" ITREALMS: Between Bandwidth, Poor Internet Service

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Between Bandwidth, Poor Internet Service

By: Remmy Nweke

Have you ever one day stopped to ask yourself or the cyber café managers why someInternet users enter cafes and come out stressed?A lot could be attributed to such shadow experiments either by the Internet ServiceProvider (ISPs) or the café medium, depending on the level of users’ economicempowerment.

For instance, the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) sector, hascontinued to decry the epileptic power supply by the National Electric PowerAuthority (NEPA) which has forced some stakeholders to tag NEPA as the “unseensabotour” to their infrastructure decay; built and installed by either individual orcorporate organizations.

Lack of national infrastructure is another thorn in the flesh of stakeholders as far aspoor Internet service provision is concerned. Experts were also worried on thecompelling problems which include poor telephone services to lack of E1 lines andthe top on the shelf is bandwidth allocation and availability.

They cited an instance of poor telephone usage by most home users nowadays viadial-up connection, because at times in a day the connection to the Internet could notbe achieved due to faulty telephone lines.

Managing Director of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) firm, Nigeria On-LineLimited, Mr. Laleye Alao, attributed most problems between ISPs and their clienteleeither individual or corporate to poor telephone services, because “if my client, maybe, cyber café operator, could reach me and I could not respond in terms ofconnection, definitely there is problem”.

This was the reason adduced by some ISPs which introduce dedicated Internet accessto those who could pay, which usually is on the high side and therefore is notaffordable to all who wish to have a good service delivery on their systems.

Non-availability of E1 lines from national operators, such as the NigerianTelecommunications Limited (NITEL), was identified as one headache that almostcrippled the nation’s telecommunication industry as operators who applied for the E1lines were not given as at when due.

E1 lines are usually technical lines issued by major operators and accommodate about30 sub-lines which could be deployed by any industry operator for purposes ofinterconnection depending on the value of their licenses.

Champion Infotel discoveredthat a key issue in engendering the level of Internet service delivery is bandwidthdeployed by an individual or corporate for Internet access offered by the ISPs.

In computing, bandwidth, according to HelpwidthPCs.com, refers to the capacity of acommunications line or channel to transmit or receive information. It could also referto how much traffic a web hosting company have and will allow each month for datatransfer, when in this context bandwidth is measured in bits, kilobytes, megabytes andgigabytes.A bit technically is usually the smallest unit of information that could be used in acomputer.

Eight bits is equated to a byte with computing information worth 1024bytes, thus making a kilobyte in measuring of information and a million bytes ismeasured as megabytes, while a billion bytes is known as gigabytes.Like in any business setting, bandwidth therefore is seen as the “hot cake” to marketwhen it comes to offering and receiving good Internet service; the bigger the capacityof bandwidth an operator as ISP or cyber café cum small scale enterprises havemedium, the better for them, which means more customers on their network orbusiness centers.

According to Mr. Chris Stern of CS Designs, bandwidth means a lot to differentpeople including webmasters, whose job entails ensuring that the website of a givencompany is updated regularly or daily as the case may be, notwithstanding if the webhostingfirm has problem or not.

He described bandwidth as the resource a site uses on the computer whose server thecompany website is housed on. Noting that each time a file like a page, image oranimation and so on is loaded from a site, it is using a certain amount of resources orbandwidth from the computer it is on.

He likened bandwidth to electricity refrigeratoruses to run.Mr. Stern emphasized that nowadays ISPs deploy servers that set a limit to theamount or bandwidth a site may use each month and after that limit is reached, thesite would be closed and the webmaster sent a large bill that must be paid before theycould open their site again.

On the other hand, the term “bandwidth” is used merelyby electrical engineers to refer to the frequency range of an analog signal. And often,according to The IT Store, especially in the Internet community, the term is usedloosely to refer to channel capacity, or the bit rate of a link.

Internet Guide, also described bandwidth as the amount of data that could betransferred to your computer while connected to the Internet for a given time. Thehigher your bandwidth while connected to the Internet, the quicker web pages willload and download.

Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Koochi Communications Limited, Mr. JulianMadubuko, did not agree less and said that was why his firm conducted due diligencebefore entering the nation’s Internet provision market.

He decried the level of Internetinvestment in the country and called for a change of heart on the part of the investorsso as to develop the market. He attributed this to one of the reasons behind poorinternet service delivery in the country, saying it “is a financial one”.

According to him, lack of investment and investors are the bane of the nation’sdevelopment of robust internet and telecommunications infrastructure. Nothing thatthe government and financial sectors of the economy are yet to embrace the Internetto attract investors’ so as to push development in this area.

Citing an instance of theWestern hemisphere, he said that during the dotcom days, trillions of dollars wereraised in Western Europe and North America fueling companies, which had aninsatiable demand for internet services to invest in the region.

“This spurred on the telcos and their investors to spend huge amounts to buildinfrastructure to support this demand” he said, adding that beyond the cyber caféenvironment in Nigeria “we are not innovative enough to create new and otheravenues to provide Internet services and encourage usage, which means thatinvestment opportunity are not moving beyond the point it was two years ago”.

He called for extension of this mark beyond its entry point which is the cyber café. Tobring about an improved Internet service delivery, Mr. Madubuko also said, these arein two folds, based on content and self service to drive growth and usage possibilitiesamong the communities, the size that investors would appreciate to stick their fund.

These communities, he stressed, would continually require more and more bandwidthwhich the telecommunication companies and financiers would not resist by providingthe avenue to raise the sums required to build the infrastructure to satisfy theirdemand for bandwidth.

In a nutshell, bandwidth is a technical term for a technicalsubject which word originated from radio technology, and stands between Internetuser and the amount of information that could be used at a particular time.

This equally was attributed to the reasons in some offices, cyber cafes and evenhomes, some information such as pictures and graphics take longer time to download,yet some never come up, depending on the link(s).

Although, some of these officespay between N15, 000 and N35, 000 while single users pay between N5, 000 and N7,000 per month for Internet access to ISPs who also pay to those who they aremarketing for handsomely.

As Nigerians await when the regulatory authority, the Nigerian CommunicationsCommission (NCC) and the stakeholders under the aegis of the Internet ServiceProviders Association of Nigeria (ISPAN) and Association of Cyber-café andTelephone Operators of Nigeria (ATCON), would come up to make the NigerianInternet community smile, users are simply being milked, for the sake of keeping datewith Information Age embodied in the Internet.

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