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.
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.