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Poor economy may hinder 30% broadband target

Nigeria’ s hope of attaining 30 per cent broadband penetration by the end of this year is under threat .
Based on the timeline of the National Broadband Plan ( NBP ) 2013 – 2018 , 3 G connectivity is supposed to have spread to not less than 80 per cent of the population by the end of 2018 .
Also , virtually all the tertiary institutions, hospitals, government parastatals should have been wired .
But as at May , the Nigerian Communications Commission ( NCC ) said about 33 million Nigerians were still without access to telecommunication service .
The country ’ s broadband penetration is stagnant at 22 per cent , a figure attained as at the last quarter of 2017 .
Six months into the New Year, there has been no major achievement on penetration in the country even at a time the United Kingdom government claimed that 95 per cent of premises within the country now have access to superfast broadband .
Investigations by The Guardian showed that there have not been any major investments in the telecoms sector since the beginning of the year , owing to economic uncertainty .
Lack of investors and investments also delayed completion of the sale of 9 Mobile .
Its new management was given six months ( which ended December 2017 ) to find a new investor for the embattled firm .
Teleology Holdings , which eventually emerged as preferred bidder earlier this year , is still looking for about $ 300 million and risks losing the opportunity if it fails to make payment in a few weeks .
The NCC has , however , announced the establishment of a broadband implementation committee to fast – track the deployment of infrastructure and raise broadband penetration in the country.
Prof . Umar Danbatta , NCC’ s Executive Vice Chairman , disclosed this yesterday at the commission’ s stakeholders ’ engagement meeting with relevant state agencies in charge of telecommunications matters .
Danbatta said the committee would ensure targeted deployment of infrastructure needed to raise broadband penetration to 30 per cent before the end of 2018 .
He said : “ The licence has gone out to the infrastructure companies ( INFRACOs) , and we have a total of six of them in all zones of the country.
And each zone has an infrastructure company licensed by NCC to deploy infrastructure in that zone , and no licensee is allowed to deploy infrastructure in any other zone because it will develop issues .
“ On top of all these efforts , there is a subsidy NCC intends to pay . This will be paid to INFRACO licensees for attainment of the milestone .
The monitoring committee will confirm the milestone , verify that it has been attained , and this subsidy will be paid . ”
Confirming that the challenge posed by the economy is real , the president of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria ( ALTON ) , Gbenga Adebayo , told The Guardian : “ Not many investors are able and willing to invest in Nigeria at this time , going by the current social and economic situation and the issue of recession .
Foreign Direct Investment ( FDIs ) into the sector has been slow, since the beginning of the year .
Our view is that anybody who is willing to invest in this economy should be encouraged and protected. ”
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( LCCI) also claimed that the economy remains fragile , going by recurring challenges that continue to create concerns about prospects for sustainable poverty reduction and economic growth .
LCCI president , Babatunde Ruwase , said though the nation ’ s real GDP grew by 1 . 92 per cent in Q4 2017 , few sectors are currently contributing to the positive GDP numbers , necessitating the need to grow other sectors .
On his part , the president , Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria ( ATCON ) , Olusola Teniola , disclosed that capital expenditure intended to continue the growth of the industry has stalled .
He said until the forex mechanism was corrected to remove multiple forex windows , it would be very hard for investors in the telecoms sector to bring in much – needed equipment to fund network expansion .
“ We are talking about capacity issues; capacity cannot be increased unless we increase the equipment installed and provisioned, and usually it is in form of hardware and software .
If there is a mechanism by which we can actually access funds in dollars to purchase equipment , then we won ’ t have a delay in the expansion of capacity , ” he said .
In an interview with The Guardian , the Chief Executive Officer of MainOne Cables , Funke Opeke, said the economic recession in the last two years slowed the country down greatly .
“ The process appeared to have slowed down a bit in the country .
Some people even said we have reached an impasse , but I think it is time to get it done as fast as we can . We can ’ t afford to be left behind , ” she said .
Kehinde Aluko, a telecoms expert , noted : “ No investment can come to any country when there is huge uncertainty over return on investment. ”

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