President Muhammadu Buhari recently said that Nigeria has attained a 100 percent broadband penetration across the country.
The president made the disclosure at the maiden digital economy conference of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), held in Abuja recently.
A Broadband penetration refers to the number of subscriptions to fixed and mobile broadband services.
In August last year, Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice-chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said broadband penetration in the country climbed to 44.5 percent in July from 40.9 percent in February.
Danbatta also expressed optimism that the national broadband target of 70 per cent in 2025 was achievable.
Subsequently, Buhari, who was represented by Isa Pantami, minister of Communications and Digital Economy, said reports that claimed the country had achieved only 43 per cent broadband penetration were obsolete.
He explained that from 23 per cent coverage in 2019, the federal government had increased broadband penetration by 77 per cent in 2022 and 100 per cent in 2023.
“One of the richest persons in the world announced that Nigeria, out of the 54 African countries, has an outstanding broadband penetration. As I speak to you today, the broadband penetration in Nigeria is 100 per cent,” Buhari said.
“As of today, broadband can be accessed everywhere in the country, whether in the urban area, rural area, or desert. We are the first African country to attain this and the only one so far.
“70 per cent is distinction and the digital sector has surpassed it. We delivered excellently in all eight priority areas in the sector.”
According to Buhari, the communication ministry’s quarterly revenue had grown considerably, adding that “we moved from generating N51bn in three months to N408bn in three months.”
Checks by Daily Trust on Sunday has shown that Nigeria is not the first African country to attain 100 per cent broadband penetration in Africa as South Africa is the first country to do so.
Mobile internet connections account for over 99 per cent of Nigeria’s broadband base, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Further checks by Daily Trust on Sunday show that compared to South Africa, Egypt and Kenya, Nigeria’s telecommunications sectors’ contributions are quite moderate.
For instance, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in Egypt is very robust, with a growth rate higher than Egypt’s overall level of GDP growth, equivalent to 15.2 percent in fiscal year 2019/2020.
Its contribution to the GDP has increased to 4.4 per cent in fiscal year 2019/2020 compared with 3.5 per cent in 2018/2019. Total investments in the sector increased by 35 per cent in 2019/2020 and reached $3.5 billion.
In contrast, Nigeria has seen a decline of about 20 per cent in investment in the telecoms industry in the past 3 to 4 years. Experts say to achieve quality broadband access will require an estimated investment of about $5 billion (N2.3trn).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when businesses were migrating to digital platforms and upgrading their digital infrastructure, little attention was paid to upgrading telecoms infrastructure in Nigeria.
A full-year report by the NCC found that capital inflow into the telecoms industry in 2020 declined to approximately $417m compared with $942.8m in 2019.
On the other hand, operators in South Africa made good use of the pandemic to deepen investment in high-speed internet infrastructure. Apart from deploying fibre-to-home infrastructure, companies like Vodacom and MTN switched on 5G mobile networks in three cities – Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, with further rollout plans to other parts of the country. MTN launched with 100 sites covering areas of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.
Similarly, the Kenyan government has also intensified infrastructure rollout in recent years. As of March 2021, the country has completed the backbone section of the project and fibre installed in all 47 counties. Metropolitan fibre civil works have also been completed in 35 of the 47 counties.
The available international bandwidth for 2018/19 stood at 4707.46Gbps and the number of broadband subscriptions has grown strongly, rising from 5,327,859 in 2015 to 22,198,610 in 2019. This indicates continuous growth in the sector with the potential for more expansion.
Although MTN is also interested in pushing the 5G network in Nigeria, the largest network in Africa is still struggling with losses incurred from the SIM card suspension. As a result, 5G rollout in Nigeria remains at developmental stage.
Internet connectivity inaccessible to Nigerians
Meanwhile, Daily Trust on Sunday reports that Nigerians will have to pay $600 (400,000) to be able to use Elon Musk’s Starlink internet service in the country.
Starlink, broadband from Musk with the aim to sell internet connections to every part of the world through private satellites orbiting in low earth, would need Nigerians to pay a black-market price of N438,000, N730 to $1, or the official rate of N269,130, N448 to $, to acquire the setup hardware.
This is even as the subscription to the service would cost $43 per month, which is about N31,000 or N19,287.
The company said Nigerians can pre-order the $600 hardware as it prepares to launch this year but stated that its rollout is now “pending regulatory approval.”
Recall that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, had last year noted that some administrative issues were delaying Starlink’s scheduled launch.
He had said, “They have now commenced the deployment of their facilities in Nigeria. Nigeria is the first African country to reach that partnership and also approval for the deployment.
“As part of the partnership, Space X is to provide broadband access across the whole of Nigeria, enabling nationwide access to broadband connectivity way ahead of the December 2025 schedule, as outlined in our National Broadband Plan. With this collaboration with SpaceX’s Starlink, Nigeria is set to be the 1st African country to introduce the service,” he added.
But some Nigerians have expressed concerns that the cost of acquiring Starlink’s hardware is too high. They are also disturbed that Nigerians can only pay for the hardware and subscription in dollars, while most Nigerian banks have suspended dollar transactions on naira cards.
Following verification, Daily Trust on Sunday confirmed that South Africa is the first country to attain broadband penetration in Africa and not Nigeria. As such, the claim is inaccurate.
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