Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, FNCS, FBCS, FIIM, Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy

Telecoms/ICT: How Nigeria is making significant progress on Broadband Plan 2020-2025 ─Minister

*Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, at the ATCON Virtual Structured Engagement 2021, relates the ‘significant progress’ being made in the new Broadband Plan 2020-2025, and encourages all stakeholders to ensure the objectives of the plan are realised

*The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria urges the key stakeholders in the Telecoms/ICT ecosystem to brace up as the realisation of 70 percent Broadband penetration target in the country depends considerably on them in the years ahead

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

The Federal Government of Nigeria has restated the need for continued engagement and discussions with relevant stakeholders on how to speed up the realisation of the set targets in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020─2025.

ConsumerConnect reports Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, FNCS, FBCS, FIIM, Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, said this in his keynote speech titled: “Enhancing The Contributions Of Stakeholders Towards The Nigerian National Broadband Plan Through Enabling Policies”, at the Virtual Structured Engagement 2021 by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) organised Thursday, March 25, 2021.

Broadband technology has been described as “a high-speed, higher bandwidth connection to the Internet than is offered by a standard telephone line.”

The greater bandwidth of a Broadband connection allows for more data to be transmitted at higher speeds than a conventional telephone line.

The virtual structured engagement event attracted several other key industry stakeholders, including Prof. Umar Garba Danbata, Executive Vice-Chairman/Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); Mr. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA); and Engr. Aliyu Aziz Abubakar, Director-General/CEO, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

Others at the forum are Engr. Ubale Ahmed Maska, Chair, Nigerian National Broadband Plan Implementation Steering Committee, distinguished ATCON National Executive Council members, and distinguished ATCON CEOs.

The power of Broadband technology   Photo: TechGig

Dr. Pantami described Broadband technology as a contributor to economic growth at several levels, which supports the development of the digital economy, and improves the nation’s traditional economy.

The Minister said Broadband enhances financial inclusion, security, education, and it is a key enabler for all the other sectors of the country’s economy.

Referencing an Ericsson report titled, “How Important Are Mobile Broadband Networks for Global Economic Development?”, the Minister stated that 10 percent increase in mobile Broadband penetration results in approximately 0.6% to 2.8% rise in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

This reflects how much of an impact Broadband can have on the economy, if channelled properly, he noted.

As regards the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy at activating a Broadband Plan for the country thus far, Pantami disclosed that in recognition of the tremendous economic growth opportunities afforded by the deployment of Broadband technologies, he inaugurated a Presidential Committee December 16, 2019, to draft the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025, which he noted replaced the initial Broadband Plan that expired in 2018.

According to him, the Committee was made up of a wide range of stakeholders- Nigerians with expertise across the public and private sectors of the economy.

President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, unveiled and launched the NNBP March 19, 2020, providing the mandate contained in the Broadband Plan, he said.

The Plan outlines a trajectory for significantly improving the broadband penetration in Nigeria over a period of 5 years.

The Minister said: “It replaced the initial Broadband Plan which expired in 2018. The new broadband plan seeks to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria at a minimum of 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available to at least 90% of the population and penetration rate of 70% by 2025 at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data (2% of median income or 1% of minimum wage).”

The Plan, he explained, targets the deployment of nationwide fibre coverage to reach all the 36 state capitals, and provision of a point of presence in at least 90 percent of local government headquarters across the country.

It also targets tertiary educational institutions, major hospitals in each state and fibre connectivity at statutory rates of N145/meter for Right of Way (RoW).

He stated that in order to achieve these targets, the plan focused on recommendations in four focus areas, such as Infrastructure, Policy, Demand Drivers and Funding/Incentives.

These focus areas are further broken down into 55 initiatives towards the actualisation of the targets in this order: Infrastructure -14; Policy -23; Demand Drivers -12; and Funding & Initiatives -6.

He further noted that Infrastructure is focused on building integrated infrastructure that is sustainable and resilient to close the gaps in addressing the broadband needs of the country and is geared towards extending Broadband services to undeserved and underserved areas in Nigeria.

Engr. Ikechukwu Nnamani, President of ATCON

In regard to the Policy pillar, the Minister said it addresses issues relating to the efficient use of spectrum, right of way, site acquisition policies, availability of infrastructure and market efficiency.

He stressed that Demand Drivers address barriers to the low usage rate and adoption of broadband services in the Country.

Funding/Incentives identify the relevant financial incentives, fiscal policy, economic models and funding options to help the achievement of broadband penetration targets.

The diligent implementation of the recommendations in these focus areas through a multi-stakeholder approach will give the country a push into economic prosperity and create opportunities for job creation and innovation that will influence the GDP positively.

Strategic engagements with key stakeholders on Broadband

Dr. Pantami related that on the need for continuous engagement with industry stakeholders, he had a number of strategic engagements with strategic stakeholders to ensure the smooth implementation of the Plan in the country.

According to him, he had an engagement with the members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), facilitated by Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of NGF January 22, 2020.

“I was accompanied to that meeting by the Chief Executive Officers of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), as well as the Chairman of the Broadband Plan Drafting Committee and CEO of Main One, Engr. Funke Opeke.

He disclosed that after his presentation on the benefits of Broadband and requested the buy-in of the Governors for the implementation of Broadband Plan and the Digital Economy Policy for a Digital Nigeria at the meeting, the State Governors unanimously agreed to adopt a maximum of N145/linear metre.

“Some of the governors have even waived this amount altogether,” Dr. Pantami stated.

He added that many of the Governors have begun full implementation, and some have notified his Ministry in writing.

The Minister as well said he equally engaged, discussed and made a “detailed presentation” on the Broadband Plan with members of the National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by Vice-President (Prof.) Yemi Osinbajo, with over 30 State Governors in attendance March 18, 2021.

Pantami at the forum, again, said he emphasised the importance of broadband to the economy of the country and discussed the impact of ICT and telecoms on the economy, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in the 4th Quarter 2020 GDP Report.

“The ICT sector grew by 14.70% in the 4th Quarter, over 4 times the next fastest growing sector.

“Furthermore, the ICT sector also grew by 12.90% in 2020, more than 3 times the growth rate of the second fastest growing sector,” he noted.

Pantami further stated: “These statistics do not even include digital services, which constitute a major part of the digital economy.

“I then emphasised the need for the Governors to abide by the earlier resolution of N145/linear metre.”

The Vice-President also urged the Governors to support the implementation of the Broadband Plan by abiding to the Right of Way resolution.

Some of the governors also emphasised the need for the operators to ensure that they repair the roads that they damage during the installation of fibre optic cables, and I use this forum to urge all operators to ensure that this is done, he said.

Progress recorded in implementation of BBNP 2020─2025

The Minister said, among other developments, the average cost of 1GB of data had reduced from the January 2020 cost of N1,000 to N487.18 in November 2020, surpassing the target of achieving N700/1GB in Nigeria by 2023.

The telecommunications sector recorded a growth rate of 15.90% in the year 2020 from 11.41% in 2019 and 11.33% in 2018, making it the highest growth rate in the last 10 years. This performance is unprecedented.

His Excellency, President Buhari, GCFR, has directed the security agencies to protect all Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) across the country and I have directed the Nigerian Communications Commission to engage stakeholders in order to have a legislation that criminalises any one that vandalises equipment identified as a CNI.

An Open Access Model has been developed to support fibre connectivity across the country with the aim of achieving the 120,000km fibre reach. We have had an increase from 47,000km to 54,725km.

The 3G/4G Base Station Transceivers (BTS) have increased from 30,000 to 53,460.

Regarding the deployment of National Satellite Broadband also, Dr. Pantami noted that NIGCOMSAT is in discussion with some operators to provide mobile back haul solutions to about 1,000 sites in the remote undeserved areas and the process for getting a backup satellite for Compensation has been initiated.

A policy has been developed in line with the Duct Network Development/Dig Once initiative to greatly reduce the down-time that results from fibre cuts. There is also a plan towards engaging with other relevant Ministries in this regard.

“We are promoting the efficient use of assigned Spectrum through the enforcement of the ‘Use it, Trade it or Lose it’ Policy on Spectrum.

“We have developed draft guidelines on Television White Spaces (TVWS) and the document is undergoing legal review,” he said.

While restating that the journey is encouraging and significant progress has been made in realising some of the targets set in the new Broadband Plan, the Minister stated that there is a critical need for deliberate efforts by all stakeholders towards ensuring that the targets set in the plan are realised.

A solid digital economy rests on well-distributed broadband infrastructure ─Engr. Nnamani

Earlier in his welcome address at the virtual forum, Engr. Ikechukwu Nnamani, President of ATCON, said the high-powered virtual engagement event was organised to have a conversation around the New National Broadband Plan 2020-2025.

This is with a view to ascertaining the status of the implementation, identifying any bottlenecks to successful implementation that may still exist, and proffering lasting solutions to issues that are likely to constitute an obstacle to the eventual realisation of the 70 percent Broadband penetration target in Nigeria.

He explained that the objectives of this virtual meeting are to ascertain the status of the implementation of the NNBP 2020-2025; and identify any potential bottlenecks that may negatively impact on the smooth implementation of the plan and proffer necessary solutions to mitigate against them.

Others, he said, are to leverage the wide spectrum of ATCON sub-groups for effective participation in the new Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 by giving them the opportunity to access the plan and suggest various ways to speed up the realisation of the established target by the government; and to serve as a veritable platform to align the objectives and expectations of the private and public sectors of the economy.

The ATCON Chief stated that in 2020, Dr. Pantami, Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, announced that Nigeria’s broadband penetration increased by 10% over the previous year, from 33.3 percent to 43.3 percent.

“With this positive development, we are hopeful that this year’s penetration rate would surpass that of 2020 as this event plans to encourage every segment of the sector to double their efforts in terms of encouraging further penetration,” said he.

Engr. Nnamani also applauded the Minister’s tireless efforts at resolving key challenges facing the Telecoms/ICT industry, and advocating the speedy implementation of the National Broadband Plan.

He said: “The fruits of his efforts can be seen in terms of broadband penetration and various policies that have been initiated, ratified, and issued to further encourage the growth of the industry.”

He as well used the occasion to commend Prof. Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of NCC, Mr. Abdullahi, Director-General of NITDA, and Engr. Abubakar, Director-General/CEO of NIMC for the work they have done over the years in promoting Broadband penetration in the country.

Nnamani noted Danbatta’s facilitation of the smooth operation of the InfraCo class of licence with the core objective of ensuring broadband infrastructure gets to every major cities within the country.

The development of a solid digital economy rests on the foundation of a well-distributed broadband infrastructure and involves the convergence of all technology types and classes of service, Nnamani stated.

He appealed to the key stakeholders to not rest on their oars because the realisation of 70 percent Broadband penetration target depends considerably on them in the coming years.

These include ATCON members such as telephone operators (PNL/fixed line operators, MNOs/IDAs operators), infrastructure providers (interconnect, data centre operators, towers/base stations providers); and internet services providers (ISP) (wholesale segment, retail segment).

Others are Value-Added Services Providers (VAS), Over The Top (OTT) Players, FinTech/e-Commerce operators, Telecoms/ICT equipment manufacturers, Telecoms/ICT consulting firms, and Telecoms/ICT equipment dealers.

He also appreciated the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy for endorsing the event, and the event sponsors, including the NCC, NITDA, Huawei, Liquid Telecom, Main One, Airtel Networks, Medallion Communications, NIGCOMSAT, PPC, ATC, VDT Communications, Rack Center and IpNX.

“We hope that the report that will come out after this deliberation would contribute positively towards achieving the set targets of the NNBP 2020-2025,” said Nnamani.

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