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‘Demand on telecoms infrastructure in Nigeria has reached breaking point’ – Minister

The event themed ‘Transforming a nation with broadband telecom as instrument for sustainable development’, sought to highlight ways of improving broadband supply and availability in the country.

“We are delighted at the Open Access Infrastructure Project,” she said, adding that the firm would like to see the approval to begin usage next year. She also said that it was expedient for operators to share their infrastructure as it is not expected and recommended for every operator to build infrastructure in every town and village.

One of the major challenges of sufficient broadband availability is believed to be the problem of infrastructure as the existing infrastructure is not capable of meeting the demand for broadband. Experts say once the needed infrastructure is in place, there will be an improvement in the quality of service.

“We must intervene” she said. “When you transform lives, you transform a nation. That is the power of the broadband. Broadband can increase business productivity, save lives, and increases the productivity of a nation.”

“We have gotten to a critical mass in terms of voice communication but now the next level is data communication which broadband is going to drive,” it added.

The demand and pressure on the existing telecommunication infrastructure has reached its breaking point, Omobola Johnson, the Minister for Communication Technology has said.

Three states, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti and the host, Lagos State, were well represented, and they all expressed optimism and desire to work together with other stakeholders to achieve better telecom services from service providers/operators.

The minister said the government must intervene for improved service.

Our commitment is to satisfy all stakeholders. It is a very difficult task and our best approach is to continue to consult and to remain firm, fair and forthright. This Telecoms Stakeholders Summit is part of the opportunity for stakeholders to share their differences and experiences. He highlighted that a major consumer complaints was that of fluctuating quality of service.

Another challenge is the issue of multiple taxation. Experts are pushing for a one stop shop for taxes and levies on all telecom related activities. This they say is expedient because multiple taxation situations have incapacitated operators from putting infrastructure on ground where fees have to be made to the local government and to the state.

Mrs. Johnson said this at the maiden edition of the Telecoms Stakeholders Summit 2013, hosted by the Nigerian Communications Commission, which took place on Tuesday in Lagos State.

According to her, this highlights that though investment in the sector has improved, it was still not sufficient to enable supply meet up with the demand.

The Nigerian broadband market is huge and according to the NCC, is one of the top markets in the world that guarantees highest returns on investment. The commission highlighted that the focus on broadband is a welcome development, as it compliments on-going efforts to exploit the technology for Nigeria’s future ICT development

She said as a responsible government and regulatory body, steps must be taken to address the situation.

The commission said once insufficient infrastructure and multiple taxation issues are addressed, the problem of infrastructure in the telecoms industry will be reduced to a large extent.

Nigeria’s communications sector contributes about 8.5 per cent to the country’s GDP, according to NCC, making the industry second to oil and gas, in terms of contribution to GDP. With the growth in technology, no modern economy can thrive without an integral technology and telecommunications infrastructure.

It expressed believe that broadband is going to address data communication.

“Today the internet speed is averagely low, you have low download speed, low upload speed because of the constraints of the bandwidth,” the NCC said. “But with the broadband, we are going to have huge capacity of bandwidth that will drive data communication, so all of the applications namely e-learning, e-governance, e-agriculture, e-health and all of those data services that drive human development can be enhanced.”

Funke Opeke, CEO Main One Cable Limited, said the broadband challenge was how to get it from the shoreline to the hinterland. She said if the broadband is not first made available to cities, it would be almost impossible to link them up and make them available in more interior locations. She said the Open Access Infrastructure project, which the Commission was working on will enable better broadband access in interior locations.

“The difference is that broadband is going to unleash the potential and capability for data communication as against just voice.

Closely related to the broadband issue is the issue of quality of service. While it is believed that broadband deployment will help address the niggling issue, there are yet other factors that stymie infrastructure development in the industry.

Eugene Juwah, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, Nigerian Communications Commission said the purpose of the event was to have consumers, service providers/operators, the government and the international community under one roof to brain storm, share ideas and proffer solutions to challenges that affect the sector.

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