ITU Telecom World 2012: Our broadband plan is open to investors …

BY ADEKUNLE ADEKOYA

LAST week, the ITU Telecom World 2012 held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from Sunday 14th to Thursday 18th October at the Duibai International Conference & Exhibition Centre, DICEC. In all, the event featured 95 top-notch speakers that included our Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson and the executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr Eugene Juwah, and his predecessor, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe, chairman of OpenMedia Group.

Also, 19 countries had pavilions, all of whom are from the Middle East and Africa (MEA) regions, with th exception of Thailand, South Korea, Azerbaijan, and China. For us Nigerians, it was an eye-opening event.

From the very first day, and even before the event, it was clar Nigeria was attending ITU Telecom World 2012 with one sole objective: wooing investors for the nation’s broadband project.

From the Nigeria Day which held at the Nigeria Pavilion, to the dinner at Al-Multaqua, to yet another dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the message from Nigeria was the same: Investors, come put your money in Nigerian broadband project.

Vice President Namadi Sambo who led the Nigerian delegation to Dubai assured investors of better opportunities to invest in Nigeria. According to him, the Nigerian telecoms sector has all it takes to attract investors, saying “the investment you make in Nigeria will be the best you have ever made.”

Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, presenting business opportunities of Nigeria to investors at a lunch hosted by the Nigerian government at Al Multaqua in DICEC, said Nigeria had grown its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by additional five per cent, with plans to increase it in the next five years.

She also said investment in the telecoms sector has reached the $25 billion mark in recent times.

Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr Eugene Juwah in several presentations during the event took his audiences down memory lane by reminding them of the spectacular growth of GSM voice telephony in Nigeria in just a decade. His words:

“The growth of the telecommunications sector in Nigeria and indeed in sub-sahara Africa in the last ten years has been impressive. In Nigeria for example, teledensity has risen from 0.44% (about 400 thousand active lines) in 2001 to 72% (just over 100 million active) in 2012.

“This growth was achieved due to increased competition in the telecommunication market when the Nigerian communications Commission licensed four (4) new mobile operators to offer mobile services, in addition to the government controlled incumbent, which hitherto accounted for about 95% of all active phone lines in the country.

Nigeria’s delegation at the conference

“Replicating this growth in voice telephony penetration to data penetration requires a whole new strategy as well as learning gained from the rollout of the voice telephony services.

The economic impact of broadband penetration has been found to be quite impressive, World Bank studies show, quite conclusively, that in low and middle-income countries (which many developing countries fall under), every 10% percentage point increase in broadband penetration accelerate economic growth by 1.38 percentage points.

This impact is greater in mid to low income countries than what is obtainable in high _income Countries and equally greater than the impact of any other telecommunication service.

“Notwithstanding the benefits that have been associated with broadband, in developing countries it has to be understood that broadband for all is a medium to long term strategy and the main beneficiaries, in the short term, of the broadband revolution will be businesses.

“Because broadband networks need to generate traffic to lower their costs and increase their profitability, and in light of the fact that broadband is an ecosystem in which users play a central role, stimulating demand is very important as this will provide the means for further expansion of broadband services and increase penetration.

In Africa, broadband penetration is less than 5%, hence there is a huge opportunity for growth and subsequent increase in penetration to un-served and underserved areas and populations. Government or private enterprise alone cannot ensure universal access to broadband services. To make this possible, government and private sector need to collaborate. Several factors will determine how successful broadband rollout in Africa and indeed in other developing countries will be. Some of these factors include:

-Importance of having an overall plan to rollout broadband at a national level in consultation with industry

-Political backing at the very top levels to ensure broadband rollout. This will ensure bureaucratic bottlenecks and access rights are speedily addressed

  • All ministries and government departments must work in a synchronous manner
  • Required spectrum is made available. Especially spectrum that provides the biggest advantage in terms of coverage, capacity and wide adoption across the globe to provide the biggest economies of scale advantages for devices and equipments utilizing these spectrums and the potential to make devices affordable for low income households.
  • The public partnering with the private sector and the use of Universal Service Funds
  • Devising regulatory frameworks that ensures non-discriminatory access to back-haul
  • Technology neutrality: Deploy different technologies as appropriate for different situations.
  • Parallel initiatives to stimulate demand e.g. providing netbooks to primary and secondary school students,

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