The Senate Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Cybercrime has warned that delays by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in licensing infrastructure providers (InfraCos) and roll-out of service may scuttle Federal Government?s lofty objectives in the information communications technology (ICT) sector.
Under the National Broadband Plan (NBP) of the Federal Government, it is expected that 30 per cent broadband penetration will be achieved next year from the less than 10 per cent it currently stands. One of the programnes designed to accelerate the realisation of the dream is the licensing of InfaCos to provide infrastructure in the six geo-political zones of the country with one in Lagos, ramping the figure to seven.
While a firm, IHS Connect, a subsidiary of IHS Tower, won an InfraCo licence almost three years ago to provide infrastructure in the Northcentral, MainOne won InfraCo licence for Lagos.
Its Chairman, Senator Buhari Abdulfatai, who gave the warning while leading a high level delegation on a working visit to MainOne?s Data Centre, MDXi in Lagos, said the Senate is ready to work with relevant agencies to ensure that Nigeria meets its ICT objectives considering the incredible capacity already available in-country.
The Committee praised the incredible capacity available on MainOne?s submarine cable system and data centre, which it acknowledged to represent the most significant infrastructure of its kind in Nigeria. The Committee acknowledged that with this capacity already available in the country, there is no reason for the country?s broadband penetration rate to remain at the 21 per cent as reported by the NCC given the booming demand for data and connectivity services.
Senator Abdulfatai said the delay in licensing Infracos and deploying network infrastructure after licensing posed a major threat to the achievement of the nations? technology goals, which largely depends on broadband infrastructure to be provided by InfraCos.
He, however, assured that the Senate will do everything within its powers to facilitate ICT/broadband development and give legal substance to ICT policies including the NBP and the Cybercrime Act.
But speaking about preparations for licensing the remaining zones, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof Garba Dambatta said: ??We are about to conclude that process. About 60 companies submitted bids for the licensing of the remaining zones with InfraCo licences.
?This is a massive number and as I am talking to you, we are about to conclude the selection process and very soon, by July we will come out with information about the successful bidders and those will be offered InfraCo licences subject to the conditions stated in the regulatory framework with the open access model that is driving the deployment of broadband infrastructure in the country.
?InfraCo licences have been offered to two legal entities: MainOne for the Lagos Zone and IHS Connect, a subsidiary of IHS for the Northcentral Zone. We have been monitoring the progress so far made. For Lagos, we are quite happy about the milestones so far achieved in the deployment of fibre network; but for the Northcentral Zone, we are not happy and action is being taken to ensure that remedial measure is put in place to speed up the process of deployment in Northcentral Zone. We will come out with a statement on this very soon.?
During the tour of the facility, he described MainOne?s data centre as a world-class facility and reiterated the importance of having Nigerian institutions host data locally within the country in order to ensure national security, drive job creation, improve the quality of online services and guarantee Nigeria?s participation in the emerging global digital transformation.
Chief Executive Officer, Funke Opeke lauded the Senate Committee?s efforts in ensuring the development of ICT across the country via its support of homegrown enterprises.
She urged the legislators to look for legislations, especially in the areas that will positively impact on infrastructure development including possible interventions to address the high cost of capital crippling telecoms firms which has significantly slowed down new infrastructure projects in the country. According to her, this is critically needed to bridge the gaps in the ICT industry.
?Nigerian content is arguably the most globally recognised African content today, but South Africa and Kenya are perceived as digital leaders in Africa because of the infrastructural gaps in the country. MainOne has made significant investments in ICT infrastructural development in Nigeria and West Africa and will continue to do so, but we require full government support to enable the ICT industry in Nigeria surpass other countries,? she added.