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Key Contributors to the Quantum Leap in the Nigeria’s Internet Broadband


Two weeks ago, I decided to visit my aunt and foster mum at her new home in Ibadan where she’s just relocated to from Lagos. The visit also enabled me to reunite with my cousin’s lovely kids, Emmanuel and Emmanuela since 4 years ago that I’d left Lagos to work in Ibadan. I was really taken aback by the rapid growth of Emmanuela who is now 6 years old and 3 years younger than her brother.

The first shocking encounter I had with the kids was how they could easily find their way around my smartphone, browsing from one YouTube kids’ channel to another via the Google voice command feature on the phone. Even when my internet data subscription finished and they could no longer continue with their engagement on YouTube, Emmanuela opted to bypass the ensuing boredom by video recording herself with the phone’s front Camera for her imaginary audience on YouTube. Hearing the six-year-old saying “make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel and join me next week…bye bye” I knew I may be dealing with the first TV presenter at the house.

Puzzling over the tech-smartness of my cousin’s progenies, I would later discover each one of them has a Amazon’s customized tablet that their mum had got them almost a year ago to hone their skills with. I could only imagine what these Genzees would have grown into in the next couple of decades.

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Nearly a decade ago, fewer than 5 percent of people in the sub-Saharan African region where Nigeria is located had access to the internet. Today, the story has changed significantly. As at December 2020, an approximately 73 percent of Nigeria’s population was said to have internet access, the country being second to Kenya which recorded 83 percent of her population having access to the internet. A 2020 report by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development put the number of Nigerians with fixed-line phone connection at 550,000 out of an estimated population of 122million in the year 2000. However, in 2004 9million phone subscribers were recorded in the country and by 2019, the number of Nigerians with a mobile contact skyrocketed to 185million. According to the Economist, mobile phone ownership in sub-Saharan Africa was already more widespread than access to electricity as early as 2016.

Since the launching of 2G, 3G and 4G networks, smart phone usage have improved significantly across the world and inspired major innovations and revolution in the telecommunication industry which trigger efforts towards achieving the 5G network system. In Nigeria, about 75 percent of website traffic is generated via smart-phones. Nigeria’s smart-phones market was projected to reach 140million by 2025, making the country the largest tech hub  of sub-Saharan Africa.

On Tuesday, 9 August 2022, the Nigerian Communication Commission which is an independent national regulatory authority of the Nigeria’s telecommunication industry reported that Nigeria’s internet broadband penetration witness an increase to 44.4 percent in June 2022 from 40.88 percent in December 2021 and the total number of broadband subscriptions grew to 84.61million from 78.04million within the same period, resulting in Industry’s expansion by 91.70 percent within the last four years. Also, the industry’s GDP contribution rose from 9.81 percent in 2018Q4 to 12.16 percent in 2021Q4.

According to the executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who spoke on Tuesday 9 August at the ongoing public inquiry on the five key regulatory instruments of the Commission in Abuja which will close on Friday 12 August, “the increase in the nation’s broadband penetration can, among things, be attributed to the sustained efforts by industry players in deploying fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure”.

Drawing insights from a general assessment of the industry, the following factors are also attributable to the quantum leap recorded in the Nigeria’s internet broadband:

  1. Digital Economy: Data has come to be seen as the new oil due to increasing technological innovations that have their major impacts on the economy in raw data form waiting to be analysed to develop insight and make informed decisions from them. The global data explosion or the big data ecosystem led to the application of digital technology across different businesses and industries even outside the shores of the ICT sector.
  2. Increased ICT investment: Over the last four years, the Nigerian Information Communication Technology sector has witnessed improved investment from institutional and noninstitutional investors including international organizations who see opportunities in the Nigerian ecosystem. In October 2021, tech behemoth Google announced plans to invest $1billion in Africa over the next five years to diliver better access to fast and cheaper internet. Also, Elon musks announced his starlinks satellite internet Networks which is expected to commence operation in the country soon.

  3. Social media: The massive engagement of people on the social media for their day-to-day social relations or business transactions also has contributed to the improvement of the country’s internet broadband. Over the years the social media which requires internet connection has been seen as a trusted go-to-place to make money or overcome boredom.

  4. Covid19: The Covid19 pandemic urshered in a new approach to work. Remote working during the lockdown meant that demand for internet connection and subscription would increase to be able to access telecommuting platforms such as zoom, YouTube, WhatsApp, Microsoft meet etc. This work ethic has been maintained even after the lockdown.

  5. Government policy and Programmes: The Nigerian Government have also showcased interesting programmes and policies that attracts investment and development to the sector. States like Lagos, Ekiti, Kaduna and Kwara reduce the right of way charges to encourage investments in broadband infrastructure in the states. For example, the partnership between Kaduna Government and Airtel Nigeria to deepen 3G and 4G network coverage in the state by the end of 2022 including deployment of fibre network access. The NCC approved commencement of Fibre roll-out by licences under the Open Access Infrastructure Network (OAFIN) Licence aka Infrasco License. The NCC has been working to implement policies such as the National Broadband Plan, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy as well as its Strategic Management Plan and Strategic Vision Implementation Plan. Also, the NCC’s five key regulatory instruments is conceived to facilitate stakeholders’ engagement in the regulatory interventions of the commission and address emerging needs of players across all value chains of the industry.

  6. Extension services by mobile network service providers: leveraging creative and design thinking, some mobile network service providers are able to extend their influence beyond their traditional telecommunication services to include other services that add value to their customers and make life more meaningful. This contributed to the revenue base of some of these platforms. For example, MTN declared a profit of N181bn for 2022Q2 as against N141.8bn made in 2021Q2; the company also recorded growth in its shares and users due to it’s internal ingenuity. MTN’s entry into the fintech space with it’s newly launched MoMo payment Service Bank recorded 4.2million registered users that use their wallets to make several millions of Naira transactions. Also when NCC issued a directive to all mobile network providers to cut-off their subscribers that failed to link their Sim with their National Identification Number (NIN), MTN was able to assist in expediting the NIN enrollment of its users which significantly contributed to its subscribers and revenue base.

 



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