The quest to deepen broadband penetration in Nigeria through licensing of infrastructure companies (InfraCos) has hit the wall as the licensed companies are unable to pay Right of Way (RoW) charges being demanded by each state of the federation. The amount needed to cover Nigeria with fibre optic cable to provide broadband access to all Nigerians now sum up to N480 billion, according to the operators.
While the charges vary from state to state, the average cost of Right of Way is said to be N4000 per meter. According to Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria requires 120, 000 kilometres of fibre cable to achieve the target of deepening broadband penetration across the country, which would cost the operators a total of N480 billion to get RoW permits.
The charges are also in defiance of a 2013 National Economic Council (NEC) recommendation of N145 per meter fee for Right of Way across states. This recommendation was made as part of solutions towards ensuring that Nigeria achieves the 30 per cent penetration target set out in the National Broadband Plan (NBP).
The Federal Government had launched a five-year NBP in 2013 with a target of achieving 30 per cent broadband penetration by the end of 2018. Part of the plans includes the establishment of InfraCos by NCC to deploy broadband infrastructure across the country. However, three years after the first set of the InfraCos had been licensed, they have not been able to deploy the infrastructure due to high RoW charges. The licensed InfraCos, now six in number to cover six geo-political zones, are still waiting for interventions that would lead to reduction of the current RoW charges. The country has also missed its target of 30 per cent penetration as the penetration level is currently at 22 per cent, according to NCC.
Speaking at a meeting with broadband stakeholders organised by NCC, Head, Regulatory Services, MainOne; Mr Ifeloju Alakija, said the current RoW charges made it impossible for the InfraCos to roll out. MainOne was licensed as InfraCo for Lagos in 2015. According to Alakija, at an average cost of N4000 per meter, MainOne would have to pay N12 billion to lay cable across 3,000 kilometres in Lagos. “This is apart from the cost of the cable, cost of electricity and even cost of securing the cables. This is unrealistic” he said.
However, NCC’s Director of Technical Standards and Alternate Chairman, Broadband Implementation and Monitoring Committee, Engr. Bako wakil, said the NCC had recently met with all the state Governors through the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) to appeal to them on the need to revert to the recommended N145 per meter for RoW. According to him, all the Governors had agreed to adopt the price, but none has implemented it yet. “Our worry now is that by next year, the current set of Governors that agreed may not be in office again and we will have to start talking to new Governors afresh. The EVC has also been meeting with Governors one on one and we will continue to do that until they realise the importance of broadband and the need to remove the hurdles” he said.
Meanwhile, Ondo State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr Abdulsalam Taofiq, who represented the State at the meeting, said the country would need a law to compel the states to charge only N145 recommended by NEC. He advised NCC to send a bill to the National Assembly to that effect, adding that without a law states may not reduce the charges as they all want to generate more revenue.
Also speaking, an official of Ogun State Ministry of Environment, who represented the state, Mr Adejobi Mayowa, advised the telecom regulator to meet with each of the state governors separately to sort out the issue. According to him, the response given at the NGF might just be political response as many would not take any action on it.