By Emmanuel Elebeke
With all the enviable statistics Nigeria can boast of in telecommunications development, cost of doing business, particularly in the rural areas, is still very high.
Apart from the inadequate power supply which sees almost every business concern generating almost all the energy it requires for the business, the issue of unavailability of ubiquitous broadband and high cost of data bogs down the speed of doing business as it jerks up the cost.
However, several measures have been applied to ease the problem and have broadband deployed in the rural areas from the quantum capacity available from submarine broadband cables landed on the shores of Lagos by private companies, including MainOne, Glo1, West African Cable System, WACS, and even Sat3.
Such measures included instituting a national broadband plan, which projected certain levels of broadband penetration within given time frames; a national Economic Council which stipulated and pegged costs for Right of Way, RoW access, for operators willing to deploy services in rural areas.
Again, the telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, also set out a huge chunk of fund as incentive to operators who are willing to take broadband deployments in less business areas.
These measures, have however, either failed or have not achieved the desired results, due to many factors. It’s either every level of government has refused to abide by the pronouncement of NEC on the stipulated amount or the facilities are being vandalised by the people the development was meant for.
But the International Telecommunication Union, ITU, has come with a respite. Its new standard on telecom deployment tends to consider use of lightweight optics cable to deploy high-speed broadband services to rural communities in developing countries.
The lightweight, terabit-capable optical cable can be deployed on the ground’s surface with minimal expense and environmental impact.
The standard is giving developing countries the confidence to consider the rollout of optical networks in some of the world’s most challenging conditions.
“The new standards put advanced optical technology in the hands of rural communities, leveraging the ingenuity of local communities to overcome the prohibitive costs of traditional optical cable deployment in areas with a challenging installation environment.
The unique feature of this solution is its focus on ease of deployment, cost-effective and practical implementation.
Local communities will have the ability to secure the standard on-surface lines, using everyday tools to partially bury the lines, settle them on ground underwater, suspend them aerially, or relocate the lines as necessary.
Editor of the new standards, Haruo Okamura said that “Optical cable is becoming an absolute must for telemedicine. Only optical cable provides capacity high enough and latency low enough for the live transmission of HD medical imagery to remote medical professionals.”
Okamura added that “the designs of conventional optical cables are specific to their installation environment – whether duct, directly buried, lashed aerial or submerged – with installation methods relying on specialised machinery and skilled labour.”
Radiocommunications, he said, can provide last-mile connectivity “but in the broadband era, optical infrastructure is indispensable as rural communities are often many, many kilometres away from core networks.”
According to ITU, the challenge is made even greater by the low densities of remote rural communities, where fibre rollouts demand a disproportionate level of initial capital investment relative to the potential return on such investment.
New ITU standards aim to change that equation by providing a low-cost ‘do-it-yourself’ solution able to be deployed in even the world’s most remote areas.
Notable industry stakeholders have also hailed the standards, saying it would help countries like Nigeria compete favourably and fairly in the global market place as the idea would drive telecom inclusiveness just as it would drive down cost of doing business.
A Lagos-based telecom engineer Engr. Tunde Awali, said: “This is good news for telecom operators in Nigeria; it is good news for rural communities. Now, the rural dwellers can have same bragging rights people living in urban areas have. They would enjoy the benefit of reduced cost of doing business because whether we like it or not, every business today relies more on internet and you can agree with me that data is costly here. So, the standard is the solution we are waiting for,” he added.
Meanwhile, ITU’s Okamura had said: “This is the world’s first standardised solution expressly designed to narrow the digital divide. It will assist us in ensuring that communications infrastructure fulfils its great potential to support the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”Read Full Story