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Mobile broadband could boost Nigeria

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The GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, has called on the Nigerian government to unlock potential NGN862-billion (about R40-billion) of GDP growth by 2015 by supporting the rollout of mobile broadband across the country.

At a press conference in Lagos yesterday, Ross Bateson, special government advisor, GSMA, outlined the findings of a new independent report by analyst firm Analysys Mason and called on the Nigerian government to:
– Unlock the 2.6GHz spectrum quickly to support the high demand for mobile broadband in urban areas;
– Release the digital dividend spectrum to deliver broadband services to rural areas; and
– Reduce the 35% tax level faced by Nigerian mobile operators, a tax which is double the global average.
According to the study, only 6% of all Nigerians currently have access to broadband services, and 74% of those do so through mobile broadband. There is little fixed broadband connectivity outside of Lagos, and even in Nigerian cities, most cyber cafes now connect to the Internet using wireless services. It is widely acknowledged that mass-market broadband availability will only be possible using mobile technologies, and this report highlights the steps the Nigerian government must take to promote mobile broadband growth.
"It is essential that the new Nigerian government acts quickly to support mobile broadband expansion, as failure to do so could hinder the country's social and economic growth," says Bateson. "Not only could the country realise as much as NGN862-billion of incremental GDP, but people of all ages and livelihoods would benefit from the vast amount of information and opportunities mobile broadband can unlock."
The study found that mobile broadband could potentially contribute more than 1% of GDP, or 1,7% of non-oil GDP, as soon as 2015 and will facilitate much needed diversification of the economy. According to the report, government support for mobile broadband services could help deliver significant advantages to the wider wireless ecosystem and the way in which other sectors use the Internet:
– 55% annual growth would be seen from the online retail industry, growing from NGN4,5-billion in 2010 to 44,9-billion in 2015;
– The financial services industry's benefit from broadband would grow by 95% CAGR, as a result of mobile access to bank accounts and money transfer services, from NGN0,6-billion in 2010 to 16,8-billion in 2015;
– The use of the Internet and mobile to deliver social services, including healthcare and education, would generate growth of 70% CAGR, from NGN2,2-billion to 30,3-billion in 2015; and
– The overall corporate market, especially agriculture and utilities, would experience a 55% annual growth rate through the provision of services online, from NGN3,6-billion in 2010 to 32,1-billion in 2015.
Wider availability of mobile broadband could also vastly improve overall industrial productivity through improvements in business processes. A 73% annual increase in the working population with access to mobile broadband, reaching 5,2-million users by 2015, will deliver an additional NGN140-billion to the Nigerian economy each year.
Bateson concluded: "Mobile is the most cost-effective way of delivering broadband services in Nigeria," Bateson says. "Nigeria already has advanced mobile networks, such as Glo's recently launched LTE network, and has experienced significant take-up of HSPA Mobile Broadband.
"The laying of submarine data cables between Lagos and Europe has provided much of the international backhaul needed, but mobile is vital in providing 'last mile' connectivity to consumers, especially in rural areas," he adds. "However, without proper spectrum allocation in line with internationally harmonised band plans and broader government support, it will not be possible to realise the full potential of mobile broadband."