Broadband Fibre Cables Everywhere, But No Reliable Internet Connections Anywhere

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At the moment, there are at least four submarine cables with a total capacity of 9.88 Tb/s (terabits per second)*** touching down and active in Nigeria. How do I even begin to paint the picture of how huge that is? But it is huge! Really huge. Here is a breakdown of the available cables touching down in Lagos at the moment.

  • WACs – 5.12 Tb/s
  • MainOne – 1.92 Tb/s
  • Glo1 – 2.5 Tb/s
  • SAT3 – 0.34 Gb/s
  • ACE – 5.12 Tb/s [unconfirmed and so not included in total figure above]

west-african-undersea-cables

Here we have this huge capacity, and yet very little impact on quality of service. That’s the issue on ground. In my 2005 article, Mobile Data: Bridging The Internet Divide In Africa, I argued for the uptake of mobile internet services for delivering internet to the large mass that is Nigeria. That is still my position today. Take a look around: very few ISPs have the financial capacity to reach beyond limited coverage areas. For example, here in Lagos, we have SWIFT, Mobitel, 21st Century, Cobranet, and Oxygen WiFi, among others. All put together, they do not even cover the totality of Lagos. But add MTN, Etisalat, Airtel and Glo to the picture, and Lagos is not only covered, but we also have over 70% of Nigeria’s land mass covered right away.

So, we have the capacity via those undersea cables, we have the coverage via the combination of dedicated ISPs and mobile networks, yet from all sides, the general consensus from internet users in Nigeria is that their experience has remained frustrating till date. Apparently, something is wrong somewhere. Questions:

  1. How many ISPS/mobile operators are currently subscribed to these cables?
  2. What sort of subscriptions do they have running?
  3. If the subscriptions are in order, what sort of last mile delivery equipment are ISPs/operators running?

In recent times, I have heard rants complaining about just all of the service providers. Mobitel is one of the newest ISPs on the block, and I understand that not a few people flocked to enjoy the broadband speeds initially. In recent times, however, there seems to have been a lot of complaints from users. Etisalat’s EasyNet used to be superb and reliable, until recent times when again a lot of complaints have been coming in. I personally breathe and live by EasyNet, but my experience in recent times has been frustrating too. One of my contacts in there tells me that there is an ongoing system update. I hope that is so, and that this current mess goes away in broadband speed.

The more terrible thing is that when one provider messes up and you turn to another for backup, you most lightly run into bigger frustrations with the supposed backup. I have had to ask myself: How is it that we do not have one service provider that one can depend on, come what may? Why is there such unreliability in the midst of abundance?

***Data and image sourced from: African Undersea Cables

  1. How is it that we do not have one service provider that one can depend on, come what may?

    My cybercafe_ owner friend and I have often torn our hair stands out, in anguish, wondering!

    A service that is glaringly in copious demand is not being provided satisfactorily.

    where are the (business)men with the (financial) wherewithal to address this definitively?

    All I can say is, often, ” he who has the cap does NOT have a head”, and vice versa.

    Such is life!

  2. Why is it that some things don’t work in this country? All you see is adverts,promos and promises of excellent service, but what do we the subscribers get:unreliable and unstable data connection across all the networks. Take a look at a this network ‘log’I have been on EDGE for the past 4days in a location that has 3.5G,’esatilat’will only allow me to browse in the night,and on and on like that.
    This is a big shame,one needs to organize special prayer before you attempt to connect to the internet. Another annoying thing is that these operators will never come out to tell you the issue(s) they are having and probably apologise, rather they prefer to keep quiet and assume all is well.
    Rubbish!!!

  3. Two things came to mind whilst reading this article. The tune “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid, and the lines from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner “Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink”.

    The latter reminds me of the state of play regarding cables and Nigerians access to decent broadband services. Like having a power station that’s commissioned and working but not attached to the power grid.

    Sommewhere there’s a disconnect. Do networks so underestimate their capacity that once the service has been around and a number of people have signed up, it automatically has to deteriorate?

    Or, at best, Working on the premise that a company’s infrastructure can support the rollout of broadband services, I can only think maybe connecting to the services and maintaining this connection is what is causing the headaches for the networks. I could be wrong though.

  4. You are on-point here, MM. I was just having a discussion with my colleagues over this. It is simple fraud that is been perpetuated all in the name of internet service delivery. The age-worn excuse has always been vandalized masts; now should we assume that these fiber cables have been compromised as well??!

  5. I use Swift and MTN.
    MTN is faster when I get 3.5g but Swift is quite stable plus MTN has been just too bad for a while now.

    I cant wait to get a fast and stable internet that is always there… PLEASE

    MainOne and Glo have made so much noise but it seems they have been satisfying the bigger boys – Corporate organizations.

    1. Bosun,

      Are those cables really providing any satisfaction to corporate organisations? Almost everyday at banks, for example, the connection is down or ATM network unavailable. How much satisfaction is that?

  6. Bosun just said it. A those cables are serving corporate organisations. That is where they are taking all the bandwidths to. I remember being in one of the hotels on the island where their wifi service is powered by mainone. Out of curiosity I decided to try browsing on the wifi network and boy was that fast. The speed was amazing. Probably it cost them less providing these services for bulk paying corporate organisations than deploying same to our likes.

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