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Biometrics won’t stop online theft – Jaikaran

News » Technology/Innovation

IMAGE: Mr. Paul Jaikaran, the Chief Technical Officer of MainOne »


If Nigeria really has estimated nine plus terabytes, why is Internet access still expensive and what can be done to improve the situation?

From a cost perspective, bringing the cable to the shores of Nigeria is one thing, how you get the services (e.g. Internet) out to the other states is another challenge. One of the things that we need to look at is cheap national, long-distance services. If we can do that, there will be no stopping the submarine pipe, which is sitting on the Lagos shores, from getting to any state in the country. However, the cost from the telcos going from Lagos to Abuja and further up is very high; it is higher than the cost for MainOne to take the capacity from Lagos to London. This does not really help the broadband initiative.

The second issue is what I call the access network. Imagine that I have taken the pipe all the way to Gombe State; one of the big problems when you think about those locations is how much money you are going to invest to roll out a broadband fibre network versus how much revenue you will get back. It is a small population there in the rural setting and then the amount of money you are going to get back is not going to be enough to cover your cost. That is where subsidy will come in.

If the government really wants the rural areas to be connected, then they will have to subsidise (the cost). That is the only way it is going to work because the telcos will look at it from a capital investment (perspective) and they will say, ‘I am not going to invest a whole lot of base stations to cover the entire area. What I am going to do is put up base stations in specific areas where I know there is a significant population who will use my service.’

Similarly, when you are building a fibre network, you typically focus on the central business districts, install your fibre in the ground and wait for customer to come and request a connection. It is capital-intensive and most of the costs come from the civil side of it – digging up the street, installing ducts, manholes, fibre cabinets, etc. I would say perhaps 70 per cent of your cost come down to civil infrastructure and the rest of it is in electronics, the fibre and so on.

What is the level of MainOne’s involement in the recent open access INFRACO initiative by the Nigerian Communications Commission?

For INFRACO, NCC has requested operators to come up with detailed technical solution on broadband deployment and we have decided to bid for the Lagos INFRACO. We had a lot of initiatives that we started long before this INFRACO thing came about, and that justifies our commitment here. We have about 300km of fibre already laid, so it makes sense for us to say, ‘What else could be done to become an INFRACO?’ Also of note is the Yaba-HQ pilot project. We worked with the Lagos State government to connect institutions, schools, businesses, in and around the Yaba area. I think it’s a function of making sure that you have the right INFRACO solution provider because you don’t want a situation whereby you give INFRACO to somebody and they cannot utilise the license and roll out the network or provide quality service. We have done this for years and so it’s not something new.

Can you shed light on the entrepreneurial Information and Communication Technology support for technological companies in Yaba?

Yaba is something we are trying to build on. In fact, one of the things we are trying to do is work with entrepreneurial technology companies and specifically the Co-creation hub in Yaba. They work with start-up businesses and offer assistance where necessary to grow their businesses. We have been with them since inception and given them free Internet support. We also sponsor competitions (and organisations) like the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria, Microsoft Imagine Cup, etc. The aim is really to see how we can get small companies working on ICT projects to develop and deploy their ideas as businesses. How do you do a business case? How do you push your product from a piece of paper to something that actually works? You need people to give you advice and that is where these hubs are very useful because they can assist these entrepreneurs.

You once talked of the constraints and the financial burden of deploying fibre across the country; do you think VSAT can come into play here, especially in landlocked areas?

I think VSAT has its place in rural areas. The major issues are how to get cheap VSAT terminals and low cost satellite transponder bandwidth to provide a low cost service. Typically, spectrum in terms of megahertz on the international satellites is still quite expensive. So the only way of getting around that is to try to get NIGCOMSAT to utilise the transponders better and lower costs. The problem is how much it is going to cost to deploy for rural areas. It is possible if you have cheap satellite bandwidth coupled with a low-cost terminal and you distribute with respect to WIFI in a particular area. You also have to look at how much you will charge each customer; you have to ensure a billing system is in place as well but it is quite feasible to use VSAT.

What happened to the WIMAX technology?

WIMAX is still alive and kicking. There are companies that are still running with it in Nigeria. However, the issue with WIMAX is not that the technology is bad; it is the fact that the license that has been given is not enough to deliver high-speed services as compared to LTE. For example, the LTE people are running 20/30/40 megahertz in terms of spectrum and you can compare this to WIMAX operators who have chunks of five megahertz. Then there is also the issue of efficiency; the LTE technology is more efficient in terms of bandwidth per megahertz. So, that is why you actually get more through putout of it. WIMAX been overtaken by the LTE technology. The advanced LTE technology is similar to 5G and it is the next step in the evolution of wireless technology.

For rural access, does LTE have the potential to play big in that space, knowing that the cost of running it is very expensive?

I think it is possible for you to have LTE in the rural setting; the question is how much Return of Investment will you actually get? If I am installing base stations, the priority will be in reasonable locations where I have customers who can afford to come and buy my services. I wouldn’t want to put it up for 10 or 20 users, it doesn’t make financial sense. Then, there is still the same issue that I mentioned before. That if I put it in some rural location in the states of the North, how do I connect back into Lagos where the Internet is? Somebody has to foot the bill for the National long distance links.

How can the menace of online funds theft be tackled? Is biometrics a solution?

I think biometrics is going to be challenged to address the problem because you have to make sure that every single customer has his or her fingerprints taken. So, I am not sure if that would solve the issue because if someone can gain access to your account without your knowledge and move money around then it doesn’t really help you. From a biometrics point of view, the technology is well-proven; it has been working for many years. But how does that really help if internally, within the banking system, we have a problem? If you can’t fix your problem internally, a service provider cannot do it for you. We advise our banking customers that, ‘If you put traffic, ATM or otherwise online, make sure you encrypt the data 100 per cent before it flows onto an open pipe.

However, with respect to data centre services, we provide the necessary security measures and firewalls to ensure that other parties cannot access the data stored for our customers.

Article Credit: Punchng

Updated 3 Years ago

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Tags:     Nigeria     Internet     INFRACO     Yaba-HQ     LTE