By Adeyemi Adepetun and Oluwatosin Areo
Snailspeed internetThe quality of the Internet services offered to the about 120 million users in Nigeria appeared to be retrogressing as confirmed by a report that the country’s download speed has gone from bad to worse in the last three years.Specifically, a UK-based price comparison website, Cable, revealed that the Nigeria’s Internet download speed is one of the slowest in the world. According to the report, the country’s Internet download speed ranked 177th of 207 countries measured globally.The report further showed that it takes an average of over seven minutes (7:18) to download a High Definition (HD) movie of 5GB in Nigeria as against Taiwan’s less than eight seconds and Madagascar’s 30 seconds. This result was arrived at, after conducting 172,881tests on 43,918 Internet Protocols (IPs) in Nigeria in 2019. It decreased by -16.23 per cent between 2018 and 2019.The report noted that Nigeria’s Internet download speed has deteriorated in the past two years from 95th in 2017 to 177th in 2019.Interestingly, this is despite claims by service providers to offer Nigerians 4G, even 4G+ (whose speed is supposed to be very high) coupled with the avalanche of submarine cable system, about five at the shores of Nigeria that boast of 40Tbps international capacity, the download speed is still very low.The impact of this is harrowing experiences for the increasing online community both individuals and businesses in the country.Nonetheless, the report noted that countries with lower populations enjoy faster Internet, as against the rising population and Internet users in Nigeria, which still boils down largely to inadequate infrastructure. Nigeria is however, ranked among the countries, where service providers offer cheapest data services, especially in Africa.Cable in the report titled: “Worldwide broadband speed league 2019,” noted that with its vast landmass and little in the way of a digital economy when taken as a continental whole, Africa is a long way behind the rest of the world when it comes to broadband provision, relying primarily on wireless (WiMAX, 3G, 4G) connectivity rather than cables to cover its vast spaces.The report ranked Madagascar as the fastest African nation, clocking in at an average speed of 22.57Mbps, placing it 33rd globally. This is thanks to the underwater EASSy cable that supplies the island’s urban centres with respectable fibre broadband speeds. The report noted that most other African nations aren’t so lucky, with six out of the 40 included nations having to get by on average speeds of less than 1Mbps.According to the Cable, tracking broadband speed measurements in 207 countries and territories (200 last year) across multiple 12-month periods has allowed it to generate an overall average speed for the globe and to see how this number changes over time. The good news is that the global average speed is rising fast.The average global broadband speed measured during the period from May 11, 2016 to May 10, 2017 was 7.40Mbps. The average global broadband speed measured during the period from May 30, 2017 to May 29, 2018 was 9.10Mbps – a rise of 23.35 per cent. This year, the average speed measured in the period from May 9, 2018 to May 8, 2019 was 11.03Mbps – a further rise of 20.65 per cent over the previous year.However, the UK firm noted that those countries contributing the most to the rising average are those in developed nations, which contain not only already-faster established infrastructure, but “in which we’re also seeing the most significant rollout and uptake of the latest technology.Reacting to the development, the President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, said the main issue is that there aren’t any local benchmarks to create the necessary awareness amongst consumers with respect to the speeds being offered by broadband service providers in Nigeria.Teniola said the focus amongst players is based on the amount of data used per month versus the speeds delivered.“As the focus is not on the speed of access then the attention is not placed on the speed, which can vary enormously from one operator to another. The NBP also stipulated a minimum download speed of 1.5mbps for a claim to be made that broadband is being offered to a consumer. This NBP needs to have this minimum speed increased to provide a revised threshold in the country and hence a stronger correlation to the Worldwide Broadband speed League.”Benchmarking the development against 4G hype in the country, the ATCON boss said the mean speed is the issue when the majority of Internet access and deployment is still based on 2G/3G technology and not 4G, stressing that as 4G becomes more pervasive and widespread, then the speeds will improve.Teniola, who said the same applies to the proposed 5G speeds, pointed out that more investments in 4G rollouts is required on the back of optic fibre deployments.Teniola, who is also the CEO of Phase3 Telecoms, said achieving a consistent high quality of user experience is an issue that needs to be sorted.“More local peering of data and content reduces the large number of hops presently experienced as most content is hosted outside the country. Latency becomes a challenge and provides a window for cyber hackers to interfere with routing and signalling traffic. Lack of interoperability and interconnection between multiple fiber intercity and metro networks are also notable challenges,” he stated.From his perspective, the President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Agency (NiRA), Muhammed Rudman, said the situation showed that Nigeria is stagnant, while other countries are getting ahead.Rudman noted that challenges confronting service providers in the country are huge, ranging from lack of electricity, Right of Way, multiple taxations, vandalism, among others.The NiRA boss, who said with those identified challenges daily occurring, it will be difficult for perfect performance from the service providers.He noted that even 4G is not readily available in the country, stressing that operators only put it where they see huge traffic.Rudman believed strongly that for Nigeria to move up the ladder and satisfy consumers, “there should be a meeting between the government and industry stakeholders.”Cable report further noted that there is comparatively little development – and therefore little change in availability and/or uptake of faster infrastructure – in the bottom half of the league table compared to the top.”The report showed that last year, the five fastest countries had download speeds around 88 times faster than the five slowest. That gap is widening. This year the top five are 125 times faster than the five slowest. Taiwan tops the table at 85.02Mbps, compared to Yemen, which is 224 times slower at just 0.38Mbps.As seen in the league table, downloading an HD movie of 5GB in size would take eight minutes and two seconds at the average speed experienced in table-topper Taiwan, while it would take over 30 hours in last-placed Yemen. 37 of the top 50 fastest-performing countries are located in Europe, with 10 in Asia & Pacific, two in North America, and just one in Africa.By contrast, 25 of the 50 slowest-performing countries are located in Africa, 12 in the Arab States with 10 in Asia & Pacific, and three in South/Latin America.
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