The Nigeria Com (2020), an annual event for accelerating Nigeria’s digital economy, is ongoing with several panel sessions and discussion forums being held at the event. This year, the fourth industrial revolution drive is holding virtually, with several industry stakeholders participating via the digital platform built for the event. During one of the sessions, Mr Austin Nwaulune, the Director of Spectrum Administration at Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), disclosed that Nigeria’s satellite internet connectivity dreams are still far from successful.
The panel session was tagged “How Can Satellite Unlock Rural Connectivity and Socioeconomic Equality in Nigeria”, and was moderated by Mr Temidayo Oniosun, the Managing Director of Space in Africa.
Also in the session was Dr Abimbola Alale, the CEO of Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited (NigComSat), and Mr Hendrick van der Berg, the Senior Sales Director at Intelsat, a private communications satellite service provider.
Mr Nwaulune, while giving an update on the progress made by NCC towards ensuring adequate connection in Nigeria, mentioned that Nigeria currently has 42gb of landed satellite capacity and only 8gb are utilised. In comparison, Nigeria enjoys 40tb of landed terrestrial capacity, with less than 4tb utilised.
While talking about Satellite capacity, he said that “the percentage of total landed satellite capacity (in Nigeria) is 0.2%”. He added further that satellite connectivity is contributing only 0.2% to Nigeria’s internet connectivity.
Mr Hendrick, while speaking about the problems involved with access, noted that electricity, roads, and other social infrastructure affect how broadband reach rural communities in Nigeria. Nigeria is still largely dependent on fibre connectivity, and only networked places can have access to such connectivity. Without roads and electricity, it is difficult to reach rural communities.
Commenting on the challenges, Dr Alale said that NigComSat is providing interventions to help fulfil Nigeria’s internet plan, according to the 2025 connectivity roadmap Nigeria is working with. She adds that NigComSat is collaborating with other operators to enhance communication across the country.
On NCC’s part, Mr Nwaulune noted that they are making deliberate policies to encourage the facilitation of satellite-based services in Nigeria. “We have licensed a couple of state satellite segment operators, giving them landing permits for free”. However, he emphasised in his presentation that “we do not allow foreign satellite operators to provide service to the last mile. They provide to licensee commissions that take these services to the rural community. We have two gateway earth stations, 160 space crafts licensed in additional NigComSat.” He included that they are currently planning to access LEO through some of the stations.
On Mr Hendrick’s part, he mentioned that Intelsat is committed to promoting expertise in the sector, but they are still faced with costs of maintaining satellites and the inadequacy of infrastructures to boot.
Dr Alale, however, made an assurance that by 2025, Nigeria will enjoy 100% coverage, following the roadmap. She said this will be possible through renewed efforts on ensuring that fibre connectivity travels across the country. “In the last broadband plan for Nigeria, satellite coverage wasn’t included, but fibre cannot achieve 100%.”
“100% coverage is achievable if we follow the roadmap. The roadmap promises at least 90% for 3g/4g fibre connectivity and satellite will cover 10%.”
“We are preparing for access to LEO and Balloon connectivity. NCC is helping licensed companies access the market”, Mr Nwaulune adds. The session ends with Mr Hendrick affirming Intelsat’s commitment to contributing to satellite connectivity across Africa.
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