‘Broadband penetration to drive Nigeria’s GDP growth’

funke opeke

Funke Opeke

AVAILABILITY of broadband and its penetration in Nigeria would play a major role in further growing the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This was the view of the Chief Executive Officer, MainOne Cables, Ms. Funke Opeke, on Wednesday at a broadband summit in Lagos. Nigeria’s GDP, after the rebasing is said to about N80.2 trillion (or $510 billion).

Currently, with an investment of about $7 billion in the landing of about five submarine cable system and several logistics around them in Nigeria, broadband penetration is still at a meagre 10 per cent.

These facilities are adjudged to have about 19.2 terabytes and over 340 Gigabytes bandwidth capacities, but utilizations have witnessed less than 10 per cent Opeke, at the summit with the theme: “Driving Accelerated Broadband Penetration in Nigeria”, organized by MainOne in conjunction with BusinessDay Media, urged for further collaboration in the industry in order to provide broadband connectivity services to more of the Nigerian populace.

She noted the need for stakeholders to jointly address the challenges of low broadband penetration as a community of concerned parties with benefits from improvement poised to accrue to all. “The Broadband Summit provides a platform for the telecoms industry to articulate its perspectives on the landscape, and devise strategies that will hasten Broadband penetration in Nigeria.

We are excited to bring the industry together in partnership with BusinessDay towards the achievement of this critical developmental objective for Nigeria”, she said.

She called on all stakeholders in the industry and the government to take necessary steps towards achieving the massive infrastructure rollout required to bring broadband services to more Nigerians, stressing the role of broadband in driving GDP growth in the economies of developing countries.

In his comments, BusinessDay Publisher, Frank Aigbogun, said the choice of MainOne as the host for this year’s Broadband Forum was easy given the company’s reputation as a foremost organization in the broadband landscape in Nigeria and what the company had achieved over the past five years.

Already, the General Manager, Corporate Services, MTN Nigeria, Funmi Onajide, has stressed that Nigeria’s telecommunications sector will need to have access to sufficient spectrum frequencies, if broadband penetration must be depeened in the country. In an email chat with The Guardian, Onajide, said a major challenge is the unresolved issues pertaining to spectrum.

Onajide, citing examples, said licenses for 4G spectrum have still not been issued by government. She added that there was need for more investment in metropolitan and national fibre by the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. “As you are aware, a large part of the challenge in this regard is the lingering difficulties with Right of Way permits and the associated bureaucratic bottle necks.

When all these have been done, and 4G is mainstreamed, then we are in for great things in Nigeria”, she stressed. She disclosed that multiple taxation and other operational challenges have had negative impacts on penetration.

Nigeria currently has 10 per cent broadband penetration. Onajide explained that taxation alters incentives for production and consumption, “and so economic distortions will be prevalent where the burden of taxation is high. The burden is subsequently transferred to end users, which makes costs higher and affordability slows penetration.

In view of this, there is the urgent need to address imposition of unstructured fees and charges by the various labels of government and service interruptions arising from collection attempts”.

On the impact of National Broadband Plan on penetration strategies in the country, the MTN Nigeria’s chief, said the broadband plan is a most forward-looking and progressive instrument.

According to her, the right policy framework is a critical issue, “but it cannot be taken in isolation because it is only when the enabling environment and the necessary resources are put in place that the true promise of the digital future and digital economy would be realized. So essentially, the key challenge is implementation, and the urgent resolution of some of the challenges raised on spectrum availability.”

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