Broadband Penetration: Once operators expand their infrastructure, there will be availability and penetration -Abiodun Omoniyi, MD/CEO, VDT Communication
Abiodun Omoniyi, MD/CEO, VDT Communication, one of 2019 TOP 20 CEOs in ICT shed light on the critical factors needed to ensure that internet penetrates every corner of the country, and what his role would be in this expansion. Excerpt.
Broadband penetration is a big issue now. What are your thoughts?
In terms of creating the penetration, there was a target on the National Broadband Plan and the target was to achieve 30% by the end of 2018 and today, 2019 the information we got from the regulator is that we have achieved that, we are above the broadband penetration.
That, indeed, is a big deal and quite delightsome to hear. It is not just hearing about it on the street. The awareness Nigerians have about the use of data has actually increased in the last three years and we don’t have to dwell on the statistics to believe it.
What time frame do you foresee that broadband will get to every corner of Nigeria?
Like all issues concerning development, we need to start somewhere. Now we are at 30% that simply is a bit less than 1/3 of the entire surface. We need to get to 40% and above. Even the voice service which is the 2G that is the most prevalent form of communications technology in the country is not in every corner of Nigeria. It is after the 2G technology that we have moved to 2.5G and 3G. Even the 3G is even less prevalent than the 2G today.
The 3G technology is part of what was recorded as broadband and rightly so because one of the first things we need to look at, and which NCC also is pivoting, I have attended different events where people doubted it. The issue here is that there would have been a definition of what broadband is, and in the National Broadband document, there was a definition of what broadband should be.
The 30% that was measured by the NCC, I won’t say NCC said it was measured, this was submitted by different operators and the only way NCC can actually judge this is by reading those statistics and saying yes, we have met it.
The 3G technology happens to be one of the technologies that will deliver broadband by our definition and like I said, and truly so, we are beginning to see that it delivers data and some kind of speed in data that makes it useable on most devices that people carry. So in terms of how long do I foresee broadband penetration, in terms of getting into all the corners of Nigeria, there is another target now that is been set.
All the industry players are setting another five years. We are looking at 70% coverage of broadband in the whole country and some people are of the opinion that 70% is low. We need to do better but this is what the operators agreed to at the last meeting this year.
We need broadband for the efficient digital economy and as such, when do you think broadband will be more accessible, available and affordable?
In terms of access, it has to do with when it penetrates. Whoever has put up that infrastructure wants to sell it. And just like in everything economics, there is a market. There are sellers and buyers. Once the operators start to expand the infrastructure, there will be available, there will be penetration.
In the free world, anybody that desires to get hooked onto such an infrastructure can actually access it. The issue of affordability comes in the era of a free market. I will say that the data rate in Nigeria is quite fair and as such it should be affordable taking the competition in the market into consideration. In a free market, you will always get a fair price.
As an industry player, what is the solution to have broadband that can serve the market at this critical period?
There are many solutions to broadband in the market and we have been a player in this market since inception and if there is any broadband being defined, we are part of the people that would have defined it in this market. We have been playing in the corporate world before now. We may not be that popular to the general masses and we also know that we have the zeal to actually come to the retail market and let more and more people feel our service which is usually highly qualitative.
We pay attention to customer service and, I want to believe that the same kind of thing that we have been doing all these while at the corporate level we can actually bring many of those benefits to bear on the retail market. This means the homes, individuals, and that is one solution we are embarking on now which we just launched a while ago.
We have 3G, 4G LTE. What is 4G LTE advanced technology that you just rolled out?
I will say that our own Advanced 4G LTE is advanced because our network was built solely on the 4G layer. We do not have any other G so we are fortunate enough that immediately we have brought the spectrum that we are actually riding on; we have started the construction of the basic infrastructure of 4G. In terms of deployment, the equipment that we use is far faster in the telecoms world. So, it is at the peak of what other people use and that also translates into speed. It’s actually a lot faster.
We do not have a legacy issue. It’s an infrastructure built with 4G in mind. Now, it’s not falling over, not falling backwards, which can clog and disturb the speed. It is 5G aware because these are newer sets of equipment that is actually riding on the 5G technology.
There is no 4.5G and if there is anything like that then what we have deployed will have easily qualified. That is why it becomes an advanced 4G. So, the transmission equipment is actually the newest form of transmission equipment and is a higher technology than what you have in the market. This will also show in the usage and by the time people start buying and using the service.
Are you prepared for a cyberattack which is prevalent now?
Anything you have in the physical you also have in the cyberspace. You cannot have a totally crime-free world. That is the same reason in the cyber-world and cyberspace, there will always be criminals. There will always be people that their behaviour will be less than straight and so it is the responsibility of operators like us to make sure that our customers are protected and we have actually put everything in place to make sure that we have a secured environment. But like I said security is an internal vigilance activity. We will continue to look at it. We will check our systems. We will do patches where we have to do patches. We have the infrastructure to wage off these attacks.
What USP is the VDT Advanced 4G LTE bringing to the market?
One of the uniqueness about us is actually our pedigree in the corporate world. We are known for providing quality service. That cuts across all our products and it’s now synonymous with the brand. When you hear VDT, what comes to mind is service quality. That is going to be a major differentiator that we are promising consumers in the market. High-quality service is one of the advantages that you are going to see.
We are also known for our efficient customer service and that is also going to be one of the things we are going to deploy for our customers. We have learnt the rope from the corporate world. We are carrying the same thing into the retail world. One of the other things we are bringing into the market is speed, super fast broadband internet service.