Nearly three years after the launch of Nigeria’s National Broadband Plan, which aims to cover 90 percent of the population by 2025, the country’s broadband penetration rate remains sluggish.

The plan, which launched in January 2020, was designed to offer data download speeds in Nigeria, a minimum of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) in urban areas and 10 Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available for at least 90 percent of the population by 2025 at a price of no more than N390 per 1 gigabyte of data (ie 2 percent of median income or 1 percent of minimum wage).

Nigeria’s broadband penetration stood at 45.55% in October 2022. The country has set a penetration target of 70% by 2025. This means Nigeria has an additional 24.49% in terms of broadband coverage. broadband to achieve.

In 2020, when the broadband plan was launched, penetration stood at 38.49 percent. With the current penetration of 45.55 percent, it implies a growth of only around 7 percent in the two years of the plan. If the growth rate does not increase in the next three years, the country will most likely not reach the 70 percent target. He has eight proposed initiatives that must be accomplished in the next three years.

BusinessDay’s analysis of the initiatives’ progress found that things need to be speeded up, otherwise the plan is likely not to be achieved.

The eight initiatives include the issuance of an executive order to declare the telecommunications infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) and the full implementation of the plan; to ensure open access, avoid overlap, and facilitate right-of-way (ROW) issuance at legal rates; Leveraging existing Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) infrastructure to reach rural and unserved areas; implement and enforce nationwide uniform right-of-way charges for fiber constructions at a rate of N145 per square meter and ensure open access and accountable separation; and work with states to implement a one-stop shop to speed approvals and harmonize fees.

Others include ensuring efficient use of spectrum, use it or lose it policy, open and transparent spectrum planning, including TV White Space rollout for broadband; incentivize low-cost smartphone devices and promote local assembly manufacturing of telecommunication network components and end devices; and coordinating government spending, schemes and programs to ensure access in public institutions, eg schools, hospitals, as well as ministries, departments and agencies.

Issuance of executive order for CNI

Status: Not implemented

Critical National Assets and Infrastructure refer to the assets, services, and systems that support the economic, political, and social life of a nation. Operators have always argued that classifying telecom infrastructure as CNI would reduce instances of dropped calls, poor internet connection, and terrible network delivery.

Towards the end of 2019, the federal government said it planned to issue an executive order to declare telecommunications infrastructure critical national infrastructure. In June 2020, Ali Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, said that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved and also ordered the necessary physical protection measures to be put in place to safeguard the telecommunication infrastructure deployed across the country.

However, the President did not issue any executive order declaring the telecommunications infrastructure critical national infrastructure. Carriers have also said it would take more than an executive order to provide adequate protection for telecom infrastructure. To do so would require legislation.

The industry has been pushing to turn telecommunications infrastructure into national assets since 2004, when a bill was passed to turn electricity and other critical infrastructure into national assets. The bill has since been renamed the Critical National Infrastructure Bill and was introduced in the National Assembly in February 2021. Since then, it has not made any significant progress.

Secure open access, avoid overlap

Status: Work in progress

By ensuring open access and avoiding overlap, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is trying to reduce the situation where many operators build fiber infrastructure at the same location, causing excess at that location while other regions are neglected. With open access, an operator can lease its fiber infrastructure to other operators who use it for a fee.

The practice is not yet widespread, according to traders who spoke to BusinessDay. According to them, it is still early days in the telecom industry in Nigeria and there are still conditions that need to be in place to incentivize operators with fiber infrastructure to share with their competitors.

But some operators are taking advantage of the fiber exchange. Fiber exchange means any exchange or lease of fiber optic cables or cables in exchange for the ownership or use of other fiber optic cables or cables. For example, an operator that has built fiber infrastructure in Kaduna but wants to expand to Imo state may approach another operator with fiber infrastructure in Imo and wants to expand to Kaduna. They agree to a deal that allows the parties to exchange infrastructures in the different states.

Leverage NIGCOMSAT infrastructure to reach rural communities

Status: Slow progress

NIGCOMSAT appears to be living up to expectations in other areas, except for delivering Internet to rural communities. The NigComSat-1R, which is the country’s only active satellite, provides transponder leasing services on Ku-band, C-band and Ka-band platforms.

Broadcasters rely on NigComSat-1R to deliver a variety of multimedia content to their customers’ homes, including regular TV, HDTV and Ultra HD channels, thanks to more than 50 DTH platforms.

But the prohibitive costs of operating a satellite make it almost impractical for rural broadband deployment. It is also important to note that the current NigComSat-1R would be decommissioned at the end of its useful life in 2026. The Nigerian government plans to deploy two new satellites, NigComSat-2 and Nig-ComSat-3 in 2023 and 2025 to replace the expired satellite. . The government also plans to take advantage of the two satellites when they are launched to implement broadband in rural communities.

Also read: The modern Nigerian workforce and the promise of strong broadband penetration

Enforce national uniform RoW charges on N145

Status: Slow progress

In 2021, the government came very close to pushing states to adopt the N145 flat rate for the rest of the world, with as many as six governors pledging to reduce fees to N145 or eliminate them altogether.

Only three states have implemented their commitment as of December 2022. Mohammed Bello, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, announced in November that telecom operators who want to deploy broadband infrastructure in green areas will only pay N14.50 per square linear as cobra RoW. The discounted charges would begin on December 1, 2022 and extend over the next two years.

The remaining 33 states have taken different approaches.

Spectrum Policy ‘Use It or Lose It’

Status: Work in progress

The policy is to ensure the effective use of the spectrum assigned to each operator. The NCC has a history of investors winning spectrum auctions and not deploying any licensed services; one example is Alheri Engineering, which won a 3G license in 2007 but did not use it for two years. He later sold the license to Bharti Etisalat for twice the price he purchased the license for.

The 5G license issued by the commission to MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communication is still a work in progress. Only MTN Nigeria has deployed, while Mafab requested a deadline extension. The NCC has granted a five-month extension, which expires in January 2023. Airtel has also recently won a 5G license, which has yet to be issued until the telco has paid the full $273.6 reserve price fee. millions.

The achievement of these initiatives will determine the success of the goals established by the NCC in the national broadband plan.