Broadband: Not yet uhuru for Nigerians, appeal for FG’s intervention

OR the umpteenth time, Nigerians have voiced out their frustrations over the rising cost of data services being
provided by the telecommunications operators in the country.

Those who spoke on the issue said it is consuming the better part of their income and called on the Federal Government to come to the rescue of internet users in the country since everybody needs data services, especially now that most communications and meetings are done virtually since the advent of COVID-19 pandemic last year.

A stakeholder, who does not want his name in print said the country has advanced in technology and particularly in the area telecommunications as well as all other economic sectors but that it is duty of the government to ensure that the prices are not probative.

He said he knew that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Engr Umar Garba Danbatta had at one time or the other promised to look into issue of high cost of data, but that they should follow this up action.

He pointed out that a recent report on broadband penetration in Africa put a question mark on the affordability of internet in Africa and Nigeria in particular, adding that this is the right time to review policies in the telecoms sector.

A subscriber, Mr Azeez Iyiola, who is based in Lagos, told the Nigerian Tribune that he used to spend just N1000 on data per month but that suddenly he discovered that the N1000 subscription was not enough anymore and that he had to increase it to N1500. Iyiola further stated that again, he realised that the N1500 was not enough to for a month’s subscription and therefore increased it N2000 from the initial N1000 he used to expend monthly.

He disclosed that he doesn’t visits sites that consume data like twitter, Youtube, Instagram among others.

The same storyline runs through other respondents who complained bitterly about the high cost data services in the country.

Mr James Okoro told Nigerian Tribune during a chat that he could not explain his consternation concerning the rate at which the cost of data is going on the high side.

Okoro revealed that not only that data evaporates easily, but that at times, data will just disappear from
one’s handset without any explanation from the operators.

According to Okoro, he thought it was his operator that was the only culprit until he tried almost all other
operators only to discover that they are the same thing. He wondered why it has become so difficult for Nigerians to enjoy such services without breaking the banks. He called on the Federal Government and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to come to the rescue of Nigerians over this issue.

While begging the Federal Government to intervene in this matter, another subscriber, Mrs Kolawole Omobolanle, said it shouldn’t be this COVID-19 era that services like internet subscription should be out of reach of the people. According to her, once the N1000 she subscribes to finishes, she would not bother to re-subscribe again for the remaining part of the month. Like, Okoro, she also thought it was peculiar to her operator but discovered painfully that it cuts across all the operators.

Efforts to get reactions from some of the operators, particularly MTN and Airtel proved abortive as of the
time of filing this report.

But in his reaction, a former President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) said the usage of data should be made to reflect the cost of doing business in Nigeria.

He said: It is apparent that the usage of data to perform online operations and partake in online virtual meetings will require innovative pricing that reflects the costs of doing business in Nigeria.

“Latest statistics demonstrate an opportunity for data pricing to be affordable to those struggling to make
ends meet, however, it is also important to note that Nigeria’s data prices is one of the cheapest on the continent and with the recent recommendations made in the Nigerian National Broadband (NBC) Plan 2020-25, a
target of NGN390 per 1GB per month can be achieved by 2025.

“The obstacles to reduction of unbundled data pricing are multi-faceted and require a multi-stakeholder engagement to put heads together to resolve the recurring issues of multiple and double taxation, high costs of doing business which impacts on our costs of rendering data services. With the introduction of full adoption of CNI and harmonisation of RoWs across the country, there is every likelihood that reduced costs will be reflected
in data prices going forward.”

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