By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Broadband installation holds aloft the promise of turning Anambra State into one megacity. Just last year, on March 30, Anambra State scored a remarkable feat by becoming the first state in Nigeria to bring together eminent stakeholders in a conference to singularly address the obstacles facing broadband deployment and expansion in the country. The well-attended conference rallied stakeholders and investors to Anambra State’s readiness and willingness to expand broadband infrastructure for accelerated socioeconomic development of the State celebrated as “The Light of the Nation”. Anambra thus took pride of place as the first state in South-East Nigeria to implement the waiver of the per linear meter Right of Way (RoW) charges as opposed to the N145 per linear metre recommended by the National Economic Council. The suave Chairman/Managing Director of Anambra State Physical Planning Board (ANSPPB), Barrister Chike F. Maduekwe masterfully organised the conference that attracted highbrow stakeholders such as the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami; the Government of the United Kingdom; Kaduna State Government; Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON); the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON); Government of Anambra State and its agencies.
According to Barrister Maduekwe, “For purpose of clarity and better understanding, Broadband is like the expressway. It is the highway of information and communications. Just as the volume of goods an entity is able to move can determine its wealth, the volume and rate information (text, speech, sounds, static or motion images) can be transferred and received can shape prosperity. Broadband penetration (through laying of additional fibre or other wireless form of making broadband available) is similar to the expansion of express roads into the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. The availability of broadband, will enable people to access information they require to improve the quality of life lived, through participating in online economic activities, learning new skills, be more enlightened to participate in governance and for government to be able to provide public online services.” A critical update of the broadband drive happened on July 31, 2022, with the Anambra State Unified Duct Infrastructure Project (ANSG UDIP) – an Open Access Model for High-Speed Broadband Delivery throughout Anambra State.
The initiative is for the private sector to build – at their own cost – a Unified Fibre Duct Infrastructure Project in Anambra State, using the Open Access Model that separates the ownership of the Physical Infrastructure, to wit, Specialised Ducts and Manholes, from the active Fibre services that will run through the underground duct network. In the words of Barrister Maduekwe, “This will entail building up to 2,000kilometers of underground ducting network throughout Anambra State, thus making possible the swift, State-wide implementation of High-speed, Fibre Optic Broadband services. The Open Access model of High-speed Broadband deployment proposes a ‘Dig Once’ Policy, a policy that requires the trenching (digging), laying of ducts, and backfilling of all dug up trenches or paths, only once.” Several reasons are adduced for the implementation of the Open Access Model of High-speed Broadband services, such as: Standardization, Neutrality of Players, Security, Avoidance of Conflict of Interest, Basis for Fair Pricing for All Parties, and Independence. This process will ensure multiform Infrastructural gains for Anambra State within six months to of year of implementation, including: Direct Job Creation, Contribution to GDP Growth, Emergence of New Services and Industries, Workforce Transformation, and Business Innovation. Maduekwe stresses: “Numerous public services have become available online and through mobile phones. The transition to cloud computing is one of the key trends for modernization. If Anambra State follows suit, it will embrace such cloud-based data infrastructure, and would be an outlier in the creation of Data Centre Opportunities in the Southeast. Fibre Optic communications through wired (fibre), and wireless (fibre radio) connections has enabled the emergence of a completely new sector: The APP Industry, supported by ICT. Incidentally, Google’s submarine Broadband cable touched land in Nigeria in the second quarter of 2022 and runs across Nigeria and five other African countries and connects them directly to Europe. This is a $1Billion investment that Anambra can tap into in the quest to achieve the State’s Digital Transformation. The investment focuses on enabling fast, affordable internet access for more Africans by plugging into already existing metro and last mile duct fibre to provide even more capacity. They intend to also support entrepreneurship and small businesses. Anambra can key into these strategic multinational partnerships.”
The Mobile network operators are interested in reducing their costs and will be more than willing to go into long term Right of Way Agreements with Anambra State. The fibre to the tower opportunity halves the power cost requirements of TELCOS or MNOs by almost half. There is the added advantage of street lighting and other possible IPP power collaborations for green energy where these power cables can share the same trench with the fibre duct. Anambra State can achieve Off-grid energy independence at zero cost to the State, and implement zero carbon power solutions either alongside or after the fibre deployment. The integrated interests can deploy bulk power (up to 1,000MW/H), solar power solutions that would light up Anambra, power government places of interest through prepaid solutions and so forth. The fibre connection is the fastest means of telecommunications known to the modern world. With fibre to homes, offices, and other premises individuals can have access to the Triple Play Opportunities of Voice, Video and Data capabilities. Anambra State can go into e-traffic implementation agreements with 3rd party entities to modernize their traffic systems and append electronic tickets to erring drivers at traffic stops and no parking zones etc.; E-security – Anambra state can enter into e-security implementation agreements with 3rd party entities for state wide CCTV security provision. This will greatly increase security preparedness and create jobs through on site installations by technicians and call centre work opportunities for youths; E-learning – Anambra state owned schools can be provided with the latest learning management systems for state owned schools for both students and teachers to foster remote learning solutions and promote teacher remote training opportunities.
Through the Data Centres, Anambra State can collaborate with large data storage firms for the provision of data centres all over the state. Work from home opportunities and new start-up business ventures for the State will flourish once the fibre broadband internet services are up and running. This will attract FDI to Anambra State and will create jobs for thousands of youths through new web-based business opportunities and training of Ndi-Anambra on programming, coding and electronic transactions processes. The Anambra broadband initiative is truly an idea whose time has come especially in this august time of the Anambra megacity goal.
Uzoatu writes from Lagos