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    Tuesday, July 4, 2023

    NCC Has Achieved 50% Broadband Penetration Target, says Danbatta

    As a foremost telecommunications regulatory agency and consistent with our mandate as enshrined in the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003 and other guiding legislations, the NCC has always been at the forefront of leveraging latest technologies to put Nigeria on the global map of the digital economy.

    The NCC has been working to ensure increased broadband penetration in line with Federal Government’s targets as contained in the Nigerian National Broadband Pan (NNBP), 2020-2025, launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in March 2020.

    Some of the key targets of this national policy document are to ensure a 70 per cent broadband penetration to, at least, 90 per cent of the population. It also seeks to achieve broadband speeds of 15Mbp and 25Mbps in rural and urban areas respectively over the next five years.

    Access to broadband is globally recognized today as a necessity and not luxury and that explains the Federal Government’s decision to develop broadband plans aimed at deepening in-country connectivity to enhance socio-economic development. The correlation between broadband penetration and growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), shows that countries with high density of broadband network have higher GDP per capital for the citizens. This shows that the steady growth in broadband penetration over the years in Nigeria is directly reflecting on the economic growth of the country.

    The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta alluded to the above recently at the Nigeria Academy of Engineering (NAEng.) when he assured of the Commission’s commitment to driving digital connectivity aimed at bridging extant clusters of access gaps in Nigeria.

    “We have a target of 70 per cent broadband penetration by 2025, as contained in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP). We are around 50 per cent currently and I can assure you that we are hopeful that we will achieve and surpass that target,” he said. Currently, the Commission under Prof. Danbatta has supervised the growth of telecommunications subscription from 151 million in August 2015 to 223.6 million as at April 2023.

    Danbatta, a professor of electrical and electronics engineering, who is a member of Council, and a fellow of NAEng, while receiving the Platinum Award of the Nigeria Academy of Engineering (NAEng.) being a reward for his leadership of the nation’s telecom regulator for its contributions to the development and growth of engineering profession in the technological and economic development of the country.

    The Commission has already driven various initiatives that has ensured the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) Mobile Technology in Nigeria with licenced mobile operators namely, MTN, Mafab Communications and Airtel securing licences and have deployed 5G mobile networks in some states with plans to expand to the entire 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

    With the emergence of technologies such as 5G, which offers enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Massive Machine-Type Communication (mMTC) and Ultra-Low, Ultra-reliable Latency Communication (uRLC), there is already a platform that would bring succor to our connectivity challenges if the requisite policy, frameworks and infrastructure are put in place.

    The Commission recognises that emerging technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing; Quantum Computing Augmented/Virtual Reality, among otehrs are already playing a critical role in improving remote communication over the internet with great user experience globally. This explains why NCC has seen the need to promote the use of these emerging technology trends for great economic development in Nigeria.

    According to the Commission, having a robust broadband infrastructure will play a greater role in fast-tracking the effective deployment of 5G technology and facilitate availability of other emerging technologies earlier itemized.

    The Commission is in the process of renewing its licensing structure in the sector.  This decision was informed by the wide range of technological advances, convergence of technologies and services which have characterised the global telecoms space over the years, and which impact is increasingly being experienced in Nigeria.

    It is reckoned that, the current licence structure is over 20 years old, hence the need for an urgent review of the existing licence patterns to reflect new licensing trends in line with international standards while providing opportunities for improved revenue for government. It is hope that the review will culminate in the appraisal of the terms and conditions of the various licence categories, including licensing fee, as well as identification of the limitations of the various license categories, with a view to clearly determining licences that should be phased out or amended.

    As a corollary to the above to the licensing structure review, the Commission has reviewed its Spectrum Trading Guidelines (STG). This instrument allows that the spectrum resource in-country to be traded on the Secondary Market through Transfer, Sharing or Leasing (TSL) upon satisfying stipulated regulatory conditions.

    It suffices to mention here that the NNBP 2020-2025 requires that these Guidelines be reviewed to ensure that un-utilised spectrum is fairly traded to facilitate rollout by other operators among others. The Guidelines will, therefore, facilitate the country’s yearning for ubiquitous broadband access in line with the economic agenda of the Federal Government.

    It was no surprise that the President of the Academy, Prof. Azikiwe Onwualu, said during the award presented by doyen of engineering and Former Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority, Vincent Maduka, that the Commission deserved the award as it has done the profession proud in its telecom regulatory process and promotion of engineering as shown in its strong support for the NAEng.

    While handing over the award at the 2023 Annual Technology Dinner of the Academy, Maduka said, “Prof. Danbatta has contributed immensely to the sustainability of all initiatives of the professional body, just as his role to the development of engineering profession in general is being felt in Nigeria, through his effective regulation of the telecommunications sector.”

    Danbatta dedicated the award to the ‘hardworking and diligent staff of the Nigerian Communications Commission’, who, he said, have continued to demonstrate commitment to supporting his vision to promote regulatory excellence toward sustaining growth of Nigeria’s digital economy.

    “I could not have done the good work you credited me with, without the support and cooperation of NCC staff and we are delighted that the public is watching, listening and observing what we are doing and a testimony to this fact is the platinum category award we have just been given by the apex engineering body in the country,“ the EVC stated.

    Danbatta further said: “I want to assure the public that the NCC will do whatever it can, within its mandates, to bring out impactful initiatives that will drive the digital transformation process that will ultimately make telecom services pervasive and affordable to all parts of the country.“

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