Nigeria to create SPV to power 90,000km broadband fibre rollout

Nigeria to create SPV to power 90,000km broadband fibre rollout

The Federal Government is set to launch a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that will drive the delivery of an additional 90,000km of broadband fibre optic cable across the country. This was disclosed by the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr Bosun Tijani today.

According to Dr Tijani, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), Nigeria’s government’s highest decision-making group which consists of the country’s President, Vice and Federal ministers approved the project during its meeting on Tuesday.

He also said that the project, upon delivery, will become Africa’s 3rd longest terrestrial fibre optic backbone, after Egypt and South Africa. “This extensive coverage will enable us to optimize the unique benefit of having 8 submarine cables already landed in Nigeria and therefore drive uptake of the data capacity that the cables offer, beyond the current usage level of 10%”, he said.

According to the minister, if executed, the broadband fibre will boost the confidence of local tech ecosystem players and indicate to key investors the government’s commitment to addressing the country’s connectivity and startup funding objectives.

Dr Bosun said the Ministry has, over the last few months, begun the groundwork to set up the SPV which will be modelled after some of the best existing Public-Private Partnership structures in Nigeria, such as the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) and the Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) in terms of governance and operations.

Nigeria to establish startup house in San Francisco- Minister Tijani
Bosun Tijani, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy

According to him, working with partners and stakeholders from the government and private sector, the SPV will build the additional fibre optic coverage required to take Nigeria’s connectivity backbone to a minimum of 125,000km, from the current coverage of about 35,000km.

Listing the benefits of the network, the minister said that the project will connect 200,000 educational, healthcare and social institutions across Nigeria when completed. He also indicated that the project will help to include at least 50% of the 33 million Nigerians currently excluded from access to the Internet.

“Building on our existing work with the Broadband Alliance, this increased connectivity will help plug the current non-consumption gap by connecting over 200,000 educational, healthcare and social institutions across Nigeria, ensuring that a larger section of our society can be included in the benefits of internet connectivity”, he explained.

Read more: New NCC EVC Aminu Maida vows to improve broadband penetration from 70% to 90% by 2025

The minister said that the fibre project is expected to deliver up to 1.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) growth per capita, raising GDP from $472.6 billion (2022) to $502 billion over the next four years, increase internet penetration by over 70% and reduce the cost of access to the internet by over 60%.

Right of Way and Fibre Optic Cable installation
Broadband connectivity: still a long way from home

In June 2023, Nigeria’s broadband penetration dropped from 92,169,176 subscriptions (48.28%) to 89,730,341 subscriptions (47.01%, representing a difference of 1.27%. It’s worth noting that this is the lowest the broadband access has been since November 2022 (88,273.293 subscriptions/46.24%).

Recall that former president Muhammadu Buhari wrongly claimed that Nigeria’s broadband penetration had reached 100% following the deployment of Starlink, a SpaceX product. However, the country’s broadband access has never exceeded 48.28% (May 2023). 

The NCC reported last year that there are 159,498,826 active internet subscriptions across GSM, CDMA, Fixed (Wireless), ISPs, and VoIP channels. This is a minor decline in the numbers considering that the country registered 159,598,451 subscriptions in May 2023

Several months later, the new Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr Aminu Maida, unveiled plans to enhance broadband penetration in Nigeria from 70% to 90% by 2025.

NCC suspends January 18 disconnection of Globacom services by MTN for 21 days
Dr Aminu Maida

According to the EVC, the new commitment aligns with the objectives of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s “Renewed Hope” agenda, which seeks to place the nation on the path to digital transformation.

“We would align with this aspiration to increase broadband penetration to 70 per cent and to cover 90 per cent of the population by 2025. Therefore, we need to build a reliable telecom industry with impressive quality of service (QoS) indicators with quality of experience (QoE) as our watchword and ultimate goal”, he explained.

But, this will require the government to address issues bedevilling its broadband target such as laws guiding the Right of Way (RoW), the security of our telecom infrastructures, multiple taxation, foreign exchange fluctuation and rising cost of operations.

Read also: Governor Soludo implements zero right of way to drive broadband penetration in Anambra

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