NCC promotes Economic Diversification through ICT .. leveraging next-generation technology

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has assured Nigerians of its commitment to consolidating economic diversification in the country with sustainable infrastructural development in the ICT sector.

Speaking at the recent World Stage Virtual Economic Summit, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, NCC, underlines the strategic role of ICT in the country’s drive away from the perennial reliance on oil and gas proceeds. According to him, “our drive to diversify our economy as a nation, away from perennial reliance on oil and gas proceeds, is going to be essentially enhanced by Information and Communication technology (ICT). This is because the ICT has been the enabler of economic growth, providing the necessary digital impetus for transformative development in all other sectors of the economy, be it agriculture, education, financial services, healthcare services and so on.”

He added that, “the economic transformative role of ICT/telecoms is not in doubt, going by the recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which shows that the sector has contributed an impressive 14.07 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as at the second quarter of 2020, surpassing crude oil’s contribution.”

Prof Danbatta pointed out that the efforts of the commission have resulted in the observed progress in the industry that “the NCC’s efforts in stimulating and promoting the deployment of more telecom infrastructure are responsible for the network expansion we are witnessing today in the industry. But this could be better. Indeed, this has culminated in the number of people with access to telephony services with active mobile voice subscribers standing at 203.5 million as of August, 2020. This represents a teledensity of 106.62 per cent while active Internet subscribers have reached 150 million as of August, 2020. In the same manner, broadband penetration currently stands at 43.30 per cent, indicating that over 82 million Nigerians enjoy high speed broadband services” He said.

As part of efforts made to enhance infrastructural development in the country, the EVC explained that the commission is committed to reliable broadband deployments. “The Commission has been making regulatory efforts to leverage on next-generation technology platforms in order to continuously advance our ICT ecosystem. An important development in this regard was our trial of 5G technology, making NCC the first telecoms regulator to do such in the whole of the West African sub-region. The Proof of Concept (PoC) trials were carried out on MTN network in Abuja and Uyo in Akwa Ibom state under the strict supervision of the NCC in 2019.”

“The whole idea behind the trial is to identify what the challenges are with regard to 5G deployment in Nigeria. We are looking at security challenges, level of radiation power density – whether this is within the acceptable limits provided by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) as well as to address whatever challenges that may arise preparatory to commercial rollout of this technology in the country.”

“With 5G, we are looking at enhanced mobile broadband applications, the ultra-reliable low latency applications and the Machine to Machine (M2M) applications, all of which will require reliable broadband infrastructure, which is a major focus of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy as well as the NCC.”

The EVC noted that without pervasive infrastructure, the dream of rollout of 5G services will remain just a dream. “We have put in place an excellent Spectrum Trading Framework, to allow efficient utilisation of licensed and existing spectrum through leasing or transfer to other operators from a licensee whose objective supports keeping the spectrum idle. Recently, the Commission lifted the suspension on the Spectrum Trading Guidelines (2018), which had been temporarily suspended, pending when a more robust review has been carried out. This is in response to global telecommunications dynamics to deepen access to digital services in the country.”

He commended the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) for his leadership and intervention in ensuring the development of the National Digital Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), which underscores the importance of infrastructure deployment for a digital economy in Nigeria.

As a proactive move, the EVC further revealed that the NCC, with the active support of the Minister, has also secured the understanding of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) to comply with the N145 per linear metre of fibre cable laid as Right of Way (RoW) charges, as against the hitherto prohibitive charges imposed on the telecoms companies, which have continued to hinder faster infrastructure rollout. And that some of the states have waived payment of RoW by the telcos in order to facilitate rollout of more robust broadband infrastructure that can support their socio-economic activities.

He concluded that the central role of ICT/telecoms sector in bolstering the economic diversification agenda of the Federal Government informed the President’s declaration, recently, of Telecom Infrastructure as a Critical National Infrastructure, which must be protected by all the law enforcement agencies in order to continuously provide the digital support the economy needs.