The growth profile of licensed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country has continued to plummet.Statistics obtained by The Guardian from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) confirmed this. The statistics revealed that out of the 219,117 connections, only about 126, 378 users are active on the Internet through the ISPs as at first quarter 2018.
These connected lines were made possible by the efforts of 23 ISPs, including Spectranet, IS Internet Solutions, VDT, Cobranet, e-Stream, Cyberspace, MainOne Cables, Juniper Solutions, Backbone Connectivity, Hyperia, ipNX, Zeta-Web Nigeria, Ekovolt Telco Nigeria, Layer 3 Ltd, NetAccess Communications Nigeria, among others.
The implication of this is that the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), including MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9Mobile, which have Universal Access Service License (UASL), have remained the major gateway to the Internet in Nigeria.
The MNOs have connected 242.4 million lines out of which 162.5 million are active through the narrow band, the GSM technology.The NCC statistics showed that the services of Spectranet appeared most leveraged, as it single handedly claimed 193, 034 connections of which 115, 574 are active.
In terms of Point of Presence, the 23 operators’ have 1,066, with Spectranet having 630 while Cyberspace Limited has 135 across their areas of operations.The snail speed developments around ISPs in the country have been blamed on so many factors, including their inability to evolve good packages for consumers.
Speaking with The Guardian, the President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS) Deolu Ogunbanjo, said their major problems have been the ability of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to operate in that terrain. Ogunbanjo, who said the MNOs have changed their strategies from just voice offering to data services, noted that the economy should not be blamed, and saying: “ISPs must evolve to stay afloat. They should offer reduced but attractive tariffs.”
He called on the regulator to come up with policies that will keep afloat ISPs in the country.At a stakeholders conference in Lagos in 2017, NCC Director, Licensing and Authorisation, Ms. Funlola Akiode, said despite the fact that over 70 per cent of the Nigeria’s population are active mobile subscribers. The digital divide is still wide especially as regards rural dwellers.
According to her, in 2017, statistics of Internet users across Africa indicated that Nigeria has the highest users; however the country tends to be the lowest when measured in accordance with penetration rate. For instance, she said with a penetration rate of 48.8 million when compared with Nigeria’s population was just 0.3 per cent or 34 per cent, adding: “while our population is increasing in a geometric progression, the Internet usage and penetration rates are increasing in arithmetic progression.
Akiode revealed that in the past five years, the Commission licensed 103 ISPs nationwide, “but only 10 per cent applied for renewal of the licence.”She noted that as a responsive regulator, the sustainability of ISPs in telecommunications businesses in Nigeria was a primary interest to NCC.
The Consultative Forum identified the following as challenges confronting ISPs, the operating environment (big service providers operating in both the wholesale and retail segments of the market and under-pricing the smaller operators and taking their customers); inadequate infrastructure (need for deployment of more telecoms infrastructure and need for allocation of more frequencies to expedite deployment of data services); multiple taxation/regulation (the impediment in the deployment of data services by government agencies through taxes); type approval process (turnaround time for type approval of equipment is lengthy).
It was also identified that disparity between advertised Internet speeds and actual speed obtainable on the networks; inadequate provision of redundancy by ISPs to handle network down time and lack of compensation for downtime; poor quality of service; inexplicable depletion of data services, auto renewal of service among others.
To forestall the steep collapse of ISPs in the country, stakeholders appealed to NCC to manage the prices for Internet services, ensuring that all vendors have uniform prices given to the end user.