Despite efforts by service providers and telecoms regulator, broadband penetration in the country declined in November, 2019
midst increased efforts aimed at deepening broadband penetration in the country, the number of subscribers to fast-speed internet service declined by 307, 452 in November 2019. With this, broadband subscriptions in the country plunged from 72.2 million in October to 71.9 million.
The latest industry statistics released by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) also showed that the reduction in number of 3G and 4G users led to a marginal decline in the country’s broadband penetration from 37.87 per cent in October to 37.71 per cent in November. Broadband penetration is measured by the percentage of total population with access to broadband networks out of each hundred.
Before now, broadband penetration had maintained a steady rise, rowing averagely by one per cent monthly. However, stakeholders said the level of infrastructure, in the prevailing challenges in the operating environment, would make the growth difficult to sustain.
While the country was able to surpass the five-year (2013-2018) broadband target, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, had last month inaugurated a committee to come up with another National Broadband Plan with a target of 70 per cent penetration by the next five years.
However, stakeholders have described the new target as ambitious, saying it can only be achieved if the business environment is conducive and their investments are adequately protected.
Operators pointed out that issues of vandalism of infrastructure, expensive right of way, multiple taxation and delay in permit issuance, which had lingered for over five years, were discouraging them from investing in the sector.
The telecoms operators are also of the view that the Federal Government has not been giving enough attention and priority to telecoms development in the country, especially in the area of broadband infrastructure development and broadband penetration. They called for more collaboration between Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) of government, in order to achieve more in the area of broadband infrastructure development.
Citing the 2020 budget, the telecoms operators said telecoms were taking backstage in the country’s budget and called on the federal government to pay more attention to telecoms development in the country.
The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said state governments must look beyond the telecoms sector to raise their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), in order to enable telecoms operators to expand their networks without restrictions from state government agencies.
Adebayo, who expressed dissatisfaction over the less than 10 per cent utilisation of the total broadband capacities in the country from all the broadband companies that have landed their submarine cables at the shores of the country, called on the federal government to develop a national broadband backbone that would transmit broadband capacities from the shores of the country to the hinterlands, where demand for broadband services is equally high.