As ICTs and connectivity have grown in importance to national economies, Nigeria has attempted to keep pace with recommended standards for connectivity.
Today, basic telecommunications services are regarded human right and identified the state as the entity responsible for ensuring all citizens were able to exercise this right. In continuation of our chronicles of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC’s achievements since 2015, today we looked at Commission’s role in extending connectivity to the rural dweller:
Despite multiple, complex challenges to extend internet access, NCC has pursued an ambitious policy of digital inclusion that focused on connecting rural areas.
This is in furtherance to the strategic implementation of its 8-Point Agenda. Recently, the Commission partnered with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and other necessary industry stakeholders to brainstorm on how to develop a framework for leveraging television white spaces (TVWS), as technology platform to extend affordable broadband services to rural, unserved and under-served communities in the country.
TVWS is the unused broadcast spectrum which can be deployed in the telecommunications sector to provide cost-effective broadband services to people in the rural, underserved and unserved areas of the country towards achieving universal access and universal service in line with the country’s digital agenda.
The collaboration with the NBC was in line with the fifth pillar of the NCC’s 8-Poing Agenda focusing on facilitating strategic collaboration and partnership with necessary government agencies and stakeholders to drive the development frontiers of the industry.
The initiative for the use of TVWS in Nigeria was mid-wifed by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, following approval for the use of the TVWS technology by the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC).
TVWS deployment is expected to further enable the NCC to facilitate its mandate to ensure universal access to digital services across the nooks and crannies of the country.
“Ensuring that all Nigerians are connected is our priority at the Commission. “We are continuously in a quest to achieving rural connectivity goal and this quest has led us, as a Commission, into embarking on several initiatives to actualise this pervasive connectivity objective in Nigeria,” said Director, Spectrum Administration, NCC, Austine Nwaulune, said during a stakeholders’ forum on framework for the deployment of TVWS held earlier in 2019.
Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure across 774 LGAs
Closely related to the Commission’s efforts in deepening broadband penetration is its development of Open Access Model (OAM) initiative, principally aimed at extending access to digital services to all the 774 local government areas (LGAs) through the licensing of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) across geo-political zones.
To date, six InfraCo licences had been issued by the Commission. They include
- Raeana Nigeria Limited (South-South Zone);
- O’dua Infraco Resources Limited (South-West Zone);
- Fleek Networks Limited (North-West Zone);
- Brinks Integrated Solutions (North-East Zone);
- MainOne Limited (Lagos Zone) and
- Zinox Technologies Limited (South-East Zone).
The seventh and last licensee for the North-Central Zone of the country is being processed by the Commission.
As Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, the NCC is expected to provide a counterpart funding, in form of stimulus, to encourage investors of InfraCo to deploy fibre optic infrastructure across the country.
Already, subsidy negotiations with the licensees had been concluded by the Commission and efforts are being tidied up by the telecoms regulator to secure Federal Government’s approval for the disbursement of the counterpart funding to the licensees.
This, however, will be disbursed to the InfraCos upon attainment of certain milestones in their area of deployment.
During a visit by the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to the Commission earlier in 2019, Danbatta had said that, “NCC had concluded the process leading to the disbursement of subsidies to the six licensed InfraCos in line with the digital transformation agenda of the Federal Government. The subsidy will augment the InfraCos’ capital expenditure (CAPEX).”
Spectrum Auctions and Related Initiatives
Spectrum is a scare resource. So, one aspect of the Commission’s regulatory activities which has added the needed fillip to its accomplishment with regards to broadband penetration is in the area of effective utilization of available spectrum.
The Commission, apart from achieving and surpassing the 30 per cent broadband penetration, the NCC had recorded some broadband-driving successes, especially in the area of spectrum auctions.
These include the auction of the six slots of 2×5 megahertz (MHz) in the 2.6 gigahertz (GHz) Band, re-planning of the 800 MHz band for Long Term Evolution (LTE), licensing of two slots of 10 MHz each in the 700 MHz band, as well as the opening up of the E-band spectrum 70/80 GHz band for both last-mile and backhaul services.
Other regulatory instruments by the Commission in this regards include the Spectrum Trading Framework, which allows for transferability of spectrum licence from a dormant licensee to another operator that needs such spectrum which has been redundant for the deployment telecom services.
All these efforts are in keeping with the commitment of the Commission, as articulated by Prof. Umar Danbatta early in 2015 that “NCC will develop and implement flexible, market-oriented spectrum regulatory policies that promote highly-efficient use of spectrum in ways that stimulate innovation, investment, and job creation and increased consumer benefits.”
To be continued…