Nigeria Business: Massive Rural Fibre Deployment Begins in Lagos


Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country are engaged in a heated race to deploy broadband fibre infrastructure in unserved and underserved parts of Lagos, the commercial nerve-centre of Nigeria, BusinessDay has gathered.

MTN, Airtel, Etisalat and Globacom have all begun massive fibre infrastructure deployments across the length and breadth of the state with a view to improving the quality of broadband internet and telecommunications services and garnering more revenue.

Lagos is a huge lure for the operators because it has a population of 17.5 million, of the nation’s total of 160 million, according to 2006 census figures. With the nation’s teledensity standing at 93.41 percent as at June 2014, Lagos poses a big carrot for telcos, experts say. 

BusinessDay investigations further reveal that fibre infrastructure deployment is currently ongoing in underserved areas such as Idimu, Yaba, Festac, Ikeja, Satellite Town, Okota, Ikotun-Egbe, Oshodi and Surulere, amongst others.

According to market observers, this new development is a fallout of the 85 percent reduction of charges imposed on telecoms companies by the Lagos State government for granting Right of Way (RoW).

The Ministry of Communications Technology had earlier disclosed that RoW procurement contributes about 50 percent of fibre build. A director at one of the largest GSM operators, who pleaded anonymity, told BusinessDay yesterday that another facet of the massive fibre build involved mobile operators aggressively linking all their Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) in Lagos with fibre infrastructure.

“The benefits of this move are enormous. Take for instance in a situation where a Mobile Switching Centre (MSC) of an operator goes down for any reason, the telco can simply re-route the traffic, with the fibre, to another active BTS or MSC. This would indeed help to build redundancy and improve the quality of voice and data services in Lagos State,” he added.

Market observers are of the view that when these fibre infrastructure become active, Lagos will witness massive adoption and usage of bandwidth-hungry services such as e-health, e-commerce, and e-education.

It would also enable youths in the state employ themselves on the back of the myriad of opportunities availed by the internet.
The country has an abysmal broadband penetration of 8.6 percent, according to the communications technology ministry. “A lot of digging is going on all around Lagos State as telecoms operators are aggressively putting fibre in the ground,” said Lanre Ajayi, national president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), in an interview with BusinessDay. “This move might be linked to Lagos state government reducing RoW.”

Ajayi explained that mobile operators were looking to push affordable broadband services to rural areas in consonance with the National Broadband Plan (NBP), adding that barriers to infrastructure build before now were numerous.

“The barriers have now been removed in Lagos State. It would also accelerate deployment of fibre across the length and breadth of state,” he added.

Henry Ise Okogie, executive vice chairman, Broadbased Communications, a fibre infrastructure company, also confirmed the development, stating that Lagos would soon feel the impact of high speed broadband services.

“We (Broadbased Communications) are building a metro access to carry fibre across town so that all telcos can rent from us,” Okogie said in an interview with BusinessDay.

Omobola Johnson, minister of communications technology, has urged other states of the federation to emulate Lagos and remove the prohibitive cost structure hindering the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure.

Johnson urged them to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with her ministry for the implementation of the Smart State initiative, adding that Nigeria’s quest to become a digital economy might be derailed if the states did not fully cooperate.

This, among other issues, formed the summation of a communiqué issued at the end of the third meeting of the National Council on Communication Technology (NCCT) held in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State recently.

Already, three states, including Lagos, Cross River and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), have signed the MoU with the ministry. Meanwhile, the Smart State initiative is being tested in Anambra, Bayelsa and Ondo with others set to follow.

SOURCE: BUSINESS DAY

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