As part of the instituted efforts by Barrister Adebayo Shittu as Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Nigeria has now been offered a loan to the tune of 100million dollars for Rural Internet.

We will recall that Barrister Adebayo Shittu had a few months ago, disclosed that the Federal Government was desirous of fast-tracking the implementation of the National Broadband Roadmap by rapidly deploying less-expensive telecom masts in the rural and the remote areas.

The plan would according to him, “provide access to telephone services and rapidly increase broadband penetration in the hitherto hard-to-reach regions of the country.”

This effort, NEWSDIGEST has confirmed Will now lead to a universal internet coverage have following an offer of $100 million loan from the Government of India.

The loan facilitated which by the EXIM Bank of India, was a product of a close collaboration between the India High Commission in Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Communications, this newspaper learnt.

The deal which was at the instance of Barrister Shittu initiative will facilitate an expected 70 per cent broadband penetration by 2021.

The loan is expected to help in making the plan to make solar-based mobile telephone sites available in the country’s vast rural areas turn a reality. Officials of the communication ministry privy to the details of the plan said no fewer than 1,000 sites can be built within 12 months once the two countries seal the agreement. The loan will be devoted to financing Nigeria’s Rural Broadband Network and the erection of robust masts that will rely on alternative power sources, particularly , the solar energy. This was sequel to the determination by the Federal Government to extend telephone services to the rural communities at relatively affordable cost while also ensuring that identified bottlenecks experienced in the urban areas are minimized.

According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, stated that broadband subscription stood at 63.2 million while broadband penetration witnessed over 31% increment in May, this year.

‘I am optimistic that if we put all the current efforts together, in another two years we should be able to attain 70 per cent. My ambition is two years rather than the five years that is being postulated’ the former minister submitted at a conference organized by the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria in February, 2019. The minister said this in anticipated the offer of the $100m loan from India .

“The current mast being used by the telecom operators is very expensive to maintain. They rely on electricity, and we do not have electricity all around the country. So we have a situation where somebody who wants to build a mast of N40m will also have to acquire a 200KVA generator and fuel it. For this reason, we have redirected our effort at getting solar-based masts which will also have 50km radius so that if you have a land area of 100km, you will have two masts. It is cheap to maintain and all operators can depend on it, rather than having the rural operators to construct their own masts or lay their own cables. ” he noted back in February.

“We are doing all of these, and I believe that within the next two months we should have an approval from the Indian Government for work to commence on deploying this to all rural areas in Nigeria”
Shittu had said at the conference.

Figures from the NCC stated that there are about 120 million internet users with most of them living in the urban areas. Internet penetration is said to be a little above 33 per cent while the commission is working with the National Broadcasting Commission to introduce TV White Space to further deepen broadband penetration. Although the Nigerian Communications industry has
in recent times attracted huge investments , experts however, believe that a robust telecommunications network is important for economic growth in the country. Indeed, the Executive Vice Chairman , NCC, Prof. Umar Dandatta, had also at the 2019 Telecom Executives and Regulator Forum in Lagos, last week, noted that while the present portfolio of $68 billion investment in Nigeria is huge, it is by no means adequate for one of the fastest growing telecommunications markets in the world.

He thus, canvassed an increase in infrastructure deployment by the service providers in order to meet the increasing demand for telecom services. ‘We have about 40 million Nigerians yet to be reached with basic infrastructure and services. The roadmap by the NCC for broadband has created new frontiers for investment. The quest for data and social media as well as the increasing value added services created new frontiers for investments. Therefore, the desire for investment in the sector will continue to grow as the size of the network increases. The NCC has consistently provided the enabling environment for growth and a level playing field for competition in the industry’ he said. The Presidential Committee on Broadband, had in 2013 unveiled a five-year strategy to drive internet and broadband penetration and scale up the nation’s broadband growth by 30 per cent. The five-year National Broadband Plan, (2013-2018) was designed to accelerate high speed internet and mass broadband access for more economic gains in Nigeria.