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It is official. The winners for the advertised bid for licensing of Infracos have emerged, with MainOne Cable winning for the Lagos area and IHS grabbing the licence for the North Central. This was disclosed recently in Lagos by the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah at the 4th ICT Industry Stakeholders Forum. Juwah said the NCC is currently working out the details of the issuance and that the winners would get their letters to that effect shortly.

The choice of MainOne and IHS seems to sit well with industry watchers as it was welcomed with an applause from a cross section of the stakeholders. Both are major players in the provision of infrastructure in the nation’s telecom industry.

Licensing of Infracos (telecom companies that would provide infrastructure) is a major precursor to the soon-to-evolve broadband revolution in the country. The commission had initiated a broadband plan which was later adopted as a national broadband roadmap endorsed by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Nigeria has done very well in voice telephony, ranking as one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world. Indeed, Nigeria was at a time adjudged by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as the fastest growing mobile market for five consecutive years. The ubiquitous deployment of broadband will not only crash cost of telecom services, it will improve massively the quality of service for voice, video and data transmission.

In an earlier interview with The Communicator, Juwah had explained his unflinching commitment to broadband thus: “To give effect to the broadband initiative, the NCC adopted the Open Access model for broadband deployment and rollout. According to Juwah, “the model is the leading model in the world, it encompasses the good things about access. It encompasses sharing of infrastructure, sharing of ownership. It encompasses competition because it structures the industry into primarily two layers; the wholesalers and retailers. If you're a wholesaler you cannot do retail. But most importantly it provides open access to everybody at the same conditions, so whether you're the biggest or smallest, you all have access to infrastructure. In Nigeria we've added one more; we said that all this environment is going to be regulated price-wise by the regulator. These make sure that our teeming publics get broadband at value for money.

“Right from the time I came into the communications industry I saw that the trend is changing from voice to data and data in the good form must be broadband. That's why you have good internet, good video service and a plethora of services coming out of broadband. Apart from that, broadband is a development product, a product that is capable of increasing the GDP of Nigeria, it is also capable of taking Nigeria into the knowledge-based economy that the world is pursuing, it is a product that is capable of increasing the efficiency of our younger generation; this is how we see broadband, and we see that it something that we have to do for Nigeria to enter the 21st century properly, and if we don’t do it then we've failed. We've taken the issue of increasing broadband penetration as a priority. To start off that program is not easy; you first of all have to convince the in-house people and the government that this is important and they have to support you. You have to tell the international audience what you want to do so that they'll get interested because you depend on them to bring in investment.

“It took some time for this ground work to be done, but we've started with a publication of our bid for the licensing of Infracos which is actually the major foundation of our broadband intervention. I can tell you that the response is quite interesting; response from inside and outside the country. I can tell you that the International Finance Corporation, IFC has endorsed it, they're supporting us and even helping us source for international investors. What we've done has not been in vain so we're keenly waiting for all these bids to come in and see the result of what we've done”.

The announcement of other winners for the other zones will come very soon, a top NCC source told our correspondent.