The national target to achieve 70 percent broadband penetration by 2025 is receiving renewed attention from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which promises 50 percent before the end of 2023.
This promise was one of the highlights of the special media chat with executive editors and media chiefs in the northern part of the country, hosted by the Executive Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, to unveil his achievements since the resumption of office till date.
On the occasion, Danbatta informed the media chiefs that Fifth Generation (5G) service subscriptions have already hit half a million, and the various efforts of the Commission to improve broadband penetration are yielding fruitful results, with the current estimates as of July 2023 standing at 47.01 percent.
Using the existing, reviewed five-pillar Strategic Vision Plan as a building block, the EVC spoke to 119 milestones achieved under the five strategic pillars, including regulatory excellence, universal broadband, market development, the digital economy, and strategic collaboration.
Danbatta said that through effective implementation of NCC’s mandates under his leadership and the cooperation of internal and external stakeholders since 2015, the telecommunications industry in Nigeria has achieved remarkable milestones under our leadership. “While we acknowledge the challenges encountered by the industry, we have also witnessed explosive growth, improved regulatory standards, and digital innovations that have garnered global recognition,” he said.
While reeling out impressive statistics that have characterized his leadership at NCC from 2015 to date, the EVC said active telephone subscribers had increased from less than 150.7 million to 218.9 million, representing a teledensity growth of 115.70 percent from 107.87 percent in 2015.
Through stimulating broadband infrastructure across the country, Danbatta said broadband penetration, which stood at 6 percent in 2015, has increased significantly to 47.01 percent as of July 2023, enhancing over 89.73 million subscriptions on 3G, 4G, and 5G networks in the country. Additionally, general Internet subscriptions have reached 159.5 million, up from less than 100 million in 2015.
“Also, from an 8 percent contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015, the telecommunications sector now contributes 16 percent quarterly to the Nigerian economy as of the second quarter of 2023. Besides, following the authorization of more telecommunications companies to operate in Nigeria’s telecoms sector, the investment profile has increased tremendously from $38 billion in 2015 to $75 billion currently, and this keeps growing daily. From the sales of Fifth Generation (5G) C-Band Spectrum, the NCC has generated over $847.8 million for the Federal Government,” he said.
Danbatta, who has received a gallery of awards nationally, regionally, and globally in recognition of the outstanding performance of Nigeria’s telecom industry, also listed several achievements recorded since 2015.
“Other milestones and initiatives recorded aside from the regulatory activities that culminated in the landmark launch of 5G services in Nigeria include the introduction of Spectrum Trading Guidelines, re-farming and re-planning certain spectrum bands for efficiency, the emplaced collaborative process for the release of C-Band Spectrum by Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited, and the introduction of the Expanded Revenue Assurance Solution (ERAS) to address revenue leakages and improve government revenue from the telecoms industry.
“These initiatives also include the licensing of Satellite Earth Stations, the issuing of an operating license to SpaceX Satellite, facilitating the landing of additional submarine Cables, such as the Google 2,000km Equiano subsea Internet cable in 2022, the listing of MTN on the Nigerian bourse, the licensing of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), the introduction of new unlicensed millimeter wave spectrum, and the regulation of white space spectrum,” Danbata said.
Also, as part of the NCC’s commitment under Danbatta’s leadership, the Commission has endowed professorial chairs in Nigerian universities and committed over N500 million naira to Research and Development (R&D) in the telecoms sector. “The creation of the Digital Economy Department and the mandate to drive the implementation of indigenous telecoms sector growth through the operation of the Nigeria Office for Developing Indigenous Telecom Sector (NODITS) are also important strides made by the Commission,” he said.
Danbatta said other consumer-focused initiatives of the Commission have also centered on the establishment of Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) in over 30 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). All these centers are operational, as is the creation of the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT). The EVC said these two initiatives have been helping consumers get succor in times of emergencies as well as ensuring effective protection for telecom consumers while online.
The NCC Chief Executive said the Commission has also taken very clear actions on consumer protection, advocacy, information sharing, and education. “These include the introduction of data roll-over just before the expiration of subscribed data plans, the introduction of the 622 toll-free number for lodging service-related complaints to the Commission, the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) 2442 Short Code for tackling the menace of unsolicited text messages, the elimination of forceful or deceitful subscriptions to telecom services on mobile networks, tackling the issue of call masking, ensuring effective Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) registration, the launching of the National Roaming service, and the reduction of access gaps to telecom services from over 217 to 97, thereby enhancing access to telecom services by more Nigerians,” Danbatta said.
However, Danbatta said while the industry still faces a number of challenges such as vandalism, securing equitable Right of Way (RoW) from governmental stakeholders, and multiple taxation and regulation, the Commission has put a framework in place to work with necessary stakeholders to overcome the obstacles p posedby these challenges and to sustain the growth trajectory w thathas been the hallmark of the telecoms sector as an enabler of socio-economic development in Nigeria.