As operators look to achieving 70 per cent broadband penetration in another five years, failure of the National Assembly (NASS), to pass the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) Bill, might become a major hindrance.
Having crossed the 30 per cent target set for 2018, as enshrined in the National Broadband Plan 2013 to 2018, operators disclosed that they are working to expand on that by increasing it to 70 per cent by 2023.
Currently, about 64.3 million Nigerians, which is equivalent of 33 per cent of the population, have access to broadband services.
With operators calling on the NASS in the new dispensation to pass the CNI Bill into law, media checks showed that the bill had lingered for over a decade since presented on the floor of the house.
The non-passage of the bill has caused the industry some misfortunes, with cases of vandalism on the rise.
The media learnt that the rate of vandalism, especially fibre cuts increased by 80 per cent between 2016 and now. In 2015, the industry recorded about 1,200 cuts. Over 10,000 generating sets have also been lost to miscreants, amid the theft of batteries at Base Transceiver Station (BTS) sites.
Speaking with The Guardian, the President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, noted that the passage of the CNI Bill in conjunction with the implementation and enforcement of Section 4 of the Cybercrime Act, which make reference to CNI, will go a long way to fast-track achieving the target.
Teniola stressed that multiple daily fibre cuts and multiple taxes, levies and fees at both state and local government levels also pose serious challenges to achieving the target.
“There will be great impact on foreign direct investment (FDI) and domestic investors if the bill is not passed or Section 4 is not properly enforced. Taking the industry to Industry 4.0 will definitely require protection from CNI Bill in conjunction with execution of Section 4 of the Cybercrime Act,” he stated.
According to him, the much-needed gross domestic product (GDP) growth that can support the population explosion, and create an ICT industry that can employ the growing youth population, must be protected.
To the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, “Unless operators have first level of protection by government, it will be difficult to continue to provide uninterrupted services with the type of vulnerability experienced by our members and their infrastructure. We kindly request a presidential executive order on ‘Telecom Infrastructure as Critical National Security and Economic Infrastructure’ as provided by the Cybercrime Law of 2015.”
Meanwhile, corroborating the need for adequate protection of telecoms facilities, the Chief Executive Officer, MainOne Cable, Funke Opeke, said there might never be 70 per cent broadband penetration in another five years if the industry remains the way it is.
According to her, it has become very critical to protect telecoms infrastructure, especially if Nigeria planned to achieve more in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“The market seems ready far more from the telecoms sector -broadband development, startup growth, Fourth Industrial Revolution, among others, but infrastructure that will facilitate this development needs to be protected.”
She decried that the various submarine cables in the country are still very much underutilise. According to her, the about five fibre cables are still less than 10 per cent utilised. The cables include MainOne, Glo 1, SAT 3, WACS, and ACE.
The Guardian check showed that cumulatively the five cables have over 40TBPS international connectivity capacity at Lagos shores. Furthermore, the requisite terrestrial infrastructure to transmit this capacity from the shores across the country, particularly the unserved and underserved areas, are seriously missing. Besides, the relevant national backbone is also not available.
The submarine cable systems are responsible for over 95 per cent of the Internet, communications and broadband connectivity Nigerians currently enjoy a today. This covers activities ranging from sending and receiving emails, surfing the internet, streaming and downloading of music, videos and other digital content, teleconferencing, social media engagements, banking and financial market transactions, various electronic commerce activities, phone calls and international communications, telemedicine, long distance education, among others.