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FG plans GIS mapping to guide investors and increase broadband penetration

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The Federal Government is embarking on a GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping of all existing fibre networks in the six geo-political zones of the federation. This is one of the series of interventions fully backed by the presidency specifically aimed at meeting the target of a fivefold increase in broadband penetration by the end of 2017.

This move by government, according to sources, is also aimed at providing investors with accurate information on areas with broadband infrastructure surplus or deficit. In the next four years, President Goodluck Jonathan expects that 80 percent of the Nigerian population will have access to mobile broadband, and 20 percent to fixed broadband.

BusinessDay learnt that the maps produced for each geo-political zone will be integrated into one whole by December 2013. Industry analysts who spoke with BusinessDay have expressed optimism that this strategic move by government would further encourage local and foreign investment in the deployment of broadband infrastructure.

“There is need to identify and maintain a public database of where the fibre is today and where it is planned to be in the short to medium term so that investors and indeed consumers can understand where there is supply and where there is deficit,” Kamar Abass, country manager, Ericsson Nigeria, said.

This move, according to the analysts, is particularly heart-warming considering that there are about five active submarine cable systems on Nigeria’s coastline carrying an installed capacity of over 19.2 terabytes, with a combined capacity of about 340 gigabyte, which, according to them, is a massive increase in capacity available and required to drive bandwidth-dependent services.

Ninety-five percent of the capacity on these infrastructure is redundant due to lack of national backbone transmission. “Nigeria has only managed to address international connectivity. [It] does not have sufficient national transmission backbone needed to move available bandwidth capacity across the country,” Lanre Ajayi, president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), told BusinessDay.

To address this challenge, the Federal Government intends to extend long-distance optical fibre networks in some parts of the country through the Nigeria Internet Exchange (NIXP). The proposed fibre project is part of the open access plan being promoted to encourage greater diffusion of high-speed internet services across the country. BusinessDay learnt that there are more than 30,000 kilometres of domestic fibre optic cables to connect those international cables to more than 50 percent of the Nigerian population.

But access to fibre infrastructure to move bandwidth capacity across the length and breadth of the country is so far discriminatory and inordinately expensive – an indication that active infrastructure sharing is still in its infancy in Nigeria’s telecoms market.

Stanley Muoneke, director, business development for Intel Corporation Nigeria, who spoke with BusinessDay, said policy and regulation play a big role in strengthening infrastructure sharing. He, however, warned the telecoms regulator to be cautious about how it regulates market forces, saying: “You need to encourage companies to actually invest as well in areas where they probably will not invest.”

These interventions were some of the key highlights of a recent meeting by the National Broadband Council to track progress being made in realisation of the Presidential Broadband Plan being championed by Jonathan. The National Broadband Council also reviewed public and private sector efforts underway against the projections of the ambitious broadband roadmap plan for Nigeria.

Under the planned long-distance fibre rollout, a preliminary report that will enable broadband penetration is being developed and is expected by the end of November 2013, the council said. A stakeholder forum on developing an interconnect scheme for national and long-distance operators to actualise this will also be held in November.

The council reckons that so far several steps have been taken, and there are a number of core deliverables to be expected by year end. The key emphasis will be on the need for increased awareness of the important contribution of broadband to the social and economic agenda as increased broadband penetration has a direct correlation to increased economic activities and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contributions.

Article Credit: Business Day Newspaper

Updated 5 Years ago

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