In the modern world, it takes the audacity of leadership vision to build a connected smart city. Today, Lagos State is blazing the trail in Nigeria. In one of the most audacious Telecom infrastructure projects in Africa, the Lagos State government under its public private partnership scheme awarded, a few years ago, the construction of a 3000km six-way unified duct fibre infrastructure project to Western Telecoms and Engineering Services Limited.
The project deployment kicked off in June 2020 with an 24-month completion timeline and has so far recorded several successes, such as the completion of over 2600km of the fibre infrastructure, the connection of over 1000 Telecom base station sites of MTN and Airtel to the fibre infrastructure, the signing of agreements with Liquid Telecom, Mainone, Dolphin Telecoms, Swift, Spectranet, etc for connectivity to the fibre network and ongoing negotiations with most of the mobile network operators and internet service providers in Lagos.
Conceptualized under the dynamic and visionary leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwoolu as an open access model, the project enables the Telecom companies to rapidly expand mobile services in Lagos, while also serving as the launch pad for 4G technology which provides a more efficient, fast and affordable broadband connectivity in the state. MTN Airtel and other telecoms companies has keyed into the project launching 4G services in several parts of Lagos.
The Lagos State Government in signing the agreement with the PPP partner insisted on a universal coverage of all Local Government areas and LCDAs in the state to ensure that no community is left behind in the determination to transform Lagos into a globally competitive smart city. The project deployment contractors are seen working all over the state from Epe to Ikorodu, Badagry to Ojo, Alaba to Aspanda, Ikeja to Lekki, and Agege to other parts of Alimosho Local Government area.
Over time, the unified fibre infrastructure scheme has attracted wide acclaim and commendations from some of the biggest ICT companies in the world, while also encouraging the extension of other large scale infrastructure to the contractor. The West Indian Ocean Cable Company, WIOCC, is one of the world’s leading wholesale providers of broadband capacity for international Telcos, OTTs, content providers and internet service providers. WIOCC, which manages over 75000 kilometres of terrestrial fibre with several submarine cable investments providing services to Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and other leading telcos globally, has described the Lagos State unified fibre project as one of the most critical steps towards achieving an efficient, fast and affordable internet connectivity and the right innovative way for accelerating the Lagos smart city agenda.
The Chief Development Officer of WIOCC, Mr. Darren Bedford, further pronounced the project as the superhighway to deliver broadband capacity to homes, schools, offices and government buildings in Lagos. He said with the imminent completion of the Google Equiano submarine fibre project and the Facebook-backed 2Africa submarine fibre project with landing stations in Lagos, the unified duct project will serve as a natural distribution infrastructure for broadband capacity all over Lagos, thus becoming the technology backbone of the state government’s THEMES agenda.
Currently, the project team is working on extending connectivity from Google’s Equiano and Facebook’s 2 Africa cable landing station to other data centers such as Liquid Telecom’s Africa Data Center, Main one’s Data Center, Globacom’s Data Center, Medallion in Saka Tinubu, Victoria Island and Rack Center in Ikeja. The project has suddenly become a critical infrastructure for the whole country with the contract from the wholesale broadband companies to LASG/WTES Metro to help offload huge bandwidth landing at Nigerian shore by Google and Facebook, which in turn helps increase high-speed broadband penetration with affordable connectivity cost implications for Nigerians. As the project cable runs from Portugal through Nigeria, Namibia, South Africa and St. Helena, the initial configuration of Equiano is scheduled to be ready in the second half of 2022 and 2 Africa Scheduled for 2 half of 2023 with extensions to be added later.
The vision of the Lagos State Governor to speedily build the 3000km unified fibre project has become the most important success driver for Google’s Equiano submarine cable, Facebook’s 2 Africa submarine cable and the evacuation of large scale broadband capacity (delivered by the foregoing submarine cables) which would otherwise have been stranded to different parts of Lagos State and through the same fibre pipes to other parts of Nigeria. By and large, the fibre duct project is also the principal driver of 4G connectivity by the mobile network operators all over the state.
According to a research by Africa Practice and Genesis Analytics, which was commissioned by Google, Internet speeds in Nigeria are expected to increase five-fold, and to almost triple in South Africa and Namibia by 2025, as a result of Equiano. The research predicts that Internet prices will drop by between 16% and 21% in the three countries over the same period. Meanwhile, improved speeds and lower prices are expected to increase internet penetration by more than 7 percentage points in Nigeria and South Africa, and 9 percentage points in Namibia.
Also, the research claims that average year-on-year real economic growth is expected to increase by 0.57 points, 0.32 points and 0.56 points in Nigeria, South Africa and Namibia due to Equiano, between 2022 and 2025. It is further predicted that the cable will indirectly create 1.6 million jobs in Nigeria, 180,000 in South Africa and 21,000 in Namibia during that time.
Naturally, the unified duct project has triggered the growth of ancillary businesses all over Lagos State. The state has always been the hub of technology and fintech businesses in Nigeria, but with the build-out of a robust fiber network all over the city there has been a significant increase in the number of these businesses. More important is that foreign investors in data centers have chosen Lagos as the new data centre hub in Africa with a total of about 12 new data centers being set up in the state, and all the old and new ones asking for fibre connectivity to their data centers.
Without a doubt, the sheer audacity and impact of this innovative Lagos State unified duct fibre project under the visionary government of Governor Babajide Sanwoolu have reverberated across the global ICT community. The project simply places Lagos State among the smart cities of the world, and other states in Nigeria will take several years to catch up with the technological advancement of the Centre of Excellence that is already attracting billions of dollars in investments.
The social imperatives of the project are also seen in the over 100 schools within the state that are already connected to it, which will all go live with free broadband availability in the schools in a few weeks. At the same time, the Unified Duct Project is also connecting all higher institutions of learning, Local Government offices and markets in the state. Interestingly, it is the principal connectivity backbone for the CCTV cameras installed and managed by the State Government to help detect and reduce crime rates in the city. Indeed, the Lagos Smart City is on the fast track.