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Main One CEO rues 5% uptake of new undersea cables, says underutilisation threatens tech growth in Nigeria



By Olubunmi Adeniyi

Funke Opeke
Funke Opeke, Chief Executive Officer, Main One Cable Company (in picture) says that the proprietary networks built by the big GSM network operators are only utilised for strategic advantage and not available on reasonable commercial terms

Lagos. November 1 1, 2012: Funke Opeke, Chief Executive Officer, Main One Cable Company, has warned that the current underutilisation of new submarine fibre optic cables with uptake of only about 5 per cent will undermine technology growth in the economy.

Opeke, who spoke at a cloud computing forum held recently Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), told attendees at the event that the tremendous potential of Cloud Computing is yet to be tapped due to under-utilisation of the existing bandwidth on submarine cables that have landed Nigerian shores.

According to her, that the current utilisation rate of bandwidth on existing cables remains at less than five per cent, a development that undermines the vision of ubiquitous Internet access needed to foster technology growth across diverse sectors of the economy.

Opeke, in a presentation on the topic, “Broadband Infrastructure: Imperatives for Cloud Computing” explains that ubiquitous broadband access, which is an essential enabler of Cloud computing remains an issue, arguing that local domiciliation and exchange of Internet information are quite low.

Generally expectations have been the supply of huge bandwidth in Nigeria with landing of new cables complementing existing ones will lead to reductions in pricing of internet services have not matched reality for internet users.

No fewer than four new cables have landed Nigeria over the last two years including Main One, Glo 1, WACS, among others.

With the increased supply of bandwidth boosted by the arrival of new cables, she says that wholesale Internet capacity prices have fallen between 80 and 90 per cent but the retail rates have remained quite high due to market constraints, she told attendees at the cloud computing forum.

Lower cost and ease of service delivery are the primary drivers of Cloud computing, Opeke says explaining that, “Cloud adoption to date in Nigeria has implied off-shore domiciliation of data as majority of e-government applications, media and major technology apps subscribed to in Nigeria are hosted offshore.”

Explaining further on the challenges of giving a fillip to Cloud computing in Nigeria, she laments that the failure of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), the nation’s moribund pioneer operator, has removed incumbent shared backbone network required to facilitate the service.

Meanwhile, the proprietary networks built by the big GSM network operators are only utilised for strategic advantage and not available on reasonable commercial terms, the Main One Cable CEO says.

While explaining that mobile networks focus more on voice, she adds that effective data distribution requires more capital investment that is not as profitable for these companies as voice traffic billed per second.

Also, local Cloud computing platforms for entertainment, commerce and education are severely lacking on the Internet and thereby limit the potential of Nigeria’s online applications, Opeke says underscoring the implications for local economy to explore online market stakes.

“Increasingly, we are bridging the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) gap by going offshore to access technology and services. Local investment, infrastructure, services and skills are not growing fast enough to match local appetite or latent demand,” she adds.

Speaking on global market trends, approximately one-third of organisations have already adopted the Cloud while another third have future plans to adopt the system, she said, adding that the adoption rate depends on how developed the country is:

For instance, Nigeria stands at 18 per cent while South Africa records 33 per cent Cloud adoption rate, she explains noting that cost savings is the main driver for adopting the Cloud and it is now being facilitated by the availability of more data centres and declining prices of bandwidth due to the landing of the new undersea cables.

“Telcos, media and the public sector are the most bullish on Cloud computing, in terms of overall adoption plans. Security and lack of knowledge and understanding of the Cloud are by far the primary concerns for Cloud computing.”

The Main One boss says that the development of the local market will require local hosting and more effective distribution systems closer to the eyeballs.

In addition to application and content development, there is need for investment across the entire value chain beyond software development, she said.

According to her, government support and adequate complementary infrastructure are required for Nigeria to derive increased value from Cloud locally rather than continue to contribute value to global players in Europe, South Africa, India, China and US, among others.



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