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Nigeria’s telecoms investment hits new high from $38bn in 2015

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Four years ago, the foreign direct investment (FDI) and local investment profile in the telecoms sector stood at $38 billion, but today, investment in the sector has grown significantly to over $70 billion.

TheNewsGuru.com (TNG) reports the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) revealed these interesting figures in chronicling it’s accomplishments since 2015.

Speaking at the maiden Nigerian Telecom Leadership Summit (NTLS) held in Lagos in 2019, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta had noted that “the volume of telecom investment in Nigeria is very impressive and indicative of a very fast-growing and resilient sector of the economy”.

Recall on August 4, 2015, Prof. Danbatta was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the NCC, the regulatory authority for telecommunications in Nigeria.

He was subsequently confirmed by the Senate on November 25, 2015 in line with the provision of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003, following thorough and rigorous screening by the then Senator Gilbert Nnaji-led Communications Committee of the Senate.

Since then, the professor of telecom engineering has worked with the support of the Board, Management and staff of the Commission to consolidate on the achievements of his predecessors at the telecom regulatory agency.

Key growth statistics from 2015 till date

From August 2015 till date, the industry has recorded impressive growth statistics, pointing to the effective regulatory environment created by the Commission.

Today, telecoms contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) increased from 8.50 percent in August 2015 to 11.39 percent as at October, 2019.

Active mobile voice subscribers increased from 151,018,624 to 2015 to 180,386,316 during the same period while teledensity increased to 94.50 percent following its rebasing in early 2019.

Keep Naira clean

Internet subscribers increased from 90 million in 2015 to 123.5 million by October, 2019 while broadband penetration jumped from 8 percent to its current 37.87 percent, indicating a total of 72,289,389 Nigerian access data services on 3G and 4G networks.

Also, the number of subscriptions to Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service increased from 385, 617 in August 2015 to 1, 206,874 by October, 2019.

This is attributable to increased public enlightenment by the Commission’s head office and its zonal offices across geo-political zones on the on the availability and usage of MNP.

Similarly, the total number of telecoms subscribers that have subscribed either partially or fully to the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) service introduced by the Commission – to curb cases of unsolicited text messages – increased from level zero  to 22,356, 919 currently.

Upward trajectory of broadband penetration

One of the areas where the Commission has made significant contribution till date is in the area of broadband penetration.

Following painstaking implementation of the 8-Point Agenda, the country achieved and surpassed its broadband penetration target of 30 percent by the end of December, 2018 as stipulated in the National Broadband Plan 2013-2015. A feat commended by all stakeholders in the country, appreciating the Commission for occupying the driver’s seat in the national drive for broadband development.

Indeed, the implementation of the auspicious Agenda gained a lot of traction such that broadband penetration further increased from 32.34 percent (indicating 61,732,130 Nigerians on 3G and 4G networks) to 37.87 percent (indicating 72,289,389 on 3G and 4G networks) between January, 2019 and October, 2019 respectively.

Cognate efforts by the NCC in licensing new spectrum bands, re-farming certain frequency bands and driving initiatives for increased broadband infrastructure in the country, among others have collaboratively resulted in the consistent broadband growth.

With increase in broadband penetration being recorded on a monthly basis, the Commission is well positioned to support the actualisation of the country’s digital economy policy strategy, as unveiled by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy late 2019.

Just recently, the new National Broadband Plan Committee was inaugurated by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, with the national mandate to come up with the new broadband target for 2020-2025.

Since 2015, the NCC’s passion for pervasive broadband penetration is evident in its drive to facilitate broadband penetration, which tops its 8-Point Agenda.

The Commission has also articulated it clearly, at different fora, that access to broadband will become a fundamental metric for measuring economic development in Nigeria, as it will be central to the growth recorded in every other sector of the economy where telecoms would be propelling automation and digitisation.

Speaking at a forum, Danbatta averred that Nigeria’s thirst for data has grown in significantly, largely to the generational change of telecommunications from the use of voice-dominated technologies (1G and 2G) to today’s data dominated technologies of 3G, 4G and even the much-talked-about 5G.

According to him, without doubt, more virtualised engagements are happening online and will continue to be, as it does appears the citizens have an insatiable need for data.

“Nigerians need robust and pervasive broadband connectivity more than ever before in today’s world, where people can easily interact with an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), carry out activities around e-commerce, e-government, and telemedicine, among others on a daily basis in a much seamless manner, thereby boosting their efficiencies,” Danbatta had said.

Commitment to ICT innovations in telecoms industry

In line with its commitment to promoting innovation to drive digital transformation, the NCC, in 2016, created its Research and Development (R&D) Department for the Commission in 2016, for the main purpose of synchronising the various ongoing research activities and other development projects being carried out by the Commission.

This decision, which was in line with the provisions of the National Telecommunications Policy 2000 and the Nigerian National ICT Policy 2012, has helped the Commission to stimulate and sustain innovations in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry.

Till date, the Commission had disbursed millions of Naira, in grants, to sponsor innovation-oriented research projects in tertiary institutions and other research institutes across the country.

Further to this tradition of driving ICT innovations through funding relevant researches in tertiary institutions, the Commission, in May 2019, announced N40 million endowment funds for Bayero University, Kano (BUK) and the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO).

The funds would be utilised by the institutions to drive for innovation, research and development in the digital space with an ongoing commitment to expand the list of benefiting institutions.

A month after, precisely in June 2019, the Commission, again, demonstrated its determination to facilitating research and innovation in the telecoms industry by presenting the sum of N65 million to eleven (11) universities in Nigeria to drive innovation, research and development.

Through the funding, the benefitting tertiary institutions were expected “to deliver research results and prototypes that are implementable, commercially-viable and capable of engendering innovation in different sectors of the economy.”

Today, the Commission continues to support young innovators, through providing them with opportunity to showcase their tech innovations at global telecoms conferences such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecoms World.

Also, organising local competitions for technology innovators, on an annual basis, in order for them to competitively develop locally-relevant tech innovations and applications that can help grow the economy is parts of the NCC’s efforts in this regards.

The latest of such effort was the three-day Maiden Edition of the Innovation Competition/Exhibition Event hosted by the Commission at the Digital Bridge Institute Lagos Campus between from December 17, 2019 to December, 19, 2019, with the theme: “Promoting Innovation and Creativity in the Telecoms Sector”.

The forum gathered some 25 shortlisted technological innovators to pitch their innovations before industry stakeholders for cash prizes provided by the Commission towards advancing their business ideas for full commercialization.

After series and rounds of presentations, discussions as well as questions and answers sessions by the panel of judges and focusing on local content component of the innovators’ business plans, 10 best-in-class innovative ideas were shortlisted out of the 25 tech innovators from the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

Consequently, from the 10 shortlisted innovators, QMartins Fidelis – founder of Qatalog Automates emerged the best; WICRYPT came second while Phaheem Pharmaceuticals Limited came third. They won N3 million, N2 million and N1 million respectively.

While addressing the audience at the event, the EVC of NCC, said the initiative was “in line with Item 4 of the Commission’s 8-Point Agenda, which speaks to promote ICT innovation and investment opportunities in the telecoms industry through promotion of digital knowledge and skills that can positively impact various sectors of the economy.”

Preparing Nigeria for next-gen tech revolution

In consonance with the 3rd and 5th items of its 8-Point Agenda focusing on ‘optimising usage and benefits of spectrum’ and ‘facilitating strategic collaboration and partnerships’, the NCC, in collaboration with the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) in the fourth quarter of 2018, held a workshop to examine the prospects and challenges of Next-Generation Networks (NGN) such as the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, among others, in the nation’s telecoms industry.

The workshop, according to Danbatta was “to provide an avenue for regulators, operators and investors as well as other stakeholders to examine and constructively exchange ideas on the main demand areas for next generation of services, spectrum licensing reforms and the requirements for 5G and other emerging technologies that are to revolutionise the telecom system and users.”

The workshop, thus, formed the precursor to the country’s preparedness for the impending deployment of 5G technology, whose commercial deployment on a large-scale and global level is expected to commence fully by 2020.

Consequently, in the last quarter of 2019, the Commission, in its proactive regulatory approach, mid-wifed the trial of Fifth Generation (5G) technology in Nigeria.

This made NCC the first telecoms regulator in the whole of West Africa to begin such a historic trial towards unleashing greater digital revolution in the country.

Today, 5G trials had been successfully conducted in major cities including Abuja, Calabar and Lagos with MTN being the first operator to carry out the trial.

Through 5G network deployment, Nigerian will have access to faster broadband speed on their network. This will result in more efficiency in the course of carrying out their personal and official activities.

Accordingly, the InfraCo framework will provide the needed robust broadband infrastructure upon which the 5G services will ride, thereby impacting e-learning, tele-medicine, e-agriculture, e-health, e-commerce and so on, in terms of speed, latency and more applications that can be made possible when 5G is pervasively deployed by operators in the country.

In addition to this, the Commission has projected greater prospects for accelerating digital transformation in Nigeria, through making the country a truly knowledge and digital economy.

Parts of these include the determination of the Commission to ensure that all new base transceiver stations (BTS) to be built by mobile network operators (MNOs) are LTE-compatible; ensure the implementation of the harmonised Right of Way (RoW) charges on state and federal government highways at the cost of N145 per linear meter; ensure elimination of multiple taxation and regulations; facilitate spread of 3G coverage to, al least, 80 per cent of the Nigerian population over the current 56.4 per cent of the population covered with 3G networks.

Other projections by the Commission towards deepening digital transformation include  regulatory commitment to ensure operators upgrade their 2G BTSs to 3G; ensure spread of the impending 5G to, at least, five per cent of the population; determination to ensure spread of 4G/LTE services to 100 per cent of the population with a minimum broadband speed of 1.5 megabit  per second (Mbps); and finally deployment of, at least, one (1) Access Point of fiber with a 10 gigabyte per second (Gbps) capacity in all the 774 local government areas, among others.

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