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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nigeria needs unique telecom backbone – Ahmed-Rufai


The Managing Director, Nigeria Communications Satellite (NigComSAT) Limited, Mr. Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai, has identified that Nigeria needs a unique telecommunications backbone infrastructure.

Just as the nation has achieved about 65 per cent of replacing process of Nigeria’s SAT-1, which was de-orbited in November 2008 due to faulty battery discharge.

Ahmed-Rufai who spoke in a chat with newsmen in Lagos, last Saturday, also condemned the concept of the government allowing every ‘Dick and Harry’ in the name of operators to build individualized telecommunications infrastructure in the country under the logic of a liberalized market.

According to him, what the country needs most importantly is a unique backbone infrastructure for every other operator to plug-in easily and strategically to drive the cost of telecommunications on downward curve for the ordinary citizens’ benefit.

Additionally, he said, that a unique telecom backbone infrastructure for the country would give boost to the national security, stressing that it is absolutely wrong to favour various telecom operators to build their own backbone network rig as obtained today in the country.

“It’s wrong to allow an operator to build a backbone for its own use,” Rufai declared.

He noted that in every other market either liberalized or not, no government that knows its onion allows individual operators that right.

This, he said, is because it poses a national security threat when it matters most, insisting that in other climes, every other operator have to plug into the national unique telecom backbone infrastructure.

As said by him, if the Federal government really want to make impact with its Vision 20-2020, it has pay special attention to satellite communications to engender ease communications among the citizens and enable the government to monitor progress and otherwise in the country, especially negative influences.

The crucial question every leader of this country should be concerned is how Nigerians could be connected to communicate comfortably.

Giving update on the de-orbited replacement SAT-1, NigcomSAT boss said that several satellites have since then been de-orbited, illustrating this with regular car accidents on the road, which is unpredicted.

Essentially, he said, that Nigeria and Chinese authorities have taken cogent steps to remedy that, maintaining that before this time next year, the replacement satellite must have been completed 100 per cent.

SAT-1, he noted was deployed by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in the transmission of live broadcast of the 2007 presidential handover between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and late Alhaji Umar Musa YarAdua.

He further paid tribute to Obasanjo for seeing the vision in establishing communication satellite for the country in 2006.

In a related development, Ahmed-Rufai while speaking at the 2010 lecture series of African Telecom Hall of Fame in Lagos as lead speaker on Telecom Revolution in Nigeria, weekend, harped on the way forward, saying that should Nigeria increase
investments in telecommunications, there are key benefits awaiting such a step.

These, he enlisted to include that it would increase in telecommunication growth rate to a minimum 13.5 per cent annually, such that 10 per cent of the rural communities is served in the short term, 30 per cent midterm and 60 per cent long term.

Also, he outlined that increased investments would achieve a tele-density of over 10 per cent, quoting the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standard and a tele-distance of less than five kilometers per telephone, even as it will provide a continental access capacity to deliver voice, Internet and data access to deprived urban, city centre, rural and remote areas, as well as enhancing their profitability, wealth creation and innovation through access to the worldwide market and information.

“A platform for operation of a public service telecommunication networks in Africa providing linkages to educational institutions, regional 15 organizations and government in Africa in order to facilitate developmental activities will be provided,” he said.

The country, he said, would provide an enabling environment for African ICT business industry to have a fair share of the world telecommunication market revenue currently projected at over $1.2 trillion dollars.

He emphasised that the provision of a platform for community and regional integration through the dissemination of social and cultural information as well as promotion of peace and stability in the African sub-region, even as it would provide the backbone for new applications such as tele-education, tele-medicine, e-government.

Ahmed-Rufai, therefore recommended that infrastructure development should be seen as an engine that increase investment in telecoms sector with a view to increasing affordable bandwidth availability.

Additionally, he said, that it would facilitate low cost access and network equipment that would oil a widespread public access to networked computers.

“Education and training for users and providers should be in place, whereas there should also be local content for the internet through creation and domicile of backbone and exchange points locally.

Essentially, he pointed out that there should be a nationwide spread of Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) hotspots, Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) connectivity and open skies internet connection through cloud computing.

“If the cost of computers drop significantly and there is cloud computing, users will be encouraged to stay connected, thereby creating a major knowledge-based economy instead of resource-based economy personified by oil wealth,” he advised.

Ahmed-Rufai concluded by saying that not all change could be considered a revolutionary.

“There has undoubtedly been a change in the telecommunications sector in Nigeria. However, with a population close to 150 million, and a mobile penetration rate of 53 per cent and 24 per cent for internet penetration coupled with the limited use of technological applications and the urgent need for increased telecoms infrastructure, it cannot be said that the telecoms revolution has had the desired revolutionary effect in Nigeria,” he submitted.

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