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Pantami @ATCON Virtual Meeting Says Broadband Is Massive Contributor To National Economic Growth

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Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, Nigeria's Minister of Communications & Digital Economy during the ATCON Virtual meeting on Thursday

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami has described Broadband technology as not only a contributor to economic growth at several levels but supports the development of the digital economy, consequently improving the nation’s traditional economy.

Pantami, who spoke on Thursday at a Virtual Structured Engagement with Key Stakeholders in the Nigerian Telecom & ICT Sector on the New National Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025 organised by the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) stated further that Broadband enhances financial inclusion, security, education and is a key enabler for all the other sectors of the economy.

The minister recalled that it was in recognition of the tremendous economic growth opportunities afforded by the deployment of broadband technologies, that he inaugurated a Presidential Committee on the 16th of December 2019 to draft the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) for Nigeria (2020-2025).

The Committee he said was made up of a wide range of stakeholders including Nigerians with expertise across the public and private sector, adding that the NNBP was unveiled and launched by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, on the 19th of March, 2020 who also provided the mandate that was included in the Plan.

“The Plan outlines a trajectory for significantly improving the broadband penetration in Nigeria over a period of 5 years. It replaced the initial Broadband Plan which expired in 2018.

“The new broadband plan seeks to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria at a minimum of 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available to at least 90% of the population and penetration rate of 70% by 2025 at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data (2% of median income or 1% of minimum wage).

“The Plan targets the deployment of nationwide fibre coverage to reach all State Capitals, and provision of a point of presence in at least 90% of Local Government Headquarters. It also targets tertiary educational institutions, major hospitals in each state and fibre connectivity at statutory rates of N145/meter for Right of Way (RoW),” the minister disclosed.

A cross-section of participants at the ATCON Virtual meeting on Thursday…

Pantami, who titled his presentation, “Enhancing the contributions of Stakeholders towards the Nigerian National Broadband Plan through enabling policies,” noted that in order to achieve these targets, the plan focused on recommendations in 4 focus areas of Infrastructure, Policy, Demand Drivers, and Funding/Incentives, with 55 initiatives towards the actualization of the targets.

He said that bearing in mind the need for continuous engagement with Stakeholders, he had a number of strategic engagements with key stakeholders to ensure the smooth implementation of the Plan, including the meeting with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the National Economic Council.

Giving a report on the progress so far made in the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, the Minister said “As at the time we commenced I started supervising the Ministry in August 2019 and we began the process of drafting the Broadband Plan, our broadband penetration in the country was just over 33%. As a result of the implementation of the new plan, broadband penetration significantly increased to 45.07% by November 2020.

“Our engagement with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum in January 2020 has inspired several state governments to adopt the N145/meter and a few of these States have even waived the fee altogether.

“The average cost of 1GB of data has reduced from the January 2020 cost of N1,000 to N487.18 in November 2020, surpassing the target of achieving N700/1GB by 2023.

“Furthermore, the telecommunications sector recorded a growth rate of 15.90% in the year 2020 from 11.41% in 2019 and 11.33% in 2018, making it the highest growth rate in the last 10 years. This performance is unprecedented.

“His Excellency, President Buhari, has directed the security agencies to protect all Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) across the country and I have directed the Nigerian Communications Commission to engage stakeholders in order to have a legislation that criminalizes anyone that vandalizes equipment identified as a CNI.

“An Open Access Model has been developed to support fibre connectivity across the country with the aim of achieving the 120,000km fibre reach. We have had an increase from 47,000km to 54,725km.

“The 3G/4G Base Station Transceivers (BTS) have increased from 30,000 to 53,460.

“Also, regarding the deployment of National Satellite Broadband, NIGCOMSAT is in discussion with some operators to provide mobile backhaul solutions to about 1000 sites in the remote underserved areas and the process for getting a backup satellite for Compensation has been initiated.

“A policy has been developed in line with the Duct Network Development/Dig Once initiative to greatly reduce the downtime that results from fibre cuts. There is also a plan towards engaging with other relevant Ministries in this regard.

“We are promoting the efficient use of assigned Spectrum through the enforcement of the “Use it, Trade it or Lose it” Policy on Spectrum.

“We have developed draft guidelines on Television White Spaces (TVWS) and the document is undergoing legal review The journey is encouraging and significant progress has been made in realizing some of the targets set in the new Broadband Plan.

“Most of the challenges are being addressed. However, there is a critical need for deliberate efforts by all stakeholders towards ensuring that the targets set in this plan are realized.”

Pantami described the stakeholders’ engagement as a good step in the right direction towards achieving the actualization of the broadband plan “as we strive to position our country to enjoy the benefits that ubiquitous nationwide broadband will provide.”

He said he looked forward to the insightful solutions which will be proffered at the engagement and hoped that the support of stakeholders will culminate into a speedy realization of the broadband target for Nigeria.

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Founder/Editor of www.digitaltimesng.com. He is passionate about technology and how it can be used to transform human life, businesses and services.

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Report: Over 300m Users Benefited From Free Mobile Internet During Pandemic

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Mobile Internet users........Photo credit: Applift

A total of 314 million mobile users across eight developing countries benefited from free internet access during the hardest months of the pandemic, despite having run out of credit or not being physically able to top up.

Free access to news, weather reports, healthcare, educational resources, government services and various online sources of information were provided via Upstream and its ad-funded internet portal, Zero-D.

In Africa, more than 103 million users throughout South Africa, Ghana, Tunisia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had access to the platform, which, as well as helping to bridge the digital gap, also aims to increase operators’ level of engagement with users while providing more convenient ways for them to purchase data.

More than 147 million users in Brazil and a further 63 million in parts of Asia such as Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates also benefited from free internet access via Upstream’s service.

In total, Upstream provided more than 3.4 petabytes of data to communities in developing markets during the first year of the global crisis, when physical mobile phone top-ups had been difficult to access, much less afford.

That’s equivalent to 41 million hours of regular internet browsing or 6.9 million hours of video streaming.

Upstream, has now deployed the free mobile internet portal with over 10 operators across Brazil and parts of Africa and Asia. In developing markets, a lack of fixed-line infrastructure combined with comparatively high mobile data costs often leaves users digitally stranded.

Upstream has managed to provide a solution to this problem and keep communities connected without increasing the burden on operators.

In fact, mobile operators that deploy the Zero-D platform are far more likely to increase engagement with customers in developing regions, providing them with a welcome opportunity to top-up their data digitally instead of resorting to a physical purchase.

More than 95 per cent of mobile users in Kenya said they believed their mobile operator “cared more” for them after deploying Zero-D.

“Free internet access has an essential role to play in bridging the digital divide. Last year was one of the most challenging years on record, made more challenging for those who found themselves digitally stranded and unable to interact with basic online services due to not being able to access or afford a top-up.

“Through the Zero-D portal, we’ve established a way for mobile operators to provide an essentially free service to their communities whilst also increasing engagement and providing new opportunities for users to top-up digitally if they choose to do so.” Upstream Deputy CEO, Kostas Ktanis, said.

When asked about the role free internet should play, he said: “Nobody should be without internet access in 2021. Like water or energy, it’s a utility, and a vital tool for interacting with the world and keeping in touch with friends and loved ones, particularly during trying times such as these.”

 

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Google Strengthens Africa-Wide Programmes To Keep Internet Users Safe Online

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Google has announced a number of initiatives across Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, bolstering its continued efforts to keep children, young people and families safe online.

Aligning with the theme of this year’s global Safer Internet Day, “Together for a better Internet”, Google has teamed up with several organisations across the continent to boost education efforts and develop programmes around online safety.

“With an estimated 346 million internet users that came online for the first time in the last year, and 376 million new social media users, there is no better time for us to help people stay safe online,” says Juliet Ehimuan, Country Director, Google Nigeria.

“We are working with nonprofits and social enterprises to advance their work through Google.org’s Africa Online Safety Fund, while also working with educational institutions and governments across sub-Saharan Africa in order to have a greater impact.”

Administered as part of the Africa Online Safety Fund, Google.org gave a grant to Impact Amplifier and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, to run an open call across the continent to find the most innovative and impactful nonprofit organisations operating in this space.

26 social impact organisations across nine African countries have been selected to receive grants of up to $100,000 each. The five selected in Nigeria include Epower, LagosMums, Velma Foundation, Hive Creative Guild and Teens Can Code.

This funding will be used to boost projects that work to combat online vulnerabilities, disinformation and extremism aimed at children, the youth, families, schools and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Google has also collaborated with Nigerian author Nomthi Odukoya to create the children’s online safety book ‘How to be Safe Online’. Physical copies of the book will be distributed to 30,000 learners in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa this month, which is also available online on the Read-Along app.

“With more children, young people and families increasingly using the internet to learn and work in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, online safety is a priority for everyone,” continues Juliet Ehimuan.

“We look forward to the continued empowerment of teachers, parents and guardians with tools to keep children safe online. Continued collaboration with government bodies like Kenya’s Communications Authority, Nigeria’s Public and Private Development Centre, and South Africa’s Department of Social Development, among others, will ensure that we have the necessary backing to make the internet better for all users, especially young children and families across the continent.”

 

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SURVEY: Smile Leads In Unlimited Data Plans Among Nigeria’s Telecom Service Providers

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A couple of telcos are claiming to offer unlimited data plans and subscribers are giving them kudos.  Often, the claim is a focus of intense campaign blitz targeted at winning customer loyalty. The question to ask is – are these telcos really offering unlimited data plans?  If they are, what are the definite benefits to the subscriber? This is important because subscribers must get value for their money and seen as such.

In the early days of telecom revolution in early 2000, some telcos brazenly exploited Nigerians in a manner that made informed observers cringe. A particular telco was said to have boasted that what they raked in within six months in Nigeria exceeded what they earned in a particular African country in three years!  Today, this same telco claims to be offering an unlimited data plan, and innocent subscribers are falling for it. Is this thriving in anomaly?

In these hard times, telcos are expected to show demonstrable empathy towards their subscribers. It is part of their corporate social responsibility to offer service commensurate with what the consumer pays for. It, therefore, suffices that unlimited data plan is not a rhyme that everyone must join in reciting. Unlimited data plan must have something significantly beneficial to the subscriber. Yes, nothing with value is free; but consumers’ needs and expectations should be met in a manner that gives value for the money spent.

As an avid user of data and determined to know which unlimited data plan would best suit my purpose, I sought to shop around in the major retail outlets in metropolitan Lagos. High on my ranking were the major telcos: Airtel, MTN, Glo, 9mobile, Swift, Smile, Spectranet and ntel. These operators are offering unlimited data plans but most are limited in many ways thereby detracting from the true meaning of unlimited.

Buoyed up by the findings of my limited exercise, a more elaborate survey was conducted in which people who use data plans were surveyed. The outcome was a further affirmation that Smile’s unlimited data plans are about the only genuine unlimited data plans, which offer value for money, unlike what obtains with other telcos because of the unique ingredient. The findings also indicated that Smile’s unlimited data plans are affordable relative to what other telcos offer.

According to our findings, Smile unlimited data plans provide uninterrupted data connectivity, although they do comply with a Fair Usage Policy as per NCC regulation, there is no data cap and customers can use as much data as they want until the unlimited data plan validity expires.

In comparison to that, Airtel claims to offer unlimited data plans. However, their unlimited data plans have a data cap. Other telcos lay claims to offering unlimited data plans but to varying degree as our findings show that as at today, the only truly unlimited data plan in Nigeria is that currently offered by Smile.

A snapshot of the various Top-of-the-line Unlimited Data Plans by some telcos

 

Pros and Cons of Telco Unlimited Plans

Top 30-day Unlimited plan Comparison by Operator

 

 

The above table compares the top 30-day Unlimited plans from various operators.

One important note about Airtel Ultra Platinum is when customers exhaust the 550GB before 30 days, they will get 3GB daily bonus.

For instance, if the customer finishes the 550GB on the same day of purchase, they get 3GB daily for next 30 days, which sums up to 90GB. Hence the total value provided is 640GB for N60,000. Herein lies the deficiency of this Ultra Platinum and a clear indication that it is not “Unlimited” because an unlimited plan should not require daily bonus if it’s really unlimited.

This is the same for Airtel’s other Ultra offerings.

Midrange 30-day Unlimited plan Comparison by Operator

 

 

The above table compares the mid-range Unlimited 30-day plans from various operators.

Airtel’s Ultra Diamond plan cost N30,000 and has an FUP of 210GB, 3GB daily bonus with a validity period of 30 days. The 3GB daily bonus sums up to 90GB over a 30  day period making a total of 300GB data available for use on that plan after which customers will no longer have Internet access.

Cheapest 30-day Unlimited plan Comparison by Operator

 

 

The above table compares the cheapest Unlimited 30-day plans from various operators.

The Unlimited Family from Ntel, their only option for subscribers with a validity of 30 days having 150GB FUP; despite being the cheapest unlimited plan at the cost of N18, 500 gives the customer about 8.1GB per N1, 000 cost as against the 12GB per N1, 000 cost on related Freedom3Mbps plan from Smile. So, the subscriber gets more data for going with Freedom3Mbps plan from Smile. The customer also gets more speed up to 3Mbps on the Smile’s option than on the Ntel’s Unlimited Family whose FUP speed is just 512kbps.

The Freedom3Mbps plan from Smile with speed up to 3mbps and no data cap when put side by side with the Spectranet Always On 100 at the cost of N19,960, shows a more data offering of 140GB on the N40 extra cost from Smile, not minding the unlimited night browsing from Spectranet. This is an additional benefit to the customer in terms of data value.

Apparently, Smile’s unlimited data plan products are designed to serve the purpose of cost-effectiveness, speed and affordability. With the Smile’s Freedom plans revolution, the customer enjoys seamless internet for 30 days and remains always connected.

It is, therefore, safe to conclude that Smile offers Unlimited plans that are truly unlimited. That cannot be said for Airtel Unlimited plans for instance. Evidently, only Smile is actually offering unlimited plans via its Freedom plans. A notable drawback is just that Smile’s Freedom plans are available in the 8 major cities in which Smile operates (Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Kaduna, Benin, Port-Harcourt, Asaba and Onitsha).

Overall, it became apparent from the survey and direct customers’ experience that the most pocket-friendly unlimited data plans in the Nigerian market are those offered by Smile Communications. Also, in terms of utilitarian value, the Smile unlimited data plans offer the most and therefore the best value to the customer. Next in the pecking order in terms of price is Ntel, which offers the cheapest unlimited plan while Airtel is the first runner up in terms of value to the customer. The other networks, in spite of their respective strong showing, bring up the rear both in terms of price and value.

 

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