Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has assured Nigerians that all hands are on deck to ensure a significant reduction in the cost of data by 2025.
During an interview in Lagos, Prof. Umar gave the assurance on reduction in data cost and also said that telecoms subscribers’ expectations from NCC are high and they want the commission to do more and diligently look into the area of fast data depletion.
While speaking, Prof. Danbatta said, “NCC is already working hard to address their concerns. We did our benchmarking recently and we discovered that the cost of 1 Gigabyte of data has come down below N500, which represents a 50 percent reduction from what it used to be.
“There is however a target to reduce data cost to N390 per Gigabyte by the year 2025 and we are almost there. The target, as enshrined in the National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) is to achieve N390 per Gigabyte in the cost of data by the end of 2025, but the recent benchmarking that the NCC did, showed that the cost of data has reduced to more than 50 percent from what it used to be at the beginning of 2020.
“For us as industry regulator, this is a good sign that data cost is coming down and that the issue data depletion as experienced by subscribers, is gradually been addressed.
“NCC has instituted a forensic audit on the cost of data, just like we did with the cost of Short Message Service (SMS) on a particular mobile operator, where we discovered that the operator unlawfully surcharged its subscribers to the tune of over N100 million and we have asked the particular operator to make refunds immediately and the operator has commenced refund to the affected subscribers. This could have gone unnoticed, if not for the quick intervention of NCC. We have plans to even extend the forensic audit on SMS to other telecoms operators.
“So like we did for SME, we are doing the same for data to find out the reason for fast data depletion and it will be carried out across all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). By the time the audit is completed and the result is out, perhaps we will have better information of what is happening in the data segment, as it relates to fast data depletion”.
He added: “The telecoms industry is still fraught with the challenge of telecoms infrastructure deficit because of the existing clusters of access gaps in the country, which NCC is fast reducing.
“Infrastructure deficit will deprive telecoms subscribers of the right quality of service that they deserve and the NCC is working hard to address infrastructure deficit in the country in order to boost access and connectivity”
He further said that NCC needs to act in line with the government policies on infrastructure and also continue to deploy broadband infrastructure in order to solve the challenges of congestion on the networks as well as ensure the right speed of accessing telecoms services.
According to Danbatta, “Government is looking at the additional deployment of fiber optic cables in the next four years, in addition to what is currently on the ground.
“The NCC is desirous that telecoms services are pervasive and accessible to all Nigerians, irrespective of their location, even in remote and isolated communities. We need adequate infrastructure to address quality of service across networks.”
“Speed in accessing the internet is very important, hence the National Broadband Plan recommended two digits target of 25MB per sec for urban areas and 10MB per sec for rural areas of the country.
“Another area of target as recommended by the National Broadband Plan, that will enhance the quality of service, is the broadband penetration, and it recommended a target of 70 percent penetration by 2025, but there is a recent presidential order that we should attain 60 percent broadband penetration by 2023”. He added.
Prof. Danbatta explained that broadband penetration has deepened to 45.93 percent as of October 2020, from less than 6 percent it was in 2015.
Given the current statistics, Danbatta is convinced that Nigeria will exceed the projected broadband penetration of 60 percent by 2023 and 70 percent by 2025.
5G Nationwide Deployment is 97 Percent Ready – NCC
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that the commission is 97 percent ready for the deployment and implementation of 5G in the country.
NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Professor Umar Danbatta confirmed the commission’s readiness on Thursday, October 14, at the annual African Tech Alliance Forum (AFRITECH) 2021, held in Lagos with the theme: “Embracing Changes and Digital Transformation in the New Normal.”
Revealing that the NCC is working with operators to implement a number of initiatives to ensure network expansion, he also noted that this paradigm shift in communication has led to a significant increase in network connectivity requirements as a result of an unprecedented upsurge in internet traffic, occasioned by the use of a plethora of web applications.
Danbatta further announced that there is also a plan to auction spectrum in 3.5 gigahertz (Ghz) band to operators for the deployment of 5G network in Nigeria.
He said; “Already, we are set for the auction of some spectrum slots in 3.5GHz band. The other day I was at the National assembly, I informed the senate that we were 95 percent ready for 5G. Today as we speak, I am delighted to tell you that we are already at 97 percent completion.
“Consistent with our mandate as enshrined in the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA-2003) and other guiding legislations, we have been working to ensure the penetration of broadband services in line with Federal Government’s targets, as contained in Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP), 2020 to 2025.
“The Committee set up to auction the Spectrum has already developed an Information Memorandum (IM) which is already published for inputs and comments from all industry stakeholders. Prior to this, a 5G deployment plan was developed and we have since secured Federal Government’s approval.”
He stated that the trend has made remote work, virtual meetings, virtual studios, and virtual healthcare delivery, among others, the new normal.
The NCC boss was represented at the event by the Director, Spectrum Administration at the commission, Engineer Oluwatoyin Asaju and the commission’s Director of Public Affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde.
Flutterwave Eyes $3 Billion Valuation Ahead of Another Fundraising
Flutterwave, one of Nigeria’s tech unicorns, is presently in talks to raise an additional fund at a valuation of $3 billion or even more, according to a Bloomberg post.
The figure would triple Flutterwave’s last valuation of $1 billion.
Operating from both Lagos, Nigeria and San Francisco, US, Flutterwave held discussions with potential investors recently, the people familiar with the ongoing discussions stated. They explained that terms of funding are yet to be finalised and that it is likely to change.
The talks were led by the company Chief Executive Officer Olugbenga Agboola. In March, the company announced it has hits unicorn status after raising $170 million in a round led by Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global Management LLC. Other investors were DST Global, Greycroft, Insight Partners and Salesforce Ventures.
In the same March, the company announced a partnership with Paypal Inc. to enable its global customers to pay African merchants using Flutterwave’s platform.
Founded in 2016, Flutterwave facilitates cross-border transactions across Africa for companies including Facebook Inc., Uber Technologies Inc. and Booking.com. As of March, the startup said it had processed more than 140 million transactions worth over $9 billion in aggregate and that its revenue had risen at a compound annual growth rate of 225 percent between 2018 and 2020.
Nigeria’s Neobank Sparkle Raises $3.1 Million
One of Nigeria’s leading digital banks, Sparkle has raised $3.1 million in a seed round led by Leadway Assurance, Trium Network and other high net worth individuals to scale operations, according to the startup’s CEO, Uzoma Dozie.
The new fundraising was after the CEO raised $2 million in a pre-seed round from friends and family within the past year. Sparkle has now raised a combined $5 million.
Speaking on the startup, the CEO said Sparkle is different in the sense that it combines financial services with lifestyle to evolve with Nigeria’s need digital lifestyle.
He said “We’re quite different in a way because instead of separating financial services from lifestyle, we’ve tried to bring them together, especially as we’ve seen that more people are beginning to lead more digitally-led lives,” CEO Uzoma Dozie stated in an interview with Techcrunch.
“It means that we don’t see our customers from accounts, payments, deposits or credit perspectives, but from how can we help them do what they want to do at any particular time.”
Unlike other digital banks operating in Nigeria, Sparkle is serving both individuals and businesses on its platform. While digital banks like Kuda, VBank, Carbon, etc are offering tailored services to only individuals, Brass and Prospa are the other two serving businesses and individuals like Sparkle.
“As a small business, I’m not carrying my bank account on my mobile. I’m carrying my business. So we are bringing everything about your business into one place so that you can do business wherever you are,” Dozie said.
“For individuals, we’re bringing everything into one place so that you can do what you want to do quite easily wherever you are. But the bottom line is that we’re providing you with the information that you need to take spontaneous decisions.”
With its microfinance bank license, the digital bank has partnered with Visa to ensure customers can make in-person and online payments. Other partnerships are with companies like Network International and PwC Nigeria.
Since launching in 2020, Sparkle has opened accounts for over 40,000 individual users and 2,000 businesses. The digital bank is however charging individual customers small fees to keep their accounts operational and plan to charge businesses for most features except taxation services.
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