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IPNX GMD believes ‘SABI’ can now boost broadband in Nigeria

IPNX GMD believes ‘SABI’ can now boost broadband in Nigeria

Mr. Ejovi Aror, the Group Managing Director at ipNX Nigeria Limited has told Technology Times that the Federal Government should try out the State Accelerated Broadband Initiative (SABI), a now rested government programme, to spread high-speed Internet service across the country.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), a few years ago initiated several programmes including the twin programmes of State Accelerated Broadband Initiative (SABI) and Wire Nigeria Project (WIN) “to help stimulate demand and accelerate the uptake of ICT tools and services necessary for the enthronement of a knowledge society in Nigeria.”

Aror told Technology Times that government’s ongoing National Broadband Plan, an ambitious project hoped to promote diffusion of high-speed Interent services across Nigeria, could borrow a leaf from the rested SABI programme of the nation’s telecoms regulatory agency.

ipNX Nigeria Limited was also one of the companies that partnered the NCC to offer broadband services in underserved markets not often covered by services providers.

NATCOM must pay, Professor Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman at NCC, insists
Professor Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman at NCC,

The ipNX MD believes that the model adopted a few years ago can be revived to boost the national plan underway to promote broadband diffusion across Nigeria.

The twin programme of SABI, which provides incentives to service providers to take services to non-lucrative underved markets and WIN which hopes to provide fibre into unserved markets were introduced several years ago by the NCC under a plan to promote access across Nigeria.

Aror, whose company,  ipNX was one the beneficiaries of the initiative called for the reintroduction of both projects, especially the SABI programme which he says “will be good for government to revive that programme again in another guise.”

NCC had introduced both projects during the tenure of Engineer Ernest Ndukwe, when he was Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive to provide subsidy funding through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) so that operators can extend services to under-served areas.[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”right” arrow=”yes”]According to Aror, SABI “was a very good idea and I think rather than abandoning it, we should refine it to get better results because at the end of the day, coming back to the original theme which was about how to get broadband to the rural areas.’’[/quote]

Talking particularly about the SABI project, Aror believes that the programme didn’t work due to continuity problems caused by change in leadership at NCC when Ernest Ndukwe left office.

“Looking at SABI again, it has been initiated and I will suggest that those of us who participated, some of those who conceptualised it within the current NCC regime can look back and say, what did we do right? What did we do wrong? What are the things we can adapt to and try to get better results this time?” the ipNX MD told Technology Times in an exclusive interview at the company’s head office in Victoria Island, Lagos.

According to Aror, SABI “was a very good idea and I think rather than abandoning it, we should refine it to get better results because at the end of the day, coming back to the original theme which was about how to get broadband to the rural areas.’’

Looking back at the implementation of SABI, the ipNX MD says “it took quite a while to get it off the ground. But when it did get off, unfortunately with the change in leadership, change of regime after Ndukwe left the NCC; the new regime, I think they had other priorities. So continuity was a problem. Even to the extent that we didn’t get paid for a lot of these obligations. On that part, they did not meet the obligations to us after they left and that caused a big issue for us.’’

While looking at the Internet service delivery sector where ipNX plays, he attributes the company’s staying power to innovation as ”the hallmark of IPNX has been to be ahead with the delivery of triple play services especially telephony and TV in addition to high speed Internet”.

The Group MD of ipNX took Technology Times through a demo operation of its upgraded online TV service platform that streamed from him connected smartphone to a TV screen without buffering.

The TV service will be rolled out into the Nigerian market to build upon ipNX’s triple play services of voice, video and data, he says.

“I will say they are many operators who do what we do, but I think we are quite ahead of most operators.You know we started fibre and everybody thought we were crazy. Now everybody is scrambling to do it. But we saw ahead that was going to be the technology of the future as bandwidth became more available especially with Glo 1 and MainOne coming into the country”, Aror says.

The landing of undersea cables like Glo 1, MainOne and several others is now fuelling the delivery of innovative new services through fast-speed optical fibre connections to Nigerian susbcribers on its data, voice and video services, according to the ipNX Group MD.

“We recognized very early that beyond delivering high speed Internet and telephony in reliable manner, there are many other things we do and that’s including television services.”

On the call in some quarters to subsidise data services, the IPNX says that it will be good if the government can do but doubts if that will be possible now considering more pressing imperatives like improving electricity and education, among other social services.

He also says that providing a high speed Internet is a function of economics and technology, when he says that “if you are giving someone so much bandwidth, you need to pay a provider for the bandwidth because if you own a cable, you still need to pay for it and the cost of laying a cable from here to Europe as most of the cables have been doing is very high.”

Also speaking on the rising call for data sovereignty, which involves hosting local data of Nigerian within the country, Aror believes that Nigeria needs to invest in new technologies that are used to provide such services first.

“It is difficult to say okay, the data must be here when we don’t have the facilities to provide the kind of service that we want. The country needs to strategically invest in those new technologies that are used to provide those services”, according to him.

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Donatus Anichukwueze Technology Writer at Technology Times Media e-mail: donatus.anichukwueze@technologytimes.ng