The consortium, which includes MTN, Airtel, and VDT, is to provide 3,000 kms of fibre coverage over Lagos within two to three years.
Already, the aggregation of existing networks provided 1,100 kms of fibre, therefore the consortium is working to add 1,900km.
According to the Head, Regulatory Service, MainOne, Ifeloju Alakija, who disclosed this at a broadband forum in Lagos, noted that operators retain existing asset but available fibre and ducts are to be commercialised by Infraco. Alakija however, said the consortium awaits the state government’s permit, which has delayed the service roll-out.
Indeed, operators have been battling states agencies over exorbitant Right of Way (RoW) challenges, and this has stalled network expansion. Checks revealed that MainOne and IHS, which both got their licences as far back as 2015, are having serious difficulties in rolling out.
While MainOne is facing roll out challenges in Lagos, IHS, which got the North Central InfraCo license has returned it to the NCC as a result of the many challenges it encountered from states governments in the region.The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said if these roll-out challenges persist, enthroning a knowledge-base economy in Nigeria may be difficult.
Alakija said while the consortium awaits the Lagos permit, challenges including inefficient infrastructure sharing; high cost of capital and restricted access to FOREX; limited infrastructure protection; high cost of infrastructure deployment and operations.
Others include high and multiple taxes and fees; delays in permits and RoW; limited demand side stimulus from E-Government; limited development of locally relevant content online and absence of data domiciliation policy enforcement.
Alakija, who decried the pending government permit in Lagos for MainOne’s roll out as an InfraCo, explained that on the average an operator may require about N12 billion to get RoW permit.
“States charge between N1, 500 and N6, 000, so the average we pay is N4, 000 per meter to roll out. For a 3000km space like Lagos, with about three million meters in the kilometers, If you multiple that N4, 000 by three million meters, we arrive at N12 billion. This simply shows that the least a state can pay for RoW is around N12 billion. States that has between 9000km to 12000km space would be paying more.”
According to him, there must be a working plan and agreement between the states and the operators if broadband must be pervasive in Nigeria. He recommended hamonisation of the various taxes states are charging operators.
Alakija said broadband infrastructure is an enabler for economic and social growth in the digital economy, adding: “The broadband vision for Nigeria is one of a society of connected communities with high speed Internet and broadband access that facilitates faster socioeconomic advancement of the nation and its people.”
From his perspectives at the forum, Head, Fixed Network and Converge Services at the NCC, Tony Ikemefuna, said if allowed to thrive in the country, broadband would among others help to create jobs, enhance productivity, bridge digital divide, improve the country’s GDP and allow the growth of SMEs.
According to him, if Nigeria must deploy new technologies including Artificial Intelligence; Internet of Things; Machine Learning; Cloud Computing; Mobile solutions; Cognitive computing, “we must allow broadband to thrive in the country.”