the teledensity has “gone from 65 per cent to about 96 per cent today.”

Broadband is a high-capacity transmission technique using a wide range of frequencies, which enables a large number of messages to be communicated simultaneously. Broadband Internet service is the most used form of Internet access because of its high access speeds. It comes in four different forms: DSL (digital subscriber line), fibre-optic, cable, and satellite. The only non-broadband Internet service available is the old dial-up connection. Though it is cheaper, most Internet users prefer the faster broadband Internet connection.

Contractors-laying-fiber-optic-cable

The challenges of having fibre optic cables are time and money

The DSL Internet service makes its connection by utilising unused telephone wires that cause no interruption to telephone service. The speed of a DSL connection varies with distance from the switching station. The speed will be slower the further away one is and faster the closer to the switching station and this may be a deciding factor when in choosing between a DSL line and a cable connection.

The broadband cable Internet connection speed varies with the number of users on the service at a specific point in time. Given a specific geographical area, users of the broadband cable service share the connection bandwidth, which slows the speed when more users are on the system. This will occur at the peak times for example late in the evenings after the work day is over when many people will be accessing the Internet.

The newest broadband service is fibre optic. It is the fastest Internet connection currently but the deployment is still at infancy. The challenge is that laying down of the fibre optic cable takes a time and a lot of money. The cost competes with that of DSL and cable but it provides a much faster connection than both of those services.

The last and slowest broadband service is provided by satellite. Although this is a good replacement for dial-up for those people living in remote rural areas, the installation costs are quite high. In Nigeria, this is not a popular option.

A-typical-ICT-based-digital-classroom-(1)

Typical Digital Classroom

There are many advantages to the DSL and cable broadband service. It provides greater bandwidth than other Internet access forms, and that makes it easier for the computer user to multitask with several applications performing in the background while surfing the web. One can surf the web while listening to audio. Networking of computers in the home is made easier with a broadband connection, by either using wireless or wired modems. This is already gaining ground in Nigeria.

A broadband connection allows you to play computer games that rely on a fast Internet connection. Broadband connection, unlike the old dial-up Internet connection, will not engage your phone line when in use. Having a broadband connection makes it possible for one to obtain an Internet phone service so you will no longer need the traditional phone line at all. It enables programmes like Skype, which allows text, voice, and video calls in one bouquet. Another great benefit of a broadband connection is that it keeps one connected to the Internet. You can quickly connect with your work’s intranet and email in a matter of seconds. This is the power NCC is putting at the disposal of Nigerians for business and leisure.

The NCC under Eugene Juwah has pursued the broadband initiative with passion and commitment. “Broadband is going to restructure the Nigerian telecommunications industry or the IT industry. The industry right now is on voice. Broadband includes voice, data and video,” he explains. Currently, broadband penetration is put at 6.1 per cent but with the rapid deployment of broadband infrastructure going on, this is projected to rise to 30 per cent in 2017.

Even at the present infancy, the benefits are already showing. In the education sector, 28 Nigeria universities are now linked and students could watch lectures in other universities live. In the hospitals it is empowering telemedicine. Doctors in connected hospitals could monitors complex procedures anywhere in the world. In banks, it is powering easier payment solutions. In aviation and industries, broadband is bringing greater efficiencies to production lines and making services easier and more efficient.

“In a nutshell, broadband will offer knowledge, pervasive computing, digital inclusion, security of lives and assets, safety at work places, efficiency in service delivery and economic growth,” affirms, Dr Okey Itanyi, executive commissioner, stakeholder management of NCC.

Juwah is fondly called Mr Broadband because of the passion and confidence with which he is pursuing the broadband project. He found a kindred spirit in Dr. Omobola Johnson, minister of communications technology who ensured the President is in support of the project. She set up the National Broadband Strategy Implementation Committee in the ministry of Communications Technology. The committee produced a strategy report that harmonized the responsibilities of other agencies and industries in the framework for a robust broadband deployment across the nation.

According to the international best practice approved by the Broadband Commission set up by the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, NCC carried out a national infrastructure audit, and mapping of broadband potential in Nigeria. Consequently, it was concluded Nigeria would operate the Open Access Model. By the projection, this would achieve a rapid deployment of affordable broadband infrastructure and services. To this end, the Open Access Model was formally inaugurated in November 2013 as the vehicle of Nigeria’s broadband project. As the name portends, it is an open market agenda for promoting transparency and marketing the investment potential in the sector.

PRES-GOODLUCK-JONATHAN-(L)-RECEIVING-THE-REPORT-ON-THE-NATIONAL-BROADBAND-PLAN-FOR-2013-2018-FROM-THE-CO-CHAIRMAN,-PRESIDENTIAL-COMMITTEE-ON-BROADBAND,-ERNEST-NDUKWE.-WITH-THEM-IS-CHAIRMAN,-VISA-PHONE,-JIM-OVIAThe existing challenges that would be addressed with the Open Access Model in the selection of service providers and service provisioning hierarchies are: unregulated pricing of transmission capacity provision by infrastructure owners; highly vertically integrated broadband infrastructure providers leading to some anti-competitive practices in different segments of the market; lack of metropolitan fibre mesh networks in cities in Nigeria leading to inadequate transport capacity to sites in many metropolitan areas; high cost of leasing fibre backbone infrastructure from existing infrastructure owners; and relatively low levels of co-location and infrastructure sharing among industry players. The commission has started the implementation of Open Access Model with the auctioning of frequency in the 2.3GHz and 2.6GHz Spectrum for wholesale wireless services providers.

Omobola Johnson, minister for Communications Technology, led the Nigeria delegation to the 2011 ITU Telecom World in Geneva with Nigeria’s Broadband for All campaign. This gave potential investors an insight into bvroadband investment opportunities in Nigeria. Nigeria continued with the impetus at the ITU Telecom World 2012. This time, it was no less a person than Namadi Sambo, vice president, who led the Nigeria delegation to market the broadband initiative at the global platform with the theme, “Nigeria Broadband – A Connected Nation.”

Empirical statistics show that every 10 percent increase in access to broadband in developing countries results in a commensurate 1.38 percent increase in GDP. “Therefore any country seeking growth, job creation and wealth creation must address their minds to how it can increase access to broadband,” says Johnson.

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