The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) may need to reevaluate its ambitious claim of 22 percent Internet penetration in the country as the metrics upon which the industry regulator arrived at such a figure lack merit and transparency, according to industry analysts.
The analysts say the 22 percent broadband penetration was benchmarked on wrong Internet subscribers figures as a result of several duplications, repetitive count of subscribers, and the merge of voice subscribers and Internet subscribers since an average Nigerian could have up to three SIM cards.
They therefore said the 22 percent penetration level being claimed by the tech regulator is misleading, lacks merit and does not reflect the reality in the ecosystem.
They argued that for the NCC to project the right Internet penetration level, the Commission would have to draw a comprehensive parity between the number of voice and mobile Internet subscribers to arrive at the total number of unique subscribers, the figure needed to realistically determine the level of Internet penetration in the country.
“It is paralysis syndrome typical in Africa. We usually like quantity and big numbers even when they do not help strategically. Using unique numbers will depress the numbers put forth by the NCC; and most agencies in Africa do not like to approach that path,” Ndubuisi Ekekwe, a professor and chairman at Fasmicro Group told business a.m.
“But it is wrong – we need unique numbers if we hope to play efficiently. The foundation of this problem was from how the biometric data capture was implemented. If the NCC had followed the bank Bank Verification Number (BVN) model where once registered, you can be populated across networks. It would have been cheaper and also more efficient. But with what we have, NCC would need to concatenate all the disparate networks to arrive at unique number. That is not going to be a small work,” Ekekwe added.
However, analyses of the NCC’s figure on the number of Internet subscribers in comparison with other big players such as Facebook and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) show a complete miss match.
For instance, the last figures released in May by the NCC indicate that Nigeria has 103 million Internet subscribers; Facebook reports that its has 26 million monthly users in Nigeria; while the CBN as at 2017 had in its custody less 30 million unique bank account customers despite having over 70 million bank ac- counts in Nigeria. The CBN avoided the mistake by the NCC using the BVN to determine the exact figures without duplications.
“Nigeria is busy counting mobile broadband. When the government says we have achieved 22 percent, they are counting multiple SIM cards owned by the same persons, that is not what it should be. It is lazy to do that. Count subscribers, don’t count SIM cards and the number will drop to less than 10 percent,” Gbenga Sesan, executive director, Paradigm Initiative said in July 2018.
“I am faulting the plan implementation because I am one of those who put together the plan. It was a good plan but the implementation has been defective. We have become deceptive; NCC’s 22 percent broadband penetration claim is faulty. In fact, it is less than 10 percent,” he stressed.
Nonetheless, there have been
debates on how broadband penetration should be calculated and measured globally. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), broadband penetration is mea- sured by the number of broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, comprising both fixed and wire- less services offering connectivity with download speeds greater than 256kbit/seconds.
But broadband within the Nigerian context is defined as an Internet experience where the user can access the most demanding content in real time at a minimum speed of 1.5 Mbit/s.
According to the National Broadband Plan developed in 2013, three conditions were spelt out and that include Internet speed to be at 1.5MBPS, Internet not to buffer and the focus should be mainly on terrestrial infrastructure.