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Assessing Nigeria’s broadband plan implementation

Amidst drawbacks, the implementation of the country’s national broadband plan, NBP 2020-2025, is beginning to gain traction. With the consistent efforts of the telecoms regulator, the country is beginning to record steady growth in penetration. SAMSON AKINTARO reports

After months of consistent decline that almost cast a shadow of doubt over the country’s National Broadband Plan, NBP 2020-2025, the country bounced back to record increase in broadband penetration in November 2021. According to the data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the growth continued in December and the January data just released showed further increase, thus marking three months of consistent growth. Industry stakeholders believe this development reflects the impacts of the various efforts of NCC to drive home the 70 per cent broadband penetration target for the country.

NNBP, two years after

The Nigeria National Broadband Plan (NNBP 2020-2025) was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 19, 2020, just a week before the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19. The shutting of the economy, no doubt, affected the timelines in the plan. However, NCC said an appreciable level of progress had been recorded in the last two years, especially in the area of collaborations and policies driving the implementation. As of last year, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the Commission had already commenced implementation of the broadband plan with the directive issued to Infraco licensees to commence the immediate roll-out of optic fibre cables (OFC) as contained in their licence agreements to all the LGA headquarters by giving them freehand to start from viable areas and gradually move to unviable areas, while the expected counter-part funding from government was being finalised. “An equally important consolidation in the area of spectrum availability is the Commission’s finalisation of the spectrum trading guidelines as well as our collaboration with NigComSat that will make available 400MHz of prime spectrum for Next Generation network deployment in the near future,” he said. The NCC boss added that collaboration with state governments had also seen the adoption of the N145/m or outright waiver Right-of- Way (RoW) by six state governments, adding, however, that more needed to be done by the states and local governments to ensure full adoption and cascading of the decision for implementation.

“This notwithstanding, the Commission will not relent in its effort towards addressing the issue RoW,” he added. Danbatta said the Commission’s regulatory thrust towards enabling national roaming, approval of e-SIM, and 5G trials had also aggregated the efforts of the industry players towards achieving the set target. “I wish to assure you that the Commission shall continue to proactively provide the necessary regulatory interventions which will facilitate the achievement of not only the 70 per cent broadband penetration target but other associated targets as well which will truly transform our economy into a digital economy,” he said.

The statistics

Marking a turnaround, the latest industry data released by NCC revealed that telecommunications operators in the country gained 3.2 million broadband subscriptions between November 2021 and January 2022. The three months’ gain brought the country’s total subscriptions for high-speed internet to 79.4 million as of January end. According to the statistics, the increase in subscriptions also brought the broadband penetration in the country to 41.61 per cent from 39.89 per cent recorded in October 2021.

Negative policy impact

Despite the on-going implementation of the country’s National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) with a target of 70 per cent penetration by 2025, subscriptions for the service had been declining for months. From a peak point of 45.93 per cent in October 2020, broadband penetration in Nigeria slipped to 39.79 per cent in July 2021. The decline, which started before the ban on new SIM registration in December 2020, was worsened by the policy, as the operators lost many broadband customers during the four-month ban. Between November 2020 and October 2021, the service providers had lost a total of 9.9 million broadband subscriptions. The database further increased by 1.7 million in December 2021 to hit 78 million. According to the NCC report, in January 2022, 1.4 million new broadband subscriptions were recorded, which brought the database to 79.4 million. Before the ban on new SIM in 2020, the country had been recording a one per cent increase each month, as the mobile network operators continued to push for the deployment of 4G service across the country. Between January and October 2020, broadband connectivity in the country increased by 15.5 million. Returning to the good days, the operators added 168,027 new subscribers in November 2021, which brought the total subscriptions to 76.3 million in December.

Broadband and the economy

Speaking on the implementation of the NBP 2020-2025, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, had said that broadband penetration was key to reviving the Nigerian economy. Citing reports from the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, the minister said 10 per cent of broadband penetration in any country would improve its GDP by at least 4.6 per cent. The minister noted that the NBP addressed three of the eight priorities that the Federal Government assigned to the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the parastatals under its purview, for implementation. “These priorities are the implementation of broadband connectivity and execution of a plan to deploy 4G across the country, as well as the development and implementation of a digital economy policy and strategy,” he stated.

The targets

Highlighting some of the key targets set in the National Broadband Plan, Danbatta said NBP 2020-2025 had raised the performance bar for the whole telecoms industry. However, being a document crafted by experts and executives, there is no reason why it cannot be achieved to put Nigeria in a firm pedestal of nations with broadband access. “The Nigerian National Broadband Plan is, without a doubt, an ambitious document with targets set that was developed jointly by critical stakeholders of the tele-coms and IT sectors of Nigeria. “These stakeholders comprising government and private sector executives, experts, managers, associations, and MDAs represent the Who is Who in the telecoms & IT sectors and they are people with a firm belief and optimism as well as assurance that the set targets are practically achievable,” he said. Some of the targets of NBP 2020- 2025, he said, included achieving 15Mbps & 25Mbps internet speed in rural and urban areas respectively by 2025; interconnection of 90 per cent of all LGA’s by fibre; 70 per cent population penetration, 100 per cent of tertiary institutions to be within 5Km of a fibre PoA; 60 per cent of all telecom towers to be connected by fibre; connection of one major hospital or general hospital per LGA via fibre; reduction of average cost of data to N390/Gb or less and establishment of at least one local assembly or manufacture of smart devices; reduction of RoW to N145/m, among others. The NCC boss noted that from the targets, it was obvious that both government, the industry, and other stakeholders needed to aggregate their potential and expertise to achieve them. At another broadband forum in Anambra, Danbatta said the Commission had always encouraged governments to include telecommunications infrastructure like ducts and others as they plan their cities and towns. “A well-planned city is one of the keys to the digital economy, a planned city anticipates future development, opens new revenue streams for government, and safeguards roads, water pipes, bridges, and other infrastructure from unnecessary destruction and re-adjustments to fit-in additional infrastructure in the future,” he said.


Acknowledging the efforts of the telecoms regulator so far in the implementation of the broadband plan, the President of ATCON, Ikechukwu Nnamani, an engineer, commended the executive vice chairman of the Commission “for the work he has done over the years in promoting broadband penetration in the country, especially with the facilitation of the smooth operation of the Infraco class of license with the core objective of ensuring broadband infrastructure gets to every major city within the country.” While also appreciating CEOs of telecom companies in the country, he commended them for “making the right decisions to put the industry on a continuous growth trajectory and who helped get Nigeria out of the recent economic recession. “I like to use this opportunity to appeal that you don’t rest on your oars because the realization of the 70 per cent broadband penetration target depends considerably on you in the coming years.”

Last line

With the consistency of the telecoms regulator in implementing initiatives that deepen access to telecommunications services across the country, there is no doubt that the country will achieve its 70 per cent target by 2025, just as the first national broadband target was achieved and surpassed in 2018 through the pragmatic efforts of the Commission and the industry stakeholders.

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