'Nigeria Needs U.S.$3.7 Billion for Broadband to Reach Underserved Areas'

For maximum broadband impact, especially to the underserved areas of Nigeria, the country may need about $3.7 billion to expand its infrastructure.
Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, who stated this at the Ericsson and a4ai programme at the just concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, stressed that what will grow the internet is local content and not over-reliance on YouTube and other such channels.
Johnson, in a document made available to journalists, told participants at the forum that the most visited sites in Nigeria are the job and the news sites, not social media. She stressed that the Internet will be driven by relevant local contents.
On the challenges to government’s efforts to creating digital citizens through the pervasive spread of broadband, Johnson listed the following: work on right of way, multiple taxation, encouraging the demand side by ensuring people adopt the technology, cost of access to infrastructure, and the challenge of local content among others.
To the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, “Broadband is going to restructure the Nigerian Telecommunications industry or the IT industry. It is going to move us from analogue lifestyle to a complete digital lifestyle. If we don’t do it now, we shall be left behind. This is why it is timely to the objective of the NCC and to me as the chief executive that we start it right away and implement it without delay with all the resources that government has given to us.”
Meanwhile, at the forum, Nigeria was ranked number two on the Broadband Affordability index by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (a4ai).
Nigeria’s showing in the research, according to the presentation by Sonia Jorge, Executive Director, a4ai, was buoyed by a strong leadership and regulation of the industry, robust broadband strategy, effective competition in the telecommunications sector, efficient spectrum allocation, Universal access to rural and underserved population, and infrastructure sharing, among others.
A summary of the report on Nigeria as presented by Jorge showd that: “Nigeria comes second in the Affordability Index’s ranking of developing economies – scoring higher than other African developing economies like Kenya, Morocco and Uganda, and higher even than some emerging economies, including Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and Tunisia. The backbone infrastructure in Nigeria has improved significantly over the last decade, with multiple players, including Phase 3, Glo 1, Suburban Telecom, Multilink and MTN, building fibre networks that crisscross the country. Nigeria’s regulator, the Nigerian Communication Commission, plans to award seven licenses to regional infrastructure companies to extend broadband infrastructure nationally. The first two of these were awarded in early 2015 to MainOne and IHS Communications to provide services in Lagos and North Central states, respectively. The government is also working to improve infrastructure sharing among these operators, who have traditionally built overlapping fibre networks.
The nascent “Smart States” initiative, which sees states committing to reduce the cost of broadband access by reducing taxation and simplifying regulation, is also a positive step. Nigeria’s mobile broadband penetration rate stands at just 10 per cent – despite the fact that close to 40 per cent of Nigerians use the Internet – and the government has put in place policies to increase this penetration level to 30 per cent by 2018. To increase the ability of mobile operators to serve more Nigerians, plans were recently announced to auction spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band.”