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ITU: Nigeria, others lagging in broadband revolution

Despite having broadband policies, Nigeria and other sub-Saharan Africa countries are still lagging in the broadband revolution, the Broadband Commission of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has said. The body, in its 2021 State of Broadband report, said African countries were still suffering from low investments and high cost of broadband access.

Nigeria is currently implementing its second National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 with a target providing access to 90 per cent of the population and covering 70 per cent of the country’s geographical areas by 2025. However, broadband penetration in the country has continued to decline in recent times. From a peak point of 45.93 per cent in October 2020, broadband penetration in the county slipped to 39.79 per cent in July this year. According to the Broadband Commission’s report, in developed countries, the broadband revolution has disrupted the Pay-TV industry as people transit from subscribing to Pay-TV to subscribing to broadband. “In developed markets, highspeed broadband subscriptions have increased significantly.

In the United States, for example, total broadband subscriptions increased by over 4.5 million subscribers in 2020. “In some countries such as Spain, the share of fiber-to-thehome (FTTH) subscriptions has surpassed that of legacy broadband technologies subscriptions. “At the same time, a growing trend appears to be the transition of subscribers away from pay-TV subscribers.

In the U.S., major pay-TV providers lost over 5.1 million subscribers in 2020, and in Ireland, the Commission for Communication Regulation (Com- Reg) notes that nearly 80 per cent of Irish people either watch less traditional TV or have stopped watching it altogether,” the Commission stated in the report. While broadband-dependent platforms such as Netflix are already in Nigeria, slow speed and high cost of data have forced many to continue to rely on the traditional Pay-TV service providers.

The Broadband Commission noted that in developing economies, the absence of broadband remained a key issue as investment in broadband infrastructure remains uneconomic under current financing models. According to the report, where broadband coverage exists, both broadband pricing and the cost of 4G devices before the onslaught of COVID-19 were already at prohibitive levels for significant segments of lower-income populations. “Even when average prices for data connectivity such as 1GB of mobile data at national levels may reach below the two per cent of monthly GDP per capita as set by the Broadband Commission, the lowest income groups in a country can still be priced out of afford-able service as demonstrated in the 2019 GSMA State of Mobile Connectivity Report. “It showed that the lowest income quintile groups in sub- Saharan Africa still face average prices of over 39 per cent of monthly GDP per capita, over 10 per cent for the same group in Latin America and the Caribbean, and similarly high levels in East Asia and the Pacific as well as the Middle East and North America.

“Even minute changes, or shocks, in household incomes or data prices particularly affect those who are ‘marginally online’; people who can technically afford a minimum level of service, but whose ability to get online may be very susceptible to changing conditions and/or who may not be able to afford the increased usage required to conduct work or learning activities online, for example,” the Commission stated. It noted that the high cost of 4G devices remains another major barrier to connectivity in lower-income countries. “Despite the cost of an entry-level Internet-enabled device falling from 44 per cent of monthly income in 2018 to 30 per cent in 2019, nearly 2.5 billion people live in countries where the cost of the cheapest available smartphone is a quarter or more of the average monthly income.

“In Africa, devices remain out of reach for many, where devices cost on average 62.8 per cent of average monthly income. Where extreme poverty persists, the affordability gap is even worse, with the median cost of an entry-level Internet-enabled handset in sub-Saharan Africa at more than 120 per cent of monthly income for the poorest 20 per cent of the population,” the Broadband Commission said.

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