Tope is one of the millions of Nigerians who are benefiting from the seeming revolution gradually taking place in the area of Internet services in Africa’s most populous country.
With the launch of undersea fibre optic cable projects, many Internet users like tope have more access to the Internet and may well soon be enjoying remarkable high speed Internet at a more affordable cost.
Some years back in Nigeria, one would need to visit a cybercafé to check an email or surf the net. “At times when you get to the cafe, there are long queues and the Internet may not be working fine,’’ Tope said.
Tope is among the almost 44 million Nigerians Internet World Statistics says have access to the Internet. Unlike before, she now surfs the Internet in the comfort of her home or workplace using her Blackberry phone.
“I have my email on my fingertips, I can easily go online if I want to browse for footwear, the latest shopping mall and browse for the latest electronics...you can chat on Yahoo and on Facebook...it has really made life easy.”
While tope acknowledges that Internet service in Africa’s most populous country has improved, she believes service providers still have a lot to do in delivering consistent high speed Internet. “I think on a scale of 1 to 10, I will give them five and a half.”
Undersea cable projects, Internet services and challenges
Last year the wholly African and first privately owned submarine network cable firm in West Africa, launched a 7,000 kilometers-long fiber optic undersea cable, running from Portugal to Nigeria and Ghana and also branching out to Morocco, the Canary Islands, Senegal and Ivory Coast.
The Main One Cable Company had said with its cable system now turned on, the firm was poised to champion a communications revolution in Africa impacting businesses, governments and individuals by providing higher bandwidth and exceptional speeds at a lower cost.
The President of Nigerian Internet Group, Lanre Ajayi said although the launched undersea fibre optic cable projects like that of Main One have improved speed to some extent, they were yet to meet the level of expectations of users across the country.
“To a certain extent yes, its been able to impact on the speed, but certainly not to the level of expectations that people anticipated, ...don't forget the cable we are talking about, Main One, Glo one, they are all landing in Lagos, at the Lagos beach,” Ajayi said. “The Internet is been used in the hinterland, in Kano, Sokoto, Calabar, all over Nigeria, so, the challenge is taking this bandwidth from the landing station to the hinterland.”
Ajayi said there were a number of challenges that have to be addressed saying “one of them is the last mile [the point at which the end consumers begin to enjoy the benefits of broadband projects] usually done by wireless technology and wireless spectrum.”
The President of Nigerian Internet Group said a spectrum has to be made available to the operators to be able to deploy these services, while the national transmission backbone also has to improve in order to effectively transport the bandwidth from the landing station to various cities.
Price slashes of Internet connection
Lanre Ajayi however said the various fibre optic projects had led to a drastic reduction in the price of Internet connectivity.
“You can see some GSM companies slashing their Internet pricing almost by 50 percent; I want to believe that has to do with the availability of bandwidth as a result of the cables, but we certainly expected much cheaper pricing and much faster speed than we are having.”
Future of broadband in Nigeria
An ICT publisher, Ken Nwogbo believes even though Nigeria is yet to meet the broadband needs of its teeming Internet users in terms of cost, accessibility and speed, there is an improvement from what the country had before.
He said with the current fibre optic projects and other ones landing in the populous West African nation, Nigerians would experience further improvements in terms of Internet speed, accessibility and affordability.
“It’s a process. But looking at the next three to four months, I see a whole lot of improvement. We are going to have virtually four to five times what we have now, an improvement from what we had last year,” the ICT publisher added.