Is Nigeria’s broad band plan succeeding……or has it failed?

By Mazino Dickson

In 2013, the Federal government set out a road map to ensure Nigeria achieved a target of 30% broadband penetration across the country by the end of 2018.

Called the National Broad Band Plan, this road map was expected to serve as a kicker for Nigeria’s quest to boost its digital economy.

It provides the roadmap and timelines to deliver a five-fold increase in broadband penetration from six per cent in 2013 to 30 per cent in 2018.

As 2018 comes to an end, the question is: WHERE ARE WE NOW?

It actually depends on who you want to believe!

Conflicting signals

If you decide to listen to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), you should be jumping by now!

That’s because it says the country’s broadband penetration now stands at 30.9% as at November 2018, surpassing the 30% target by the National Broad Band Plan.

“At NCC, we knew we have to meet the broadband implementation plan to get to 30 per cent at the end of 2018 due to the work done, we now stand at 30.9 per cent equivalent of 31 per cent,” says Prof. Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC. 

“NCC had issued license to seven infrastructure companies to deploy the needed infrastructure to facilitate the required penetration in the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria.

“This will enable penetration reach the served and underserved areas in the country. Active Voice Subscriber base grew from 165,239,443 in October 2018 to 169,104,830 in November 2018, ” he said.

But this assertion is completely at variance with what the NCC told Nigerians less than a month ago.

At a Broadband Engagement Forum held in Lagos, the Head, Technical Standard and Network Integrity,  Bako Wakil stated categorically that 
achieving the 30% broadband penetration target by the end of 2018 was not feasible.

He said the challenges militating against the 30 per cent broadband penetration (which he said stood at 22%) include high Right of Way (RoW) charges and multiple taxation.

So how did Nigeria suddenly surpass the 30% target in less than a month?

 Indeed, another government institution gives a bleak view. 

Nigerian Communication Satellite Ltd. (NIGCOMSAT) has given a yellow card to the 30% target.

Muhammad Jiya, the Senior Manager in the Department of Innovation and Development in NIGCOMSAT says the country had so far achieved between 18 to 20 per cent penetration as a result of private sector initiatives.

Jiya identified that internet accessibility and connectivity was a huge challenge to many citizens, especially in remote areas.

“Not being able to achieve the 30 per cent broadband penetration is a source of concern to us because we need data for the economy and what drives data is connectivity.

“If we cannot achieve 30 per cent broadband penetration, it is a big challenge but we at least need to get closer to that.

“If we cannot move closer to that, we hope that government will put more emphasis in ensuring that we go beyond the 30 per cent, which will help us a great deal,” he said.

More work

Although the National Bureau of Statistics says contributions of Telecommunications and Information Services to Gross Domestic Products (GDP ) between the first and third quarters stood at N4.7 trillion, more work needs to be done to make the national broad band plan a success.

It is important that all information and progress on mobile, internet and data usage penetration be sustained to provide the necessary requirements for increased investments and effective regulation of the telecom sector in Nigeria.

Experts watch with bated breath to see what happens in 2019.