Broadband Fibre Cables Everywhere, But No Reliable Internet Connections Anywhere

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.

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


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