- Internet Penetration Dims as Millions Lose Access
The Federal Government’s target of 80 per cent Internet and 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018 may become elusive as about five million Nigerians have dropped off the Internet radar in the last one year.
Specifically, the number of Internet users in the country fell from 97 million in December 2015 to 91.8 million as at December 2016.
Except things get better and government gets more serious with the implementation of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), more subscribers may not eventually have access to the Internet. The situation has also led to a fall in the Average Revenue per User (ARPU) by 15.7 per cent.
ARPU is a measure used primarily by consumer communications and networking companies to calculate revenue made from a subscriber. It is defined as the total revenue divided by the number of subscribers.
The ARPU, which dropped in 2016, fell in response to the economic realities in the country. An operator said that subscribers were generally spending less than they used to.
Investigations have shown that about 40 million Nigerians, residing in some 207 communities in the country still don’t have access to basic telecommunications services.
While these gaps persist, the aggressiveness of the states in charging exorbitant fees as Right of Way (RoW), against the collective agreed levy of N145 per meter, is another challenge observers projected may hamper the progress being made.
But the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, while speaking with The Guardian, assured that the country would meet next year’s target, stressing that some efforts were already ongoing to ensure success.
The country has in the last few years attained a 14 per cent penetration, but relying on a UNESCO report, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, put the mobile broadband penetration at 20.9 per cent. Market observers have, however, posited that even at the acclaimed 20 per cent penetration, data services remain very poor. They observed that for both 2G and 3G connections, not to talk of the much-touted 4G/LTE service offerings, “it is still a snail speed across all the networks.”
Indeed, subscribers who have migrated to the 4G/LTE services in the country have expressed dissatisfaction with the offerings from the mobile network operators.
Since October 4, 2016 when indigenous service provider, Globacom Networks launched the service, shortly followed by South Africa-based MTN on the 6th, and the United Arab Emirates’ Etisalat on the 14th, subscribers have been trooping to the nearest shops of their service providers to migrate to the new wonder generation fast speed network, but their expectations have not been met.
The service may not even get perfected in Nigeria until 2020. The reasons adduced for this are that the 4G/LTE is still evolutionary, and that the infrastructure to run it is still very much inadequate in the country.
Nigeria is home to four submarine cables, including MainOne, Glo1; WACS and SAT3, with all having about 11 terabytes bandwidth capacity, but last mile infrastructure, multiple taxation, vandalism, among others, have continued to limit expansion of broadband services to other parts of the country.
Going by the NBP put up under the pioneer Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, to which the current administration promised commitment, by 2014, the country was expected to have built fibre infrastructure across the country, introduced incentives for building of last mile wire line infrastructure to homes, estates, and commercial premises and extended international cable landing points to other coastal states. But The Guardian reliably learnt that only 15 per cent of this plan has been achieved with one year to the 2018 date.
Nigeria was also expected to have, between 2014 and 2015, ensured all new cell sites become LTE compatible; spread 3G services to at least 50 per cent of the population; completed digital dividend spectrum migration; and released more spectrum for LTE.
But because the country failed to migrate from analogue to digital in June 2015 due to lack of fund and the needed political will under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, the digital dividend spectrum in the 700/800MHz could not be transferred from the broadcast industry to telecoms operators.
Furthermore, in 2017, the NBP timetable showed that the country was expected to have wireless broadband infrastructure upgrade and expansion in phase two, and expected to spread 3G/LTE to at least 70 per cent of the population, but information showed that lack of access to foreign exchange by operators will limit their ability to order equipment needed to enhance roll-out of services.
According to the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, the steep devaluation of naira versus the United States dollar is serious and impacting negatively on the Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) programme of many operators in the telecoms industry.
Another target of the NBP for 2018, was the provision of wireless broadband infrastructure upgrade and spread of 3G/LTE to at least 80 per cent of the population, but there are skepticisms about the possibility of achieving this, especially because of the exorbitant levies by states and their agents on telecommunications operators, as it relates to RoW.
According to a document obtained titled “The Resolution of the National Economic Council (NEC) on Multiple Taxation, Levies and Charges on ICT Infrastructure in Nigeria”, dated March 21, 2013, the states had agreed to an administrative charge of N145 per meter for every build and N20 per meter yearly recurring fee for existing duct with five years of review on RoW.
While the Lagos State government allows an operator to pay N500 per meter for RoW, prices from other states totally differ. Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Delta charge N6, 500, N5, 200, N4, 748 and N4, 600. They remained the highest. Anambra, Kano, Bayelsa, Niger, Ekiti, Sokoto, Kaduna, Ondo, Cross River charge N1, 270, N1, 200, N3000, N1, 000, N3, 500, N3, 000, N1, 130, N3, 000 and N2, 250.
According to the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), these charges are high and they will definitely affect fast broadband penetration.
On the way forward for telecoms operators, ALTON’s Head of Operations, Gbolahan Awonuga, said service providers’ request that duty tax waivers should be given to them should be given consideration. “We are finding things tough due to the current naira status and Nigeria ecosystem situation, we are not isolated from the impact. Telecoms operators should be allowed access to forex at lesser rate,” he said.
Microsoft Announces Teams Essentials to Assist Small Businesses
Microsoft has announced Teams Essentials, the independent Microsoft Teams service which has been designed to cater specifically to smaller businesses.
The newly announced Teams Essentials provides smaller businesses with a professional, but more importantly affordable meetings solution to encourage productivity, collaboration and connection in a hybrid work environment.
Jared Spataro, the Corporate Vice President of Modern work at Microsoft said that the company is aware of the difficulties faced by small businesses in the past 20 months, stating their need to show an extreme flexibility to adapt to changes usually with limited tools and resources. He then said that Teams Essentials has been built specifically to address the needs which small businesses have, empowering them so that they can thrive in the new era of work.
Some of the features provided by Microsoft’s Teams Essentials are: Unlimited group meetings which may last up to 30 hours, Meetings which may contain about 300 people and a cloud storage of 10GB for each user.
The new Teams Essentials service also has both existing and new capabilities in its free version to aid Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs): Invitations only require an email address (users are not required to sign in or install Teams), you can maintain continuity with chats, new integration with Google calendar makes scheduling meetings easier, there are professional meeting tools like meeting lobbies and virtual backgrounds.
You can also start a group project and host meetings with anyone, while assigning tasks to teammates and can also create polls to receive feedback as quickly as possible all in a single hub.
According to LinkedIn, SME job postings are up about 81% year over year compared to that of November 2020. Small businesses really need the flexibility to be able to hire from anywhere, as well as the technology that can make the way for new employee workstyles, like synchronous and asynchronous collaboration.
Meta, Formerly Facebook, Cryptocurrency Head to Quit the Company
Facebook parent company Meta’s head of cryptocurrency David Marcus has recently announced that he will be leaving the company by the end of the year.
The departure of David Marcus comes after the company’s trial and failure to initiate a cryptocurrency which could be used to send money online to any person in the world through Facebook products, according to a report from CNBC.
David Marcus joined Meta, which was formerly referred to as Facebook in August 2014 after serving as the President of Paypal for two years. His initial role at Facebook then was as the Vice President in charge of the social media company’s Messenger service. He then went ahead to leave the Messenger division, launching Facebook’s financial projects unit in May 2018.
The financial projects division announced the company’s Libra blockchain currency, as well as the company’s Calibra digital wallet in June 2019. It proceeded to say that the company held hope that both announced projects would be able to go live in 2020.
However, neither of the two projects was able to go live in 2020 as Facebook went on battling very firm backlash against its cryptocurrency aspirations from lawmakers and regulators all over the world. The company then went ahead to release its own digital wallet which was renamed Novi in October. The digital currency has since been renamed Diem and is now run by an independent association but still remains unreleased to the general public.
In a tweet thread in which Marcus announced his departure, Marcus stated that there was still a lot to do right after the launch of Novi and his passion for change in payments and financial systems remained. He however stated that his “entrepreneurial DNA” had been pushing him for too long just for him to ignore it.
Marcus’s exit is not isolated, as other key executives who were at the forefront of Facebook’s ill luck in the blockchain left the company as well.
YouTube to Back Two Nigerian Organizations Working to Improve Africa’s Creative Economy
YouTube Music confirmed on Tuesday that it will be committed to providing proper backing to African creative voices. It announced that it will do this through provision of financial grants, capacity building as well as advisory to two Nigerian organizations that build up creative talent and export it to other countries.
The Head of YouTube’s Music for Sub-Saharan Africa, Addy Awofisayo stated that iManage Africa Entertainment Limited and Briteswan would be receiving support from YouTube for its backing for the development of the creative industry in Africa.
Awofisayo said at a YouTube event which she joined virtually that the support provided by YouTube was simply to assist the selected organizations in ramping up their initiatives to help develop music creatives across the continent. She also went ahead to say that the plan was set to have a direct impact on an estimated 300 participants in the initiatives which these organizations spearhead.
She talked up Briteswan’s ‘The Audiogirl Initiative’ as one which looks to empower women economically by closing the existing gender gap in the music creation area. She then went ahead to talk about iManage Africa Entertainment Limited as an initiative which is focused on building up a well-informed and more empowered workforce for the African entertainment industry, especially the music sector.
Awofisayo also said that the access to the internet has brought out more opportunities for these African creatives to showcase their talents on a global stage, to a global audience which has in turn created job opportunities which can help boost national economies.
She said that in Nigeria, the creative industry accounted for close to N730 billion of the country’s entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) back in 2020.
Awofisayo mentioned that YouTube has over the past few years been helpful in giving a spotlight to the African culture while also exporting it to the global audiences. She put forward the example of Burna Boy, who won a Grammy with his acclaimed “Twice as Tall” album and has been nominated for a third time. She stated that Burna Boy was given the spotlight by YouTube as an Artist on the Rise in 2018.
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