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Prof. Sama Nwana is the CEO of Atlantic Telecoms and Media. At an international forum on accelerating nationwide broadband access in Nigeria held in Lagos recently, Nwana shares with MOSHOOD ABUBAKAR and ANTHONY NWOSU on the Nigerian Broadband plan and what the frequencies that will be freed from analogue to digital migration could mean to Nigeria’s broadband quest.

What informed the decision to host the event?

This is because of the emerging digital divide between those that have and those that doesn’t have. My big fear is that, if we do not act different from the policy, technology and competition perspective, I am afraid that the digital divide will still be growing. The opportunity to create job in the ICT industry is far too much to leave to chances.

Last year the government release a broadband plan, what has changed up till now?

As somebody that has travelled around the world, I am in the position to say that Nigeria is on track. In the area of communication, the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobolaji  Johnson has been doing a great job. There has been the broadband plan approval. This will help monitor the broadband penetration in Nigeria. Without a plan you can’t say your position and measure progress. The point of the plan is to provide such a benchmark for people like us. Another thing is that it helps to hold the industry and guide it to know where it is going. All the key people in the industry are here today listening to a very clear set of position and knowing that Nigeria has to make that broadband plan successful.

There has been launch of broadband campaign but there are issues of last mile, do you think that the campaign is timely?

We can’t afford to wait, Nigerians are not giving us the opportunity to wait. One should effectively not be discriminated because he doesn’t have the chance to live in Lagos, Calabar or any modern city. No, you need to think about the 70% of Nigerians who live in the rural areas and from a democratic perspective that should be the right thing to do. The market doesn’t work like a democracy anyway; the market goes to where the demand is.  But from a society perspective, you need to look at exactly where the people actually live, like the TV white spaces and other low cost economic models , we have to look at economical perspective, like the 4G , we have to prioritize the 70% because the mobile industry isn’t prioritizing it.

Service delivery and cost of internet in Nigeria seems to be high, what is your take on it?

Yes, its high, but it’s not the highest in Africa, there are many other African countries whose tariffs are higher like my country, Cameroon. This is because mobile termination rates are much there than in Nigeria. Nigeria is amongst the best in Africa.  Nigeria is doing some certain things pretty well but the reality is, the issue of spectrum is very important here.  There should be more spectrums to come into the market place, because most of the spectrum is used for voice services and how do you expect good or cheap broadband without availability of spectrum, so the need for more spectrums is important. The second thing is that Nigerian has to work out a good economic model for the Communication industry. It won’t do the same economic model of England or USA. The economic model should be for Nigeria considering the peculiarities of the country.  The regulators have to adapt.

What are the benefits of opening up TV White spaces?

It will increase the internet delivery in Nigeria, absolutely.  It will not be nice to allow mobile industry to kill this. This is because they are competing with these people. The current mobile industry does not start on TV white space, so they shouldn’t be allowed to kill the industry. The mobile industry should be compelled to take the Broadband Plan seriously.

‘Even though the internet market doesn’t work like a democracy, 70% of Nigerians who live in the rural areas shouldn’t be discriminated because they don’t have the chance to live in any modern city’

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