Thursday, November 07, 2019 04:00PM / IHS Nigeria / Header Image Credit: IHS Nigeria
Historically, Nigeria's telecommunications sector was monopolized by Nigerian Telecommunications Limited. As the country's only telecommunications provider, this was an era characterized by slow internet connection, poor services and inadequate infrastructure. However, as more players entered the industry conditions improved and subsequently, Nigeria has witnessed an unprecedented growth in its telecoms network. So has night turned to day? Unfortunately, not quite.
The telecommunications industry still suffers an array of challenges as it struggles to meet data demands of an ever-growing population. Challenges include high costs of Right of Way that result in expensive leasing transmission infrastructure, multiple taxations, numerous regulatory bodies with conflicting interests, poor infrastructure and a lack of reliable clean grid energy.
At the recent Power and Telecommunications Synergy Conference sponsored by IHS Nigeria, industry experts agreed that if visible, sustainable growth is to take place, cross-sector collaborations must be enhanced and current policies restricting growth within the sector amended. During one session, moderated by Energy Innovation Centre Clean Tech Hub CEO, Ify Malo, on "Sectoral Collaboration, Building Sustainable Models that Drive Inclusive Growth", key stakeholders provided insights on how telecom infrastructure policies, necessary for the sector's growth, could be improved. The benefits of strategic collaboration and cross-sector partnerships were also examined in detail.
Partnerships are integral to the creation of a sustainable telecommunications industry. Considering that power shortages are the biggest issue facing telecoms in Nigeria, strong collaborations between the power and telecoms sector would be most effective. Only a trickle of daily electricity production goes to the Nigeria's telecoms companies, rendering the services of these companies dysfunctional without additional back-up systems. Increasingly, there are attempts to leverage alternative energy sources such as hybrid energy to accelerate ICT provisions. Government policies and practices can significantly influence the development of universal, affordable and good quality broadband connectivity in a variety of ways. Telecommunications infrastructure is constantly vandalized in Nigeria, however, collaborations with security and orientation agencies would considerably diminish such crimes.
Given the magnitude, it is critical that sector partners should support ongoing efforts and monitor progress towards achieving Nigeria's National Broadband Plan (NBP) target of 70% broadband penetration by 2021. An outcome of the Power and Telecommunications Synergy Conference has been the creation of the Telecommunications Sustainability Working Group (TSWG) which will seek to implement innovative ideas and facilitate strategic policies that support the sectors' development.
Commenting on the initiative, Olufemi Arosanyin, IHS Nigeria Chief Commercial Officer, said, "Proper collaborations within the private sector, from inception to implementation, with strategic decision-making are extremely important to the telecommunications sector and its success. The TSWG aims to create and work towards implementing strategic polices that will increase innovation within the sector and move Nigeria closer to the NBP's 70% target. This group will work collaboratively to establish important dialogues on how to move telecommunications in Nigeria to the next level."
According to a 2018 World Bank report on Internet World Statistics, Nigeria is one of the largest telecommunications markets in Africa and it has significant potential. The Nigerian Communications Commission has already identified key prospects for broadband penetration. This includes all new sites being Long-Term Evolution (LTE) compatible, spreading 3G coverage to at least 80% of Nigeria's population; a complete upgrade of 2G base transceiver stations to 3G, spreading 5G to at least 5% of the population when launched globally; spreading 3G/LTE to 100% of the population with a minimum broadband speed of 1.5 Mbps; and finally deploying at least one access point of fiber with a 10Gps capacity in all 774 local government areas (LGAs) through the InfraCo project. The transformation of these prospects to tangible results depends on building strategic alliances between Nigeria's telecoms and power sectors.
At the Power and Telecommunications Synergy Conference, IHS Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Mohamad Darwish, discussed the importance of creating a platform for industry stakeholders to engage on issues as regards to broadband, and power; and on finding scalable solutions. The conference hoped to help the private sector and government start creating strategies and policies to build Nigeria's capacity to increase broadband penetration. The resulting synergies will provide a platform to collaborate on the actualization of broadband growth and explore the inherent benefits available to all.
Finally, accelerating broadband connectivity so that every individual, business, and LGA in Nigeria is digitally enabled has a chance to disrupt the growth trajectory and open new opportunities for economic and social development. With the collaboration of all sectors, the telecommunications sector will surely move forward.