27/07/2010 02:26:32
Nigeria may become leading supplier of bandwidth in sub-Saharan Africa
Nigeria may indeed be positioning herself to becoming the most important supplier of critical international bandwidth in sub-Saharan Africa, analysts have said. Given the number of submarine cables expected to berth on the country’s shores in 2011, industry experts say that Nigeria could provide the broadband capacity needed to expand internet access in the region.
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According to them, Nigeria’s imminent bandwidth boom has created a viable opportunity for telecommunications companies (telcos) operating in the country to generate significant revenue from supplying bandwidth to other countries in the sub-Saharan region that are heavily dependent on expensive satellite (VSAT) communications.

Steve EvansMeanwhile, MainOne Cable has announced Etisalat as the first telecommunications company to switch on its network on the strength of the cutting-edge technology recently launched in the country by MainOne. Etisalat also announced that new and existing customers on Etisalat network are set to enjoy enhanced service as the innovative telecommunications company is now live on the submarine fibre optic cable system. Etisalat CEO, Steven Evans said that with the latest technology, customers on Etisalat network will have the benefit of increased broadband and enhanced data services.

BusinessDay gathered that over 11.2 terabits of bandwidth would be available to the Nigerian market by 2011. The bandwidth boom is being powered by West African Cable System (WACS) - an initiative operated by nine countries (including Nigeria’s MTN Group), which comes with a high capacity submarine cable system linking Europe, West Africa and South Africa, and will provide over 3.8 terabits per second of bandwidth.

Furthermore, Glo-1 which is ready for commissioning and has customised services to address the requirements of a wide segment of clients - including telecommunications operators, oil and gas companies, manufacturers, education and medical institutions, will provide 2.5 terabits of bandwidth.

In addition, Main One’s commercial director, Bernard Logan, has announced plans for the provision of outstanding 4.92 terabits per second of bandwidth. The outstanding provision will push well above the broadband capacity of existing competitors. Lanre Ajayi, president, Nigerian Internet Group (NIG), who spoke to BusinessDay on telephone, said Nigeria could become the number one supplier of international capacity in Africa if more competition is encouraged in the cable market.

“We already have two cables now. We are expecting more, WACS and ACE cables are expected to berth in the country in 2011. With this, I can say that Nigeria will become one of the leading suppliers of bandwidth in Africa, outside South Africa. Presently, South Africa has an advantage over us because they have a number of cables coming in from the east and west coast. I think we still need to encourage more competition in the industry for us to achieve that pinnacle of success”, he explained.

Echoing the same view, Kenneth Omeruo, an internet analyst, stated: “If more cables continue to land in the country, then Nigeria will attain that height. You see, most of these cables coming into Nigeria will provide wholesale bandwidth to neighbouring African retail carriers who will buy a portion of bandwidth and also sell this capacity to end-users. These end-users will, in turn, be able to access the internet at international broadband speeds and at more affordable prices, creating a wealth of opportunities for important sectors such as education, healthcare and government services”.

Giving further isight into the complexities inherent in the submarine cable market, Emmanuel Ekuwem, former president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), pointed out that the possibility of Nigeria reaching that position would depend strongly on sound business plan and heightened investments in fibre optic cable infrastructure. “Nigeria can only supply countries on the coastline. But for countries in land-locked areas like Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, the question will be how to push the bandwidth to the hinterlands". Glo 1 and Main One will definitely be looking at doing business with telecom companies (telcos) in these countries. But this will also imply that huge investments will be made in VSAT technology and cross-national terrestrial fibre backbone. I know most telcos will want to stick with fibre than satellite technology, therein lies the problem.

“Telecommunications companies in Nigeria will have to get licenses to offer these services. They will have to partner strategically with the telecom companies in these African countries. Besides, it will be cost effective for these countries to leverage on these emerging cable systems like Main One and Glo -1 than to make huge investment in laying a cable from Europe to their respective countries. It all boils down to proper business plan and further investment in cable infrastructure”, he explained.

Muhammed Rudman, chief executive officer, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) who spoke to BusinessDay was stoutly in support of Ekuwem’s view that Nigeria’s prospect of becoming a leading supplier of international bandwidth capacity in sub-Saharan Africa will depend on investments in cross-border fibre networks. “This could be possible if Nigeria becomes more proactive and starts to invest in terrestrial transmission cables that can service landlocked countries in the region. This is very critical because most of these cables will have landing points in some of the countries on the region.”


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