Issue #25   •   Quarter 3/4 Edition   •   December 2018


The term broadband refers to the wide bandwidth characteristics of a transmission medium and its ability to transport multiple signals and traffic types simultaneously. The medium can be coax, optical fiber, twisted pair, DSL local telephone networks or wireless. In contrast, baseband describes a communication system in which information is transported across a single channel.

Different criteria for "broad" have been applied in different contexts and at different times. Its origin is in physics, acoustics and radio systems engineering, where it had been used with a meaning similar to wideband. Later, with the advent of digital telecommunications, the term was mainly used for transmission over multiple channels. Whereas a pass band signal is also modulated so that it occupies higher frequencies (compared to a baseband signal which is bound to lowest end of spectrum), it is still occupying a single channel. The key difference is that what is typically considered a broadband signal in this sense is a signal that occupies multiple (non-masking, orthogonal) pass bands thus allowing for much higher throughput over a single medium, but with additional complexity in the transmitter/receiver circuitry. Finally, the term became popularized through the 1990s as a marketing term for Internet access that was faster than dialup access, the original Internet access technology, which was limited to 56 kbps. This meaning is only distantly related to its original technical meaning.

Broadband refers to a communication bandwidth of at least 256 kbit/s. Each channel is 4 MHz wide and it uses an extensive range of frequencies to effortlessly relay and receive data between networks. In telecommunications, a broadband signaling method is one that handles a wide band of frequencies. Broadband is a relative term, understood according to its context. The wider (or broader) the bandwidth of a channel, the greater the information-carrying capacity, given the same channel quality.

In radio, for example, a very narrow-band will carry Morse code; a broader band will carry speech; a still broader band will carry music without losing the high audio frequencies required for realistic sound reproduction. This broad band is often divided into channels or frequency bins using passband techniques to allow frequency-division multiplexing, instead of sending a higher-quality signal.

A television antenna may be described as "broadband" because it is capable of receiving a wide range of channels; while a single-frequency or Lo-VHF antenna is "narrowband" since it receives only 1 to 5 channels. The US federal standard FS-1037C defines "broadband" as a synonym for wideband.

In data communications a 56k modem will transmit a data rate of 56 kilobits per second (kbit/s) over a 4 kilohertz wide telephone line (narrowband or voiceband). The various forms of digital subscriber line (DSL) services are broadband in the sense that digital information is sent over multiple channels. Each channel is at higher frequency than the baseband voice channel, so it can support plain old telephone service on a single pair of wires at the same time.

However when that same line is converted to a non-loaded twisted-pair wire (no telephone filters), it becomes hundreds of kilohertz wide (broadband) and can carry up to 60 megabits per second using very-high-bitrate digital subscriber line (VDSL or VHDSL) techniques.

“Nigeria is not the only country aspiring to enjoy the broadband revolution. Doubling the broadband speed for the economy increases GDP by 0.3 percentage points.’’

The above statement could be true, that Nigeria is not the only country to benefit from broadband as said by the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, but it is obvious from all indications that this revolution is more needed in Nigeria compared to other countries.

Thus while some countries like Ghana have gone far in defining access to super fast internet as a fundamental human right, Nigeria’s broadband access remains low at six percent.

Expert says this is expected because the country’s over 95million active mobile users are yet to benefit from the huge broadband capacity provided by subsea cables such as Glo One , Main One among several others, due to inadequate last mile infrastructure with the high cost of internet and abysmally slow speed.

This fact is underscored by the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, who said “despite the fact that we have internet penetration of 28 percent [45 million internet users], only [14.5 million people] of the population are actually internet subscribers and broadband penetration is at mere six percent. In fact, recent statistics that I looked at have us as having one of the lowest speeds in Africa.’’

She said the crux of the consistent industry engagement and discussions is to ensure that Nigeria is able to quickly deploy broadband infrastructure and harness the benefits therein as provided by Main One submarine cables 240m and Glo One 800m cable.

Considering the impact of Main One in Ghana, since launched in October 2011, the Managing Director of Zipnet Broadband Wireless Services, who also coupled as the President of Ghana Internet Service Providers Association, Mr. Ernest Brown, expressed satisfaction with the quality of services provided by Main One.

His words: ‘’We can comfortably say that Main One is doing a good job in terms of customer connectivity. With our last providers, we constantly had to chase them before we could discuss technical issues that affected us. With Main One, they are the one doing the chasing, and they engage us once every month and address our challenges.’’

He further confirmed that the entry of Main One heralded a revolution in Ghana; prices came down, quality went up, customers started getting more capacity and phenomenal quality at the same time which changed the entire dynamics of the ICT Industry.

Hence a glance at the Nigeria’s broadband access shows that most Nigerians still access the internet through public venues, due to high charges and ubiquity network.

According to the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Johnson, Over 7.78 terabytes of internet capacity is lying untapped at the shores of the country. This shows that Nigerians are yet to take full advantage of Main One and Glo One in the country.

She laments that Nigeria currently has one of the highest costs of access in the world at approximately Eight Naira to Ten Naira for 5Mbs of data. ‘’ Unless the capacity was connected to the hinterlands through last-mile connectivity, it would remain a challenge for the country in getting the capacity inland while internet penetration in the country would also remain a challenge.’’

Thus the summit held in Lagos by the Association of Telecommunication companies in Nigeria ATCON, last year 2011, revealed that over 51 percent of internet connection in the country is still done via VSAT and more investment is required to deliver affordable bandwidth to users.

Going by the ATCON’s new position of using broadband as the enabler to connect the next 50 million telecom users in Nigeria, the immediate past president of ATCON, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, projects such as aerial optic fibre, could hold a lot of promise towards achieving this goal.

The prevalent multiple regulation and taxation by state government was also identified as a major hindrance to broadband infrastructure and deployment by the NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Mr. Juwah, adding that available infrastructure are characterized by operational issues such as monopoly ownership, exorbitantly high pricing and discriminatory access.

According to him, it is evident that there is no broadband market in Nigeria. ‘’The current development has made very little impact with the estimated penetration of broadband in Nigeria varying from less than two percent to less than five percent.’’