NIGERIA @ 57: Ray of hope for telecoms sector
Arguably, the telecommunication sector in Nigeria is the fastest growing in the economy, having recorded over $68 billion investments with over 145million mobile subscribers, and contributed N1.549 trillion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Q2 of 2017, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
With this, there is a ray of hope for the sector and experts have said that it has the potential to boost the country’s economy, noting however, that lack of political will, tough operating environment and policies are somewhat constituting clogs in the wheel for the sector to realize this potential.
The sector also raises hope of growth in the economy by adding substantially more to the country’s GDP almost every quarter. During the second quarter of 2017, the sector contributed 9.5 percent to the GDP, up from its 9.1 per cent contribution in the first quarter of the year.
The NCC says it is confident that the resultant broadband era will spur more than triple because broadband is a development enabler.
“We have noticed increased data usage in the country of about 40 million terabytes monthly. We are very proud of the remarkable contribution the sector is making. Even at the recent times when the whole economy was facing challenges, the sector had remained resilient and stable,” Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said.
For the first time in the industry, Adebayo Shittu, Minister of Communications waded into the groans of telecoms consumers by calling operators to order on the series of subscribers complaints from poor quality of services, frequent congestion of network, getting unsolicited text messages, paradox of spasm messages from service providers, unnecessary deduction being done without the consent of the subscribers, under declaration of tax and under payment of tax by companies which had impacted negatively on consumers’ satisfaction.
Speaking at the Indo-Africa ICT summit held in Lagos recently, Shittu said; “The Government recognises ICTs as one of the key drivers of the economy. To this end, ICT has been factored in all national long-term development blue-prints that aim at transforming Nigeria into a knowledge economy by 2020.
We have developed a National ICT strategic Roadmap whose aim is to provide a systematic approach to harnessing the power of ICTs across all sectors of the economy.
Our commitment towards ICT innovations has made Nigeria well known in the tech space. Today, we have over 145 million mobile subscribers, representing a penetration of 85.5 percent while Internet penetration rate stands at about 70 percent.”
Shittu added that; “more undersea fiber optic cables are landing in addition to the five cables already landed and will be increasing our international connectivity to other regions, resulting in better, reliable and fairly affordable Broadband connectivity.
These achievements are attributable to partnerships and collaboration between the public, the private sector and international stakeholders,” he said.
With anticipated new investments in the areas of broadband infrastructure in the next few months, it is believed that the sector is likely to add more to the national GDP.
In order to further facilitate roll out of telecommunication and internet services, the NCC conducted several auctioning of free spectrum, including the2.3 gigerhertz (GHz) spectrum frequency and the 2.6GHz which was open to biding for operators who needed to use this frequency to roll out 4th GenerationLong Term Evolution (4G LTE) services in the country and MTN was declared the winning bidder of the latest spectrum auction. With this, Nigeria has joined108 other countries around the world that have rolled out LTE on this frequency, further deepening broadband penetration in the country. The commission said it offered spectrum for sale to meet the demand for additional spectrum by operators and to help them achieve 4G.
Industry players are hoping to achieve more in the telecoms sector, especially as the Federal Government has disclosed that processes have commenced for the licensing of broadband services on the 5.4 GHz spectrum bank and allocation of 70/80 GHz band (E-Band).
With the roll-out of high speed cellular networks, WiFi and broadband networks within Nigeria, utilisation should increase as Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a reality.
A recent report by Ericsson shows that Nigeria had the fifth largest mobile subscription growth in the world in the first quarter of 2017, with over 3 million new subscriptions even as the number of mobile subscriptions surpass the number of the country’s population, trailing behind India who grew the most in terms of net additions during the quarter with more that 43 million, China with more than 24 million, Indonesia with 10 million and Pakistan with 5 million respectively.
The speedy growth rate proves that Nigeria is truly a mobile first nation.
“After 57 years of independence, it is high time Nigeria looks to investing in ICTs to boost the economy,as we are now in the times of digital revolution when brain power and technology is taking over the world and not natural resources,” Subomi Sodipo, ICT industry analyst told BusinessDay.
Jumoke Akiyode Lawanson
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