By Ismail Auwal
The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta has assured Nigerians that the Commission will continue to work towards the reduction in cost of data.
The EVC also vowed to achieve the target of N390/Gigabyte cost of data by the year 2025, as enshrined in the National Broadband Plan (2020-205).
Danbatta who gave the assurance during an interview in Lagos, said the expectations of telecoms subscribers were high and that they wanted NCC to do more in the area of fast data depletion.
According to Danbatta, “NCC is already working hard to address their concerns. We did our benchmarking recently and we discovered that the cost of 1 Gigabyte of data has come down below N500, which represents 50 per cent reduction from what it used to be.
“There is however a target to reduce data cost to N390/Gigabyte by the year 2025 and we are almost there. The target, as enshrined in the National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) is to achieve N390/Gigabyte in the cost of data by the end of 2025, but the recent benchmarking that the NCC did, showed that the cost of data has reduced to more than 50 per cent from what it used to be at the beginning of 2020.
“For us as industry regulator, this is a good sign that data cost is coming down and that the issue data depletion as experienced by subscribers, is gradually been addressed.”
He, however, noted that although the reduction in the cost of data may not completely address the issue of fast data depletion currently being experienced by subscribers, the NCC was considering a new measure that would completely address the issue of data depletion.
According to Danbatta, “NCC has instituted a forensic audit on the cost of data, just like we did with cost of Short Message Service (SMS) on a particular mobile operator, where we discovered that the operator unlawfully surcharged its subscribers to the tune of over N100 million and we have asked the particular operator to make refunds immediately and the operator has commenced refund to the affected subscribers. This could have gone unnoticed, if not for the quick intervention of NCC. We have plans to even extend the forensic audit on sms to other telecoms operators.
“So like we did for SME, we are doing same for data to find out the reason for fast data depletion and it will be carried out across all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). By the time the audit is completed and the result is out, perhaps we will have better information of what is happening in the data segment, as it relates to fast data depletion.”
He added: “The telecoms industry is still fraught with the challenge of telecoms infrastructure deficit because of the existing clusters of access gaps in the country, which NCC is fast reducing.
“Infrastructure deficit will deprive telecoms subscribers of the right quality of service that they deserve and the NCC is working hard to address infrastructure deficit in the country in order to boost access and connectivity,” Danbatta said.
The chairman said that the NCC needs to act quickly in consistence with government policies on infrastructure build up.
According to him, “Government is looking at additional deployment of fibre optic cables in the next four years, in addition to what is currently on ground.
“The NCC is desirous that telecoms services are pervasive and accessible to all Nigerians, irrespective of their location, even in remote and isolated communities. We need adequate infrastructure to address quality of service across networks.”
He said the NCC would continue to deploy infrastructure, especially broadband infrastructure in order to solve the challenges of congestion on the networks as well as ensure the right speed of accessing telecoms services.
“Speed in accessing the internet is very important, hence the National Broadband Plan recommended two digits target of 25mb/sec for urban areas and 10mb/sec for rural areas of the country.
“Another area of target as recommended by the National Broadband Plan, that will enhance quality of service, is the broadband penetration, and it recommended a target of 70 per cent penetration by 2025, but there is a recent presidential order that we should attain 60 per cent broadband penetration by 2023,” Danbatta said.
He explained that broadband penetration further deepened from less than six per cent in 2015 to 45.93 per cent as at October 2020, and assured that if the country could have a steady growth in broadband penetration per annum, which he said was possible, given the current statistics, then Nigeria is very sure of meeting and surpassing the projected 60 per cent and 70 per cent broadband penetration by 2023 and 2025 respectively.