Pathway to connecting the Last Man by Titi Omo-Ettu

December 16, 2010

The 2010 Annual Distinguished Electrical and Electronic Engineers Lecture (DEEEAL) of the Nigerian Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (NIEEE)
(A Division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers)
Please click here for the Presentation Slides

1. Protocol and Introduction

For as long as I can remember, the NIEEE has always been kind to me.

In 1994, I was invited to be its Vice-Chairman and later elected Chairman in 1996 – something that was a privileged position. The position changed my life permanently.

One of the highlights of my chairmanship was the re-union of two stalwarts of the Nigerian electrical engineering profession – at the first Internet Awareness workshop which NIEEE hosted on April 17, 1996 – two decades after they had been separated by their sudden removal under the first phase of General Murtala Muhammed purge of 1975. The colossal figures were Engr. Victor Haffner FNSE, Nigeria’s Registered Engineer No 00001 one of those who led the effort in establishing COREN over 40 years ago and was its first President in 1972: and his deputy at the Nigerian External Telecommunications Ltd, NET, Engr Alfred Adebayo Bodede (of blessed memory) (Registered Engineer No 00094), Both men superintended the first Satellite launch in Nigeria (1970) and constructed the NET building on the Marina.

Having honored me with the Distinguished Service Medal for an Electrical/Electronics Engineer in 2003 – seven years after I left office as Chairman, the NIEEE has again, after another seven years,  given me the rostrum and a platform to talk about my passion.

This, my friends, is as good as an electrical engineer can ask for in a life time.

I would therefore like to thank my Chairman, Engr. ‘Biodun Ajifowobaje, his Executive Committee members and all members of NIEEE for what feels like a ‘Life Achievement Award’ especially for someone who does not accept non-professional Awards.

 

2.         Preliminary Remarks

I also express my appreciation for the presence of a sextet of Special Guests many of whom bear dotted line and functional responsibility for what the telecommunications industry is today. They are:

  • Engr. Victor Haffner FNSE, 91 years old, who was the first Nigerian to superintend a commercial Nigerian External Telecommunications Ltd, NET, and a man of true distinction in our profession and our industry. He was the President of the Administrative Council of the International Telecommunication Union, ITU in 1975. A world class ‘who is who in the world’ publication which I read in 1976 listed only two Nigerians. They were Chief Simeon Adebo and Engr Victor Haffner.
  • Engr. Olawale Ige, FNSE the Doyen and solid rock on which today’s progressive and dynamic Telecommunications industry was built. His efforts are part of how and why we have a good story to tell today.
  • Mr. Paul Usoro, a Senior Advocate who in my personal judgment is primus inter pares among indigenous lawyers who have been part of the growth of Nigeria’s telecommunications industry and whose best is yet to come.
  • Engr. Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, FNSE whose 10 years tenure in NCC opened up the industry we are here to discuss,and who qualifies for my Choice as Special Guest of honour because of what he told me in 2004.
  • Dr. Eugene Juwah, the anchor man who has now been handed the baton to regulate and take the industry to even loftier heights as CEO of the NCC.
  • Engr. ‘Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, ALTON, unarguably the most promising telecommunications engineer whose innate resources, in my estimation, is yet to be tapped by Nigeria.

The aforementioned six are here on my insistence and their presence here today is most appreciated.

However, I wish to extend my acknowledgement to all you distinguished ladies and gentlemen who have made it to this event not on my insistence, but rather of your own free will in response to my invitation and in spite of other items on your important and busy schedules.

A very big thank you one and all.

3.         Why the DEEEAL Lecture?

An idea similar to what is now called the DEEEAL lecture was mooted in 1996 during my chairmanship. Its advocates argued that the Division (as the Institution was then known) ought to institute a platform where a notable Electrical Engineer should be given the rostrum to recommend a worthy objective which the Division could pursue as a matter of national development.  It was adjudged that such a speaker, in his/her lecture, must demonstrably break new ground – worthy of the Institution’s support and backing. The audience and its selection would be primarily, but not entirely, at the discretion of the nominee-lecturer and should include a wide spectrum of top professionals from government, politics, academia and business. The lecture, like any of our other programs, must also have a subtle economic objective that chimes with the ethos and operations of the Division.

I am aware that since the DEEEAL Lecture commenced a few years after I left office, it boasts a list of illustrious speakers. I have been fortunate enough to be present at all the lectures delivered in the past three years and I can say, with contentment and pride, that its raison d’etre has been retained.

I was privileged to attend the 2009 lecture where Engr John Ayodele, FNSE promoted the idea of “Distributed Generation for our public electricity supply system”. 12 months on, and given that inadequate power is one of the impediments to the development and growth of ICT in Nigeria, I am yet to read about how far our Institution has pushed this radical idea which strictly speaking, is a fundamental shift from the way we have run the power service thus far.  It therefore begs the question, ‘My Chairman sir, what has happened to Engr. Ayodele’s recommendations?’

 

4.         The race to serve people

It is on popular and historical record that colonialists did not provide telephone service for the altruistic reasons of serving the needs of people or business but rather the pragmatic reasons of serving the purpose of government.

My interpretation of this is that telephony then was perceived as the preserve of the few rather than the many. A senior official of our post-colonial government was once reported to have said ‘telephones were not for the poor.’ The comments of the official – a serving Minister of telecommunications – in all probability must have been taken out of context. He more likely would have said that the telephone was not a priority of the common man. The reason for misquoting him has its roots in the fact that he was not an elected servant of the people which, protagonists of that time contended, had he been, he would have had to explain and justify what he was reported to have said. I hope he did but not to my knowledge.

But fast-forward to July 28, 2010, a representative sample of Nigerians said in Abuja at the Broadband for Nigeria, BB4NG, Forum that they considered access to broadband Internet as a fundamental human right for all Nigerian citizens.

The precise time that this transformation in the mind of the common man occurred is hard to put a finger on. My guess is that it was a gradual process but a welcome one nonetheless.

5.         The Starting Line

The period that we can actually refer to as the beginning of a telecommunication service in Nigeria differs and is subjective but falls under 4 broad categories – pre or post independence and pre or post liberalization.

For the purposes of this lecture, we will put this inception some time in 1991 at the Ordinary General Meeting of NIEEE (then the Electrical Division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE) where one member graphically described the decrepitude of facilities in Egbin Thermal Station. He forecast that the nation was heading for a precipice and urged the Division to step into the breach if only to draw attention to it. Another member suggested that what was happening in the power sector was comparable to what was going on in the telecommunications sector and recommended that the Division’s concern and consequent solution strategies encompass telecommunications. Another member rose to say the aviation sector presented an even worse and more perilous case than either of the aforementioned industry sectors thus raising the specter that the Division’s net needed to be cast further and deeper to encapsulate all infrastructure sectors.

Eventually, the decision was taken that Committees be constituted to examine each of the Power, Telecommunications and Aviation sectors and the matter be elevated to the parent NSE level with an involvement of the NSE President and all its Divisions to provide the necessary impetus for the Committees’ work, as well  as giving  their analysis and recommendations more kudos.

A few months later and on conclusion of the Committees’ works, the telecommunications committee recommended that the Nigerian Society of Engineers should propose and promote liberalization as a means of reforming telecommunication service to be followed by the privatization of the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (NITEL).

The report, had its roots in an acclaimed Sir Donald Maitland’s Report of the Independent Commission for Worldwide Telecommunications Development of 1984, (also called The Missing Link),  as well as an industry review conference at Durbar Hotel Festac, Lagos, earlier in 1987 where 37 of the 38 papers submitted for the conference favored liberalization of the telecommunications industry. Only one paper which argued that ‘telecommunications is a natural monopoly’ opposed liberalization.

The electricity power Committee came up with a report which opposed liberalization but favoured internal restructuring of the then National Electricity Power Authority as a panacea to the entrenched ills of that sector.

The aviation Committee’s position remains hazy in memory.

The pace of pursuing a reform for the telecommunications industry gathered momentum and the fact of Engr. Olawale Ige, FNSE as Minister of Communications, in the face of determined opposition to liberalisation from our colleagues in the military, was deemed a catalyst which guaranteed that pace would continue unabated. The military government, deploying the skills of Engr Vincent Maduka, FNSE, in fashioning out a liberalization process, eventually published the decree No. 75 of November 1992, which gave effect to the liberalization of the telecommunication industry and established the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC to regulate the industry.

A Board of the Commission chaired by Engr. Teju Oyeleye, FNSE, was inaugurated early in 1993.

Later in the year, the Board of the Commission was summarily disbanded – a development which saw a liberalization skeptic and author of the only dissenting paper of 1987, recruited by the new military government to superintend NITEL. That appointment represented a death knell to the liberalization agenda and put the industry on lock down until 1999 when the Board of the Commission was again reconstituted thus ending 5 years of prevarication and chicanery with an attempt to put the liberalization wagon back on track.

6.         A litany of False starts

Other than the preservation of the status quo i.e. telephony for the few, we can chart a historical course of Nigerian telecommunications in long repetitious eras of false dawns depending on one’s starting point.

  • 1895 to 1960 could be regarded as a period of false start as there was no known strategy for the development of telecommunications for business.
  • 1960 to 1993, could also be regarded as a period of false start as there were no known plans or strategies in place for the liberalization of the industry. All the Development Plans did not have a business focus.
  • 1993 to 1999 could be regarded even more of a false start because although the liberalization agenda was coded into law in the form of Decree 75 and the NCC was instituted in 1993 by the military Government, it was promptly disbanded in 1994 by a succeeding military government and private initiative in service delivery, technically speaking, came to an abrupt halt but the Commission known as NCC was, happily, not proscribed.
  • 1999 till date can also be regarded as a period of false start as we have made an attempt, by magical success, to develop a responsive telecommunications industry against the backdrop of an electricity supply system that is not fit for that purpose.

All these collectively point to the fact that the entire period spanning from 1895 to 2010 may well have been one false start since it will be nothing short of a miracle for an industry, or indeed economy to develop without a stable public power system – a bit like China without rice.

 

7.         A market opened for serious business

I recall a round table discussion which Engr. (now also HRH) Cletus Ogbonna Iromantu, pioneer Executive Vice-Chairman, NCC, held with two members of his NCC management team and I – an external consultant – on the table. The NCC (without a Commission at the time) had only just decided to promote a regime of neutral technology and the EVC wanted to establish the parameters that would define the kind of NCC that would foster the development of the industry. In our deliberations, we concluded we desired an NCC that was a professional, transparent and independent regulator. Mid way through our discussion, it became clear to us that government had dissolved the NCC’s Board of Commissioners. There was an aura of inevitability about the Commission’s demise as it had been staring at us in the face, accentuated by the unpalatable fact that the management at NITEL at the time, for obvious reasons, did not believe in the liberalization agenda. We also subconsciously knew, although none of us voiced it, that NITEL ‘gifted’ the NCC its first N50m to commence operations. That being the case, it was also apparent that the prospect of an independent NCC was an uphill task.

All these changed when in 2000 government re-constituted the Commission (then with Alhaji Ahmed Joda as Chairman) and the Commission went forward to develop a management development plan, opted for an open transparent Auction for Digital Mobile Licenses, conceived the Digital Bridge Institute and opened up the industry.

By 2010, it is fair to say that the market has been opened.

 

8.         Five short stories

I.      Rhoda and Ada

II.      Mr. & Mrs. Adakhah

III.      Johnny Just returned

IV.      Nigeria here I come

V.      Suleiman as the Last Man

9.         Nigerians have spoken

The transformation of the mindset of the Nigerian from a position of the telephone not being priority on the agenda of the common man to the position of desiring access to broadband Internet as a fundamental right is indeed significant.

This transformation which bridges both positions is a clear indication of a massive development in our national and collective consciousness and it should not only be commended but supported. It signifies that Information and Communication Technology, ICT, has now become the agenda of the mainstream and  that Suleiman – as the last man – must have access not only to telephone, but to Broadband Internet as a right.

 

10.        Past and on-going efforts

The Nigerian Communications Commission launched two efforts which, regrettably, we can say have not achieved their main objectives. Wire Nigeria (WiN) Initiative was announced in 2004 and influenced the Commission to issue licenses (10 to date each with 20 years tenure) all of which have not provided the required trans-Nigeria access to broadband Internet. These licenses were in addition to those held by the two National Operators, NITEL and GLOBACOM. They include Long Distance Communication licenses to Nepskom Nigeria Ltd; MTS Nigeria Ltd; Suburban Telecoms; Backbone Connectivity Networks; Traffic Network Services; Phase3 Telecom; Fibre Tech West Africa; Alheri Engineering Ltd.; Gateway Integrated Services and Steam Broadcasting and Communications Ltd.

NCC also launched the States Accelerated Broadband Initiative, SABi whose understanding to date remains sketchy to me and, dare I say it, perhaps even to the executors.

Under the above programs, its creators intended to provide and extend broadband Internet access to at least all local government headquarters across the country.

While we cannot say those programmes have failed outright, they are, at best, work in progress and therefore, we need to proceed on the basis that they need further refurbishment as well as new radical initiatives.

11.        We can do it

Ordinarily it may sound strange to imagine an attempt to put the telephone in the hands of the last man. But I view this perception as a lack of imagination because to do so is to discount the fact that existing technology has made this feat within the realms of possibility.  We are not talking of priding 160million SIM cards for 160million people. That would be simplistic as one does not necessarily equate the other. For our purposes, we mean each of the 160 million people having a serviceable telephone individually and officially registered to them. We have to do some projection here and be pragmatic in doing so.

It is my expressed desire that this proliferation of telephony happens in my life time. But we need action and planning to change what is an aspiration into reality.  It is, therefore, imperative that we are able to make projections using industry experience, research results and other demographic factors to make an educated guess as to how many will opt to use our product or services and how much our industry will grow in a given time frame. Such comprehensive projection will, undoubtedly, attract investors and serve as a guide to future business decisions.

So that we can say with some logical estimation that by year 2040 with population growth at 3.5% per annum, we realistically can expect 452,311,182  inhabitants of Nigeria to each have a telephone whose identification will be coded in the user’s personal identity.

What prevents us from establishing 2000 TV stations by private initiatives and investments all broadcasting different themes and accessible from all the six geopolitical zones of the country in the next 5 years?

What prevents us from equipping every secondary school with functional broadband Internet access libraries in the next five years?

What prevents us from having 37 IT Parks where Nigerian graduates post NYSC will be availed facilities that will make them train, develop and produce at postgraduate level?

A nation that aspires to be one of the greatest 20 best economies in 10 years time cannot afford not to address the following issues very urgently:

  • Develop the will to do it.
  • Unify our three industries of telecom, broadcasting and computer into a truly unified ICT industry with genuine attention to its details.

12.        It is all about ubiquitous broadband Internet access

 

To promote the need for broadband network is to demonstrate that services such as video-on-demand, video telephony and IPTV, advanced answering services are, indeed, part of our everyday requirement. Give Suleiman broadband Internet access and you will be amazed what he can do with it.

13.        Broadband: availability or penetration?

The provision and access to public of goods and services – the healthcare, education communication, commerce, research and entertainment now and in the future, will be very much dependent on universal broadband penetration.

In this era, health care will mean people can invite health personnel and be treated in their homes, educational institutions will require high quality network and broadband services for e-learning and Abuja will be as close to Zaria as it is to  Abeokuta. To genuinely be able to include Nigeria in the global village, the last man – wherever he resides, must have Internet access which is only socio-economically viable via broadband. To achieve our aspirations for the last man, broadband penetration, not just availability, is imperative at the places where the last man is and where Internet must be assessed and therefore, where broadband must exist. We are, therefore, talking of penetration and not just availability,

Of course, we are not oblivious to cost but those who have been involved in the political and socio-economics of telecommunication penetration have since found out that to think of it in its totality is often better than the hitherto ‘reasonable’ method of gradual planning. It is important to distinguish between gradual planning and implementation of total planning in phases.

We are saying, therefore, that our plans will serve our cause better if we work from the fundamental principle that our system will serve all and not some of us.
14.        Nigeria is a business haven

MISREPRESENTATIONS CLARIFIED

 

Subject Matter Perception

(As stated in at least one publication somewhere)

Reality

(Reliance on TAA studies)

Telephone Subscriber Base 78 million subscribers

78 million active mobile telephone lines

78 million SIM Cards

78million SIM Cards issued,

Actual No of users yet to be determined

On going SIM Card Registration

ATCON has called for Telephone Subscriber Registration to replace SIM Card Registration

ARPU and its decline Declining for reason of Economic downturn,

Declining for reason of over-networked Environment

Declining due to poor Q0S and normal trend of ARPU in all markets
Telephone subscription slowed down in 2009 For reason of economic downturn,

For reason of poor quality of service,

For reason of diminished interest of subscribers in offered telephone service

The euphoria was over

Cost is high vis-a-vis income

Dominance Operator ‘A’ is dominating by reason of its

expressed subscriber base

The GSM Mobiles are dominating others

There is no Dominance
Submarine Fibre for International Traffic NITEL’s monopoly (SAT3) ended in 2009 NITEL’s monopoly ended in 2010

 

 

Sectoral application of ‘e’ resources Oil & Gas sector applies ‘e’ best

Finance sector applies ‘e’ best

Evangelism sector applies ‘e’ best

Banking sector applies ‘e’ best
Broadband Access NITEL’s SAT 3 capacity  is huge NITEL doing only a fraction of the available capacity
Wire Nigeria – WiN WIN is talk without action

NCC has done nothing

Win never meant that NCC was to construct infrastructure.

10 Transmission Licenses were issued to encourage widespread availability of backbone infrastructure.

The 10 licenses issues:

1.          Nepskom Nigeria Ltd

2.         MTS Nigeria Ltd

3.         Suburban Telecoms

4.         Backbone Connectivity Networks

5.         Traffic Network Services

6.         Phase3 Telecom

7.         Fibre Tech West Africa

8.         Alheri Engineering Ltd

9.         Gateway Integrated Services

10.        Steam Broadcasting and Communications Ltd.

 

 

15.        Public Electricity Supply Service

Our colleagues in the power sector who argued back in 1992 that liberalization was not the answer to our woeful delivery of power supply should be held partly responsible for holding Nigeria back for this long. We had thought that they would view the telecommunications sector and what it has achieved over the last 15years, as a template, replicate it and build upon it as a platform to deliver long overdue and lasting reforms.

They espoused the virtues of restructuring of NEPA but from the perspective of putting old wine in new bottles in the misplaced anticipation that it would taste differently if not better.

Having missed a great opportunity to accept (let alone implement reform), it has taken a little  short of two decades and in fact at this event last year, for our colleagues to seriously begin to address the endemic problem of inadequate power supply and its impact on socio-economic development. It came in the guise of Engr. John Ayodele’s lecture, ‘Distributed Generation: Option for the Nigerian Electricity Supply System Security’ in which he proposed Distributed Generation (DG) which refers to the  proximity between electricity production and the place of consumption as a means of addressing the asymmetry between investment, expenditure and demand in the supply of power.  In order words, liberalize it truly.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the nation which has suffered immeasurably is justified in its contention the Nigerian engineer be held partly responsible for the long years of poor access to adequate public electricity power system – the cost of which is almost unquantifiable in terms of the nation’s socio-economic development and its citizens’ individual wellbeing.

16.        Telephony : Good Quality of Service

Nigerians budget for duplicate or alternative telephone lines for three primary reasons.

Firstly,  bad quality of service, which makes the average Nigerian think,  falsely, that procuring another line from another network provider would solve the problem.

Secondly, and much aligned with the first, is our emblematic culture to have a duplicate of everything borne out of an inherent pessimism and expectation that the ‘one you have would not work’. This holds for most things from generators, through houses to even wives or husbands.

Thirdly, it is a naked expression of aggrandizement via conspicuous consumption and unnecessary investments. A good quality service will return Nigeria to the path of normal international practice where everyone has no need for more than one mobile telephone line and where the need for more than one phone will be determined by the quality and features of a phone rather than the quality of service available. Only then would there be asymmetry between our aspiration and reality of universal access i.e. to the last man.

17.        Let’s Democratize Technology

Let us unambiguously expose the fallacy upheld by some that things can only be done and properly if they had been done somewhere else.

On January 5, 2000 one Felix Bopp writing under the caption of “B2 – a long-term approach to provide broadband for everybody” produced a ground breaking report in which he said,

“B2 stands for bi-directional broadband and is the young Swedish company Bredbandsbolaget AB. The plan is to build a 700 million Euro broadband network including services like video-on-demand, IP telephony, video telephony, advanced answering services to name a few. Bredbandsbolaget is initially targeting the Million Project districts in the suburbs, rather than detached houses in high-income municipalities.

According to a Sales Director at Bredbandsbolaget: “Broadband is definitely the route we have to follow. Naturally, we Swedes will be at the forefront in this field too, just as we are when it comes to mobile telephony!” and “Bredbandsbolaget’s network is bi-directional. This entails something totally different from either cable television networks or the telephone network. Here, it can just as easily be the consumers themselves who are doing the filming!”

How does it work?

Bredbandsbolaget builds a LAN (Local Area Network) into a property. All apartments are equipped with an Ethernet socket. An Ethernet switch is located in a suitable position on the premises from which connections are subsequently made to the public Internet via the optical fibre networks that are available in most towns. If new technology with higher capacity is introduced the sockets and switches can be replaced to immediately upgrade to the latest advances. The network in itself has no “built-in” limitations. Some figures: – Bandwidth in: Approx. 10 Mbps/two-way- Bandwidth out: 10 Mbps- Demands a network card- No modem- Accepted standard: Ethernet- Upgrade: up to 100 Mbps, soon up to 1000 Mbps- Pricing model: 23 Euro per month.

Mr. Birgersson, Chairman of Bredbandsbolaget (B2) said, “A broadband connection in every man’s home is no less than a ‘democratization’ of the new technology. Each apartment will be able to broadcast its own Web-tv or to start an Internet portal. That is the speed of this type of Internet connection.”

Taken from http://www.streamingmedia.com/Articles/Editorial/Featured-Articles/B2—a-long-term-approach-to-provide-broadband-for-everybody%0D%0A-61592.aspx

The report was written 10 years ago and it has taken me as long to refer my distinguished audience to it. I am conscious that for some the issue is “Well, that is Sweden, not Nigeria” as if we have an inherent incapacity to do things well. I flip their assertion and ask ‘If Sweden, why not Nigeria?

I remember someone once told me in the mid 90’s that ‘this your so-called telephone for all. You guys are not thinking of the cost. If you do you would know you are talking rubbish’. In other words, this was beyond the realms of possibility – again a lack of imagination – the achievements of the last 15 years attests that. It is, however, an indictment on our thinking and a cause for concern because, I have always viewed the person who said it as academically superior in relation to me. I did not agree with him but my regret is that I did not challenge him – more so, because, he said it in a lecture he was delivering at the time.

I advocate that our laws must be the radical basis on which we build an unwavering belief that if it can be imagined, then it can be accomplished and the democratization of technology, sure, must be one of those things we must believe we can accomplish.

18.        ICT Indicators which hold promise for investment

 

A huge Demand 120m inhabitants may still not have phones Saturation claim may be a fallacy
An independent, professional Regulator National Communications Act 2003

guarantees independence of the regulator

All Auctions of Frequencies have been

Transparent and acclaimed

The Regulator has contested official interference

Next level is speedy

penalty for infringements

Recent interference not endemic. Neither systemic

An emerging ICT Industry Government is reviewing a Report on the subject. Civil Societies, Professional groups, trade associations are mounting pressures.
Review of Communications Policy On going.

 

19.        Demographic and Economic

 

Population in 2009 (‘000) 154, 729
Population density in 2009 (per square KM) 170
Population growth rate 2005-2010 (%per annum) 2.3
Rural/Urban breakdown (2008) 52.48
Urban population growth rate 2005-2010 (%per annum) 3.8
Rural population growth rate 2005-2010 (%per annum) 0.9
Economic Indicators
GDP (billions) 2009e USD 165.437
GDP per capita 2009e USD 1,089
GDP (PPP) per capita 2009e USD 2,199
GDP growth rate (%) 2009 6.8

20.        Dys -Functional Education

Daniel Elombah, Convener of the Transform Nigeria Movement, at the African Leaders of Education Summit, attended by many Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, hosted by International Worldview and sponsored by University of Hull, earlier this year, in a speech,  in which he said:

‘We identified serious problems with the Nigerian education sector that was being ignored in the government plan Education Strategy.

1. The penchant for Nigerian political office holders to educate their children abroad or in expensive private schools.

2. The Curriculum of the educational Institutions is out of sync with the needs of the Business Community of the 21st century.

3. The increasing illiteracy rate in Nigeria

4. High rate of drop outs in Nigerian primary and secondary schools. In South-eastern Nigeria young boys drop out of school to trade and young girls drop out to marry.

5. Absence of the use of information technology in knowledge dissipation in our educational institutions in spite of a rapid growth in the IT industry worldwide, Nigeria inclusive.

6. The inability of the Nigerian Educational Sector to tap into resources and opportunities available via international bodies like UNESCO, UNICEF, NEPAD etc.

7. The inability of the Nigerian Educational Sector to tap into opportunities of rebates and discounts granted by multinationals like Microsoft for computer resources.

8. The obvious neglect of international cooperation within Africa and beyond to improve educational standards via exchange programs for lecturers and students alike.

It is hard to disagree with Daniel’s position. Moving forward, it is time we addressed all these issues if our industry and, indeed, our country is to achieve the objectives articulated in the lecture.

 

21.        Probity in public service

The accepted definition of corruption – the abuse of a public office for personal gain or other illegal or immoral benefit – is not something that is particularly foreign to us.

In line with the tenets of this lecture, we would do well to understand that the apathy and indifference we accord corruption and the lack of probity does not only do the nation a disservice in that it gives potential investors the wrong impression abroad, but at home corruption and the lack of integrity cripple the delivery of basic government services and aid to citizens who not only need them, but should have them as of right.

We can say with reasonable authority certainty that for far too long the justice and effectiveness of public service institutions has been deformed by naked abuse of power, financial debauchery, perversion of justice, election-tampering, and nepotism. Beyond the last man having a phone and broadband access, we need ethically aware and competent officials at all levels as they form an integral part of the integrity of the government, business and ultimately, its citizens.

 

22.        Research & Development

Needless to say, our journey forward must of necessity drive back to revert to the past glory of our economy when research was a conscious tool of government to chat a way forward in all sphere of human endeavour, albeit including our communication systems.
23.        Making the bad good and the good better

Here the objective is to revisit the good, the bad and the indifferent since liberalization commenced so that we can suggest improvement and implement them. Sure, there are not many who know that we have done great things, but they are probably offset by those who may not remember the things we have not done that well.

THE GOOD

Telecom Industry liberalized – Our major joker

Restoration of the Commission in 2000

Frequency Auctioning of 2001 – Not really much of the ‘issue’ but the ‘process’

WiN and SaBI, good Initiatives they were but hardly understood

NCA 2033 – a good legislative work and its birth of USPF

 

From business investment perspective

A big market, now opened, waiting to be served

Large mobile subscriber base to build

Valued added services that can be customised

A citizenry quick at accepting new solutions, products, and services

A good regulatory environment

 

THE BAD

Power sector denied liberalization – Our major setback

The dissolution of the NCC in 1994 – thus stalling the march which started just twelve months earlier

The greed and graft that made privatization of NITEL an impossibility

Good initiatives of WiN and SABi lost to poor communication

USPF misunderstood

 

Also BAD but GOOD for business

Extinction of  Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Vsat Providers, rise n fall (Discuss)

Telcos & PQoS, the issues (Discuss)

 

24.        Where do we go from here?

Keep the good, improve the not-so-good and march on. The point must be made, however, that it is not only the ICT industry that will put access at the disposal of every Nigerian. We also need, as have been visited above, the contributions of functional education, probity in public service, investment in research and development and, above all, the will to make it happen.

25         Growth Profile since 1960

 

Period Population (m) Telephones Telephones Telephone Operators
Fixed Mobile
1960 45 22,000 0 1
1984 88 250,000 0 1
1994 100 500,000 10,000 1
1999 120 780,000 35,000
2003 131 1.1m 3.5m 28
2004 135.5 1.35m 4.2m
2005 139 2.0m 5.0m 24
2006 143
2007 147 1.3m 41m 18
2008 151 1.4m 57m 19
2009 156 1.43m 66m 20
2010 161 20

 

 

 

 

 

26.        The Communication Laws

 

Telecommunications Act of 1992 (Formerly a Decree of Military government) created the path for private investment into telecommunication service delivery. Licensing was allowed under the following 8 UNDERTAKINGS, namely:

  • Installation of Terminal or other equipment
  • Provision and Operation of public payphones
  • Provision and operation of private networks links employing cable, radio communications, or satellite, within Nigeria
  • Provision and operation of public mobile communication
  • Provision and operation of community telephones
  • Provision and operation of Value-added network services.
  • Repair and maintenance of telecommunications facilities
  • Cabling

The National Communications Act of 2003 superseded the Act of 1992 expanding the scope of the latter. That is to say, a person who identifies an opening for investment into any service would need to approach the NCC for a license. The Act augments the powers of the NCC by making its Commissioner accountable to the National Assembly and also creates the Universal Service Provision Fund which facilitates the extension of services to hitherto excluded communities under the FUND.

The National Assembly has made pronouncements which suggest that NCA 2003 would be amended, but we await final details.

27.        Expectations

 

The NCA 2003 is broadly a good piece of legislation by conferring considerable power on the NCC to effectively discharge it responsibility, but falls short in arming the Commission with sufficient fiduciary powers to respond swiftly to misdemeanors of the industry players and consequently needs modification in this regard.

 

28.        Character of Developmental Phases

 

Pre -1960                      Pro-Administration

1960 – 1984                  Social Service

1984 – 1992                  Chasing Technology

1992 – 1999                  Reluctant Deregulation

1999 – 2004                  Expanding Mobile

2004 – 2007                  Troubled Privatisation

2007 – 2010                  Expanding Mobile, Troubled Services

2000 – 2010                  Failed Privatization, Rise of Submarine Fibre

2010 –                           Construct Fibre, expand mobile, expand basic fixed + mobile wireless

 

29.        Investment Profile

 

  • Pre 2000

$5billion put into NITEL from 1960 – 2000 to get 700,000 fixed + 30,000 Mobile phone lines

  • 2000 – 2003      $4.5billion put in to get to 900,000 fixed and 3.2 million mobile lines
  • 2004 – 2007      Additional $7 billion absorbable under the right environmentTurnover tripled in this period

 

30.        Challenge of Management

  • When shall we be leaders in doing it?
  • When shall we go elsewhere to do it?
  • What’s today’s/tomorrow’s best Management structure for a PTO?
  • When do we have the best management?
    • When we are in charge
    • When access becomes affordable
    • When we take QoS for granted

31.        Industry Management According to NCC

We had cause to describe NCC in the following terms in the past. We can only hope that it will keep improving on them.

 

  • Study-Consult-discuss-hit is a good model
  • Futuristic Plans
  • WIN
  • DBI
  • WATRA
  • neTelAfrica
  • Regulation with a human face
  • Listening & Responsive

32.        The issues

 

ISP’s Public Power Deficiency

High Cost of Bandwidth

Dearth of Technical/Managements skills

ISP Audit report 2006 (TAA for NCC)
Vsat providers Public Power Deficiency

High Cost of bandwidth Poor patronage

Private client study report
Telcos Public Power deficiency

Ubiquity is strength for GSM Mobiles

Dearth of Technical/Management skills

Security

Unfair Taxation

ATCON Papers
Trainers Dearth of Skills to tap from

Lack of Training tools

Few trainers require synergy

 

33.        What Changes?

PTO’s should not only publish financial, but also technical performance duly endorsed by NCC.

Using a fusion of funding and regulatory levers, government can provide cheap and secured network for the armed forces and security agencies as well Educational Institutions as is already being canvassed for FREN under the BB4NG program.

34.        Business from the Problems

If businesses truly build on problems, the following are those problems which constitute business cases:

  • Huge Unmet Demand
  • Unreliable Public Electric Power Supply
  • Weak Infrastructure Base
  • Inadequate Executive Manpower
  • Inadequate Technical Manpower
  • Poor (or No?) Spectrum Planning
  • Interconnections
  • Vandalism of Equipment and Community Strives
  • Security of Life and Property
  • Paucity of Industry Information

 

35.        What makes the Nigerian market attractive to investment?

 

A huge Demand 120m inhabitants may still not have phones Saturation claim may be a fallacy
An independent, professional Regulator National Communications Act 2003

guarantees independence of the regulator

All Auctions of Frequencies have been

Transparent and acclaimed

The Regulator has contested official interference

Next level is speedy

penalty for infringements

Recent interference not endemic. Neither systemic

An emerging ICT Industry Government is reviewing a Report on the subject. Civil Societies, Professional groups, trade associations are mounting pressures.
Review of Communications Policy On going.

 

36.        Africa – Centre of the World

Although regarded as poor, the enormous growth potential and revenue per line is higher in Africa than anywhere else in the world. There are two factors that have changed telecom development:

  • Advances in Technology and
  • Changes in public policy or ‘digitalization’ and ‘liberalization’

There are now more telephones than households in the world (about 1.6 phones per person)

The number of mobile exceeded the number  of fixed lines back in 2002.

There is undoubtedly more business to do in developing world buttressed by the fact that of the 226m new net users that have come online this year, more than two thirds are from developing countries. This is particularly impressive against the backdrop of inadequate connectivity which still plagues the developing world – something the region needs to address.

37.        IP Networks and the Future of Convergence – Regulation as issue

The simplest thing to do with IP resources when it grows convergence will be to enjoy its benefits, but the key to enjoying such benefits and paradoxically the greatest challenge is proper regulation. Thank God, we did not start early.

Fortunately, delays sometimes are not costly. Had we embarked on this early, we would have made so many mistakes that even starting would have been almost impossible especially given our remarkable impatience.

But either by design or default, we had the good fortune of delaying our start no thanks to the military who kept it on lock down for the entirety of its rule.

This is pertinent when one looks at the huge losses incurred by AT & T in America because the networks it built lags behind the technology its vendors created.

Look at it like this:

You built a network, complete with fibre and you projected into the long future of say 20 years and then seal up all entrance to the fibre to protect it, but six years down the road, you find your capacity is so low due to the pace of technological advancement and you now have to re-visit your fibre provision to accommodate the expansion purposes. But, for a deep wallet, AT&T, I am told, might have gone stressed.

The moral of this debacle is that in the provision of infrastructure, the  challenge really would not be for those who build the networks nor those who use the services, but for those who make the laws regarding what we do and what we do not.

If there ever was a case for robust regulation, there it is- IP resources, the future of Regulation.

Future trends:

The next generation of mobile broadband offers us unrestricted Internet, optimized infrastructure, ubiquitous access and increased opportunity. All of us will want space on the web so we can have a voice, blogs, news, etc. IPTV will make heavy demand on ubiquitous broadband presence

This means anytime, anywhere access to high-bandwidth applications, content and communication – excellent for faster e-mails, larger files, and faster web access for that secure daily transaction that often hits network congestion.

The technology underpinning the next generation mobile broadband is LTE, which stands for “Long Term Evolution”. It represents a step up from today’s High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) networks and consequently the next generation global standard for most mobile operators because it will be at the heart of applications and services – whether personal video conferencing, video calling or new and video apps which will define the businesses of the future. .

The possibilities are indeed limitless. Newspapers will change irrevocably. They will never die, but will be a diminished force in the dissemination of information and, therefore, will have to re-visit their mode of operation, if they are to remain for profitable.

 

Here

What we have done about regulation has been to open up our market (2000 – 2010)

We better start regulating, lest . . . .

See what happened to ISPs in our early days:

The regulator merely hissed, and everybody buried their heads in the sand and it remains there even up today. In those days, ISPs spent too much time being affronted rather than reappraising their procedures and practices. With the advent of the Internet, ISPs faced a stark choice, ‘Change or Die’. Those who changed survived and those that did not, died.

Another dawn has broken, brighter and better than yesterday’s. We counsel that ISPs take the bull by the horn. They need to know how others elsewhere survived during the days of shifting tectonic plates and ensure they remain updated and relevant. We have offered to help in this regard, but we are waiting for them to unite and speak with a strong voice and in unison.

See how VoIP threatened even telephone operators. I called it the radicalism of technology at the time.

We should expect more anomalies of emerging technologies. There will be the temptation to regard it as threats, but in reality, they are opportunities. It is regulation that will contain them. Remember what happened when big Telcos called upon the regulator to exclude smaller ones from foraying into their largely major voice calls business. It was not that the regulator did not want to react, but was slow in so doing which saw the saga escalate and everybody forgot. I remember I once led an industry study group which fortunately included diametrically opposing views even among group members and I merely played for time while time sorted things out. The regulator eventually intervened, but it was too little too as late and did nothing as the problem had moved on. We may not have that luxury again as intervention must be faster.

It is, however, important to note that it is not intervention, but proactive regulation that methinks will be the name of the game in the future.

 

Challenge of Regulation

– Spectrum management skills top the list

– Determining when to legislate comes next

– Convincing the legislature if and when necessary is another

– The realization that new technologies dictate modern business which cannot run as usual

 

Lessons and Opportunities

We are lucky in these parts because we have the failures of the advanced economies to learn from so we avoid the same pitfalls.

Imagine if the call in 2002 for Telephone Subscriber Registration, TSR, had been heeded when at that time we had South Africa to learn from and from where we took the lesson.  To imagine that we are now fighting to implement SIM card registration, which is infinitely inferior to Telephone Subscriber Registration and for which we are likely to end up in some halfway house between what we had and what we need.

A change of business models is suggested if businesses will remain and thrive and regulation may be a major factor.
38.        SAT3, MAINONE, GLO 1 , WACS

Monopoly of NITEL’s SAT3 as the only submarine broadband capacity fibre on the international route ended on July 1, 2010 when MainOne went commercial with its 7000km submarine cable system with capacity to transmit 1.92Tbps with initial landing stations in Nigeria, Ghana and Portugal and the United Kingdom. Glo1 also came alive a few weeks after with its 9,800 km submarine cable system with capacity to transmit 2.5 Tbps with initial landing stations in Nigeria, London and Lisbon, and connects 17 countries and since then there cannot be a looking back again.

A way to tap their potentials is for Government to appreciate their place in Nigeria’s life and to accord them such recognition and support to their international endeavor.

Government should also consider provision of a Broadband Stimulus Funding which is being promoted by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, ATCON.

 

39.             We promote the following agenda.

To achieve a simple move into this new world of seamless information transfer, we need the mixture of certain salient and generic themes driving everything we do. They are:

Shared perspectives by which we effectively make the case of ‘benefits for all’ – not only will all pull in the same direction of travel.

Individual and collective motivation reinforcing each other and where the less motivated will be inspired by the more motivated

An unwavering belief that we will succeed not based on some abstract notion, but from placing value in the value of excellence. Those who value this value do infinitely better than those who do not.

Specifically, and, as part of ‘effectively making the case’, our recommendations will fall into three broad categories:

Short term

Everything we will achieve specifically in the industry and in the nation at large will be underpinned by adequate power supply which, in turn, is underpinned by real and large scale reform of the power industry. To this end, and under the auspices of the NIEEEE, using all the resources at its disposal, we recommend the following:

  • That the NIEEE revoke the ghost of 1992, by assembling a team of knowledgeable and concerned personnel who have the wherewithal to make connecting the Last Man a reality. The significant difference from 18 years ago must be that this team must be interdisciplinary – a broad tent to engineers, lawyers, economists and business.
  • An implementation of the recommendations of Engr. John Ayodele who, I venture to say, has recommended true and sincere liberalization of the electricity power sector.
  • A pursuit of the Liberalization Agenda in the power sector in a manner similar although not exactly as obtained in the telecommunications sector:
  • A call on the National Assembly to ban the use of individual generating sets for the purpose of living of all public servants in their official houses without any exception. That is to say from Mr. President/Commander- in -Chief to any Nigerian public servant in all capacities and at all levels of government.

 

  • The collation of a comprehensive and reliable database of existing telephone lines and who they serve by way of conducting a Telephone Subscriber Registration. (Not a SIM Card Registration) whose cause must be seen and canvassed for everybody’s understanding and not and ad-hoc exercise of an emergency law.

 

  • A review of the USPF to include the outlet of a Telecommunications Development Bank, TDB, which will serve to put the utilization of the FUND on a business path? The USPF is in chains. Those who are making effort to access it all think that the FUND is cheap money waiting to be used to help their businesses while those who are administering it think only those who do not contribute to it should have access to it. It calls for re-orientation on all fronts.

 

  • A unification of the telecommunications, broadcasting and computer industry to a true Information communication technology, ICT, industry.

 

  • Establishment of a Stimulus Fund which, in addition to the USPF, may be accessible through the TDB.

 

  • An insistence that whichever bidder eventually holds NITEL’s First National Operator License must deliver the Long Distance Transmission component of the license, first and foremost, failing which another Third National Operator be licensed not later than 2013.

 

Long term

In the long term, we recommend that we put forward proposals with a cost/benefit analysis which actions we expect to truly translate our ideas into the reality of connecting every Nigerian to the telephony system that is efficient, reliable and affordable.

Again, we call on The NIEEE, using all the resources available to, it to pursue the review of education curriculum to include:

  1. All primary school leavers to master typing to the 30 words per minute as their graduating minimum
  2. Curricular of training in Universities to deliberately have our industry in mind and to dynamically respond as such and
  3. A new postgraduate curriculum which shall research into information and communications technology and its administration and from it a deliberate mandate that paths to our long term objective of meeting 452,311,182 mobile telephone lines in 2040 be undertaken and its result form part of our implementation agenda.

 

Apart from  x(d) and X(c). There is nothing new in all of the above, as they have been proposed in some guise, at one time or the other. The emphasis is on sincerely implementing them.
40.        My Frustrations revisited

As Chairman of NIEEE in 1996, I argued that our electricity power management would benefit from a truly liberalized industry in the manner that we had in telecommunications three years earlier, regardless of our arduous journey which was erratic and blighted with false dawns. I held the view that sooner rather than later, we would turn around the fortunes in our telecommunications, but I remain fearful that the shift stick of progress that had been in D (Drive) will sooner or later, be stuck in N (Neutral) or even R (Reverse) if we do not replicate what we have done in the electricity industry sector. I avoided seeking re-election after my first term out of the frustration of not being allowed to visit the then NEPA General Manager, whom I had wanted to convey my worries and examine his reasons for not embracing a true liberalization agenda.

As Vice-President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers in 1999, I argued that the Nigerian engineers did not value and recognize their own worth first in their failure to acknowledge themselves as central in all aspects of our growth and also for not doing enough to even acclaim their own achievers. An Austrian Philosopher once said ‘Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgement.’ I thought we might start by holding a technical lecture to celebrate every past President of NSE that attained 70 years, every active NSE member that attained 80 years and every registered engineer that attained 90 years. I thought my proposition was accepted when the NSE celebrated the birthday of Engr. Rev P. B Oyebolu with a lecture.

41.        Conclusion

Please, remember that the highest expression of appreciation is not just to speak words, but to live by them.

Thank you.

 

Titi Omo-Ettu, FNSE
December 16, 2010.

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