WHAT makes the vision of the new Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Garba Danbatta for the telecoms ecosystem standout, given that previous administration led by Dr. Eugene Juwah, had similarly cherry picked Broadband as the elixir for the turnaround of the dwindling fortunes of the once vibrant Nigeria’s telecom industry?
Massive jobs and wealth creation as well as enduring Quality of Service (QoS) have been listed as the fulcrum of the vision of Danbatta. He stated this recently while unveiling his 8-point agenda for the next five years.
To demonstrate the strong determination and drive by the previous administration to make broadband the arrowhead of the nation’s economic turnaround, the political leadership and technocrats in the country had declared “2015 the year of broadband revolution in Nigeria”. Much of the push was done both locally and internationally, where the messages were consistent. The best of the experts were also assembled to craft a national broadband plan which is unique on the continent. But what did the technocrats and bureaucrats fail to do in Nigeria that made the National Broadband Roadmap initiative sound more like rhetoric? What is the new regime headed by Danbatta planning to do differently that promises to take the broadband revolution from rhetoric to actual infrastructure deployment across the country.
Nigeria has good statistics to back up its aggressive show offs at the international fora. As a matter of fact, Nigeria’s telecoms environment is replete with exciting industry statistics which in most instances serve as the benchmark on the continent. Such areas of interests include its 110 per cent teledensity, 45 per cent Internet penetration and $32 billion foreign direct investments (FDIs) with the most attractive returns on investments. But the sing-song about broadband lacked local content in driving the initiative and that is the missing link that Danbatta has now introduced. He is determined to go beyond the African benchmark to ensureworld class standards of services are delivered to Nigerians. Whilst he is not oblivious to the glut of international subsea cables providing terabytes of bandwidths into the country, he is concerned about the dearth of hinterland and metropolitan fibre and what is required to close the Broadband supply gap in the market to meet the potential demand driven by an ever increasing digital population.
Country Director, KPMG Nigeria, Joseph Tegbe is optimistic about the potential of the broadband market in Nigeria. His enthusiasm has been driven by the growth in the market which witnessed a remarkable surge from N62million in 2011 to N151 billion by Q4 of 2014. He exuded confidence that the market has greater elasticity for growth in the next couple of years. And this is where Danbatta seemed to have laid ambush to drive his vision for the industry. He was very determined when he told an internationalmedia audience in Lagos recently that the infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) will serve as the backbone for driving integrated broadband deployment across the country will be given the required support to function actively during his regime. He assured on the fast track of the licensing of the five remaining regional InfriaCos for South west, South East, South-South, North-West and North-East of Nigeria. He said the InfraCos already licensed for Lagos and North Central will also be given the needed impetus to get back on track at full throttles.
The Regulator said the 8 point agenda is primed to take the NCC to new heights because his vision has been designed to help promoteinnovation, investment, competition and consumer empowerment. As a stickler to the rule, he said that the period of his stewardship at the Commission would be underscored by strict adherence to good corporate governance and global best practices.
Danbatta is also determined to protect the reputation of NCC. He assured that he intends to sustain and build on the tempo of the global reputation that the NCC had earned over the years. “Over the years, the NCC has earned a reputation as a foremost telecoms regulatory agency in Africa”, he said, adding “we hope to catalyse the use of the power of Information and Communications Technology(ICTs) for enabling different aspects of national development.”
While also expressing his strident commitment to the deepening of broadband infrastructure and services across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, he noted that his eight-point agenda in the next five years wouldbe powered by Availability, Accessibility and Affordability of service delivery across Nigeria. According to him: “The three ‘A’s which are the hallmark of universal access and services revolve around an ideological shift in creation of structures for benefits and inclusiveness foe national development.”
“Maximising the power of information and Communications technology to grow our economy, create jobs and enhance national competitiveness through the deployment of broadband infrastructure to facilitate rollout of broadband services that will hold out opportunities and higher network quality of service for all Nigerians.”
With just 10 per cent of the Nigeria market presently covered by broadband infrastructure, going by statistics provided by the KPMG, it is not in doubt that Danbatta has his job cut out convincing investors that the right environment for investments does exist in Nigeria. KPMG has projected that the market requires about $200billion annually in the next couple of years to bridge the gap between demand and supply needs of the market.
Danbatta’s eight-point agenda seeks to:
Facilitate broadband penetration through the provision and optimisation of access to and the use of affordable fixed and mobile broadband in Nigeria
Improve on the QoS by promoting the availability of reliable, interoperable, rapidly restorable critical ICT infrastructure that are supportive of all required services
Optimise usage and benefits of spectrum by maximising availability of spectrum in order to provide diverse and affordable ICT services and ensuring that spectrum acquisition does not distort marketing competition
Promote ICT innovation and investment opportunities. By this, ICT innovations will be promoted in ways that improve the nation’s ability to compete in the global economy, increased investment in youth and promotion of SMEs for new business delivery breakthroughs.
Facilitate strategic collaboration and partnership with relevant stakeholders to foster ICT for sustainable economic development and social advancement
Protect and empower consumers from unfair practices through availability of information and education required to make informed choices in the use of ICT services
Promote fair competition and inclusive growth by creating a competitive market for ICT services that foster fair inclusion .of all actors in innovative ways that facilitate new investment, job creation and consumer satisfaction
Ensure regulatory excellence and operational efficiency through effective regulatory framework, efficient processes, strict compliance monitoring and enforcement efficient management and internal resources, structure and maintain a commitment to transparency.
The NCC CEO, however, stressed that the policy goals of the Commission “recognises the immense socio-economic importance of ICTs to national development and therefore seeks to ensure that the infrastructure necessary to provide ubiquitous broadband services is available and accessible to all citizens at affordable rates. Broadband is the next frontier in the ICT industry which will help in the speedy transformation of the Nigerian economy”.
“The strategic vision 2015-2020 responds to all these by setting the foundations for future growth and competitiveness that will be sustainable and inclusive and which would address our principal societal challenges as a nation.”