Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Nigeria - A forum called for a revolution to boost Internet penetration with lower prices and more ISPs

[daily independent] Stakeholders who gathered at a broadband forum jointly organised by eWorld magazine and eBusines Life magazine in Lagos last week, collectively agreed that a broadband revolution would boost internet penetration and reduce pricing.

They, however, insisted that Nigeria needs more Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to connect the last mile and actualise a broadband vision for the country.

They frowned at a situation where internet penetration remains low and pricing in bandwidth still high, in spite of the two submarine cables that have already birthed at the shores of the country.

Worried by the continuous high cost in bandwidth, President of Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Bayo Banjo challenged MainOne and Glo 1, the two submarine cables in the country, to bring down the cost of bandwidth. Banjo called on the two submarine cable operators to slash the cost of bandwidth below $300 per megabyte and allow more ISPs to connect last mile service, which offers to take broadband to homes, offices and schools in every part of the country.

Responding, a representative of MainOne assured Nigerians that the cost of bandwidth could fall as low as $300 per megabyte, but asked for some time to actualise it. He said market forces and growth would definitely bring down the cost of bandwidth, such that Nigerians would have access to high internet speed at highly reduced rate.

Counting the gains that broadband revolution will bring to Nigeria, President of the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Titi Omo-Ettu said Glo 1 and MainOne's investments in their submarine cables are stimulants and integral to business development, that would enhance local content development.

"Businesses should be done using local content and Nigerians must stop the importation of finished products with foreign content. But this must be done if there is availability of broadband that will give Nigerians the platform to explore opportunities," Omo-Ettu said.

He assured Nigerians that ATCON would stimulate the business of broadband by partnering with stakeholders in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and disabused the minds of Nigerians from looking for foreign partners to do businesses with. If Nigerians are encouraged, they could do better than foreign partners, he said, adding that the availability of broadband could foster such envisaged performance.

In his speech, former Communications Minister Olawale Ige, who chaired the Broadband Forum, said the forum was proof of the dividends of democratic universal operations, facilitated by digitalisation, which led to the convergence of technologies and created a liberalised playing field for competition by infrastructure and service providers.

"It further affords flexibility in policy formulation and strategies, relative to each region or nation's development, in espousing appropriate technologies and growing at a convenient pace," he said.

The objectives of the Broadband Forum, as listed by the organisers, include bringing key stakeholders in the telecom sector to x-ray and chart a new course for the future of broadband and Internet connectivity as well as engaging governments at all levels to take broadband to consumers of Internet services: Ige said these objectives were paramount to achieving broadband availability as well as Internet penetration.

He said the terminology, broadband, had a long history, beginning with the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) in the Legacy era, with limited speed of content delivery to modern day, Third Generation Partnership Projects (3GPP) technologies beginning with 2G GSM enhancements like the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), through to the Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology.

He added that the envisaged next generation networks that would be built on optical fibre architecture and Internet Protocol (IP)-based, could conveniently be referred to as the ultimate in content delivery as the bandwidth availability would be very much above those of mobile systems that are limited to spectrum and other network capabilities.

Explaining the whole essence of the Broadband Forum as stated in a paper jointly written by Mr. Aaron Ukodie, Publisher of eWorld Magazine and Mrs. Ufuoma Emuophedaro, Publisher of eBusiness Life Magazine, Mrs. Emuophedaro said there was still some gaps in efforts by Nigerian stakeholders to grow broadband market, especially in the area of last mile connectivity that is yet to be achieved.

Several papers on how to achieve last mile connectivity, boost broadband and mobile application in the ecosystem and new media, were presented by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) experts. The papers include Broadband and Digital Rights, Sustaining Broadband Through Critical Information Infrastructure Protection, The Role of IXPN in Nigerian Broadband, Transforming Nigeria with Broadband Access and Connectivity and Dream Pipes to Actualise Pipe Dreams, among other presentations.

The Chief Executive Officer of Teledom Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, in his paper titled, Dream Pipes to Actualise Pipe Dreams, listed four important factors to actualise broadband availability and penetration to include awareness, access, affordability and availability.

Broadband Forum Challenges ISPs to Deepen Internet Penetration

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