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Telcos Must Innovate, Stop Fighting OTTs – Nnamani

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Engineer Ikechukwu Nnamani is the President/Chief Executive Officer of Medallion Communications Limited

Engineer Ikechukwu Nnamani is the President/Chief Executive Officer of Medallion Communications Limited.
With over 15 years of core telecom experience, Engr. Nnamani is very active in promoting forward looking industry policies for the growth of the telecom industry across Africa working with both regulators as well as operators to achieve this goal.
He currently acts as an Executive of the premier telecom body in Nigeria – the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) where he is responsible for coordinating the activities of the Licensed Telecommunication Operators in Nigeria under the body.
He has also promoted the establishment of Interconnect Clearinghouses in Africa, working recently with the Ghanaian Telecom Regulator (NCA) in the creation of the Interconnect Clearinghouse license in Ghana.
He is currently helping to ensure there is a successful implementation of the license in the country.
Engr. Nnamani is also the Chairman of Demadiur Systems Limited, a system integrator company, responsible for the successful deployment of fixed wireless networks in several cities in Nigeria including Enugu, Aba, Owerri, Onitsha, Abakaliki, Kano, and Abuja.
He had worked as an optical systems engineer at Luxcore Networks Inc., in Atlanta Georgia, USA, among other experiences to his credit.
Engr. Nnamani holds a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering degree from Tennessee State University, Nashville Tennessee, USA and a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering degree from University of Nigeria, Nsukka. While leading Medallion top executive courtesy call on Communication Week Media Limited, he spoke on various issues in the industry. Excerpt.

Medallion’s Locations
We plan to deploy critical infrastructure to enable interconnect, datacentre and hosting services across the six geo-political zones.
It is critical in our targets for the year. We feel the country needs economic empowerment. It is at time of economic recession that companies can deploy that will enable businesses to operate in a cost effect manner.
This is in the heart of our operations; making sure those infrastructures are available where they are needed. Sometimes, not necessarily where to make the largest amount of revenue but there are places these infrastructures are critical to drive innovation.
We look at it as part of our 10-year plan which gives us a lot of timeline to handle the finance aspect of it. Once it is needed, we are sure of doing that.
Our goal is to launch in four cities. Presently, we are in Lagos and Abuja and itching to put infrastructure in Enugu, Port Harcourt, Kano and Ibadan; from all indications, we might be adding Asaba. The datacenters and interconnect points will boost the industry to meet and interact; similar to what we have done in Lagos.
Today, Medallion infrastructure in Lagos, without controversy, is the most connected point across the sub-region in terms of operators and clientele.
The industry is benefiting from it. Without such investment, the cost of doing business would have been higher than it is today. That is value creation.
But we believe in localization of contents. To us, ensuring that South East has a datacentre is important, the same reason we are deploying in PH, Ibadan and Kano. When that is done, costs drop drastically.

Medallion’s Datacentre Certification
This is one of the areas Nigerians need education. The challenge is some companies throwing buzzwords to confuse people.
They create the notion, but in practically terms fail to handle what are expected of them. When you talk about Tier Certification of Datacentres, there are two ways to look at it.
First, there are policy documents on what is obtainable in a datacentre to be classified. A major part of it is availability; in other words, Uptime.
If you have equipment in the datacentre, there must be guarantee of power availability to certain time, yearly, monthly or weekly; it largely depends on design and resources.
For you to achieve this, for instance, power supply must be available 99.99% of the year which requires you don’t depend on a power generating set. The Institute will insist that depending on a generator denies the facility chances for redundancy. Therefore, you will be recommended as Tier I datacentre/facility.
That doesn’t mean one generator cannot guarantee steady power, especially based on your location. Tier III, which is the buzzword in this environment, requires that in a situation public power supply is interrupted, the facility should be up for 72hours/3days.
It is easier to achieve abroad where public power supply is stable. The batteries or generating sets are mere backups. But in Nigeria, by default you are a power generating company. It makes those requirements, by default, things you must have, especially in Nigeria.
Basically, the infrastructure to ensure steady power is critical in certifying the datacentre. You may wish to go through the formal process of certification. In that way, the Institute will visit you facility after going through your postmarks and issue a certificate.
To us, while the certification is important, the day-to-day operation must be reassuring. In other words, in Medallion, the way we operate could depict us as Tier III datacentre, though we have not obtained the certification. It is not different from someone who has gone through school, acquiring the knowledge but has not obtained the certificate.
In principle, it is good to have the certification, because bequeaths the facility with such a status that an independent organization has verified your processes.
Thus, for the fact we have every major player in the industry operating out of the facility, it shows, to a large extent, we have met the global standards in terms of availability of services. In addition, we offer right pricing; not compromising quality for it.

Telcos Threat to Block Over-the-Top Services (OTTs)
The simple answer to that is No. As technology evolves new services are introduced. As an advocate for technology I am against anything that will kill innovation and stifle technology advancement. I represent the quest for new technology and innovations.
 I also understand that if you have invested on a particular technology you deserve to recoup your fund and make returns to your investors. That makes me align to both sides. However, there is a difference here.
You only start fighting technology only when you are not innovative or adjust business models and solutions to the new/emerging technology.
Like the OTT services, most of them run on data. Rather than fight them because they are probably affecting the traditional voice, why not find a way to also generate revenue out of it. I can assure you there are multiple ways the telecom operators can make revenue through OTT services.

Telcos’ Slide in Revenue and Impact on Interconnect
About ten year ago when we started, the industry was standardized on Time Division Multiplexing processes (TDM-SL-7) means of interconnection. Though, we still have the TDM links, but we are connected to all operators on internet protocol (IP).

Why Did the Migration Took Place on Interconnect? 
That is the current status of technology. Why didn’t people choose to remain on TDM? It is simple: IP platform provides additional benefits.
That is why they implemented IP on the core of their network. Now, the issue we are talking about is subscriber’s preference to the means to call.
Same situation is playing out in the area of international traffic. And that is where the telecos are complaining bitterly, because with Skype, WhatsApp calls people can call across countries provided you are connected on the internet.
At that point, the telcos are losing the revenue from the traditional international call (voice). But what we are saying is that telecos shouldn’t fight these platforms rather move around it to generate revenue. As we speak some are generating revenue.
We at Medallion are constantly restructuring our business to be able to participate even in the emerging technologies.
Competitions are growing, but we are not afraid to compete, because we have fine-tuned our business model to enable us play in the emerging industries. You first line of action shouldn’t be ‘oh, there is a new technology, it will kill us, let’s kill it’.
The point is that even with the new technology let your businesses evolve too. We have envisaged a time companies will need to switch packets. It is a matter of time you can not hold back the OTTs any longer.

What Would Have Happened Without Interconnect Clearing Houses?
I believe the level of success the industry has benefited is still a far cry from what it ought to be and where it should be.
The interconnect clearing houses have drastically reduced the pains previously associated with establishing interconnection.
Today, a licensed operator can approach Medallion and by next week, as long as your network can connect to us, you should be ‘talking’ to every network in the country. In the past, the project takes up to two years to actualize as you must approach each operator, negotiating interconnect protocols agreement.
As a new competitor in the block, the company you are talking to feels threatened by your presence. So, the Company foot-drags, delays and engage every tactic to frustrate you. At the end, they give you a protocol which they are very sure you don’t have.
So, you have to reinvest on new equipment which are not related to your technology for access network. But we bridged those gaps. We interconnect you seamlessly.
So, we were able to bridge the gap of operators on GSM and TDM. That is a value created and huge benefit to the industry. In the area of anti-competition, we have been able to bridge the gap too as a carrier neutral operator.
We can accurately and independently enhance interconnection for efficiency. Also, for traffics that go through us, because we have independent records, billings settlements and reconciliation is more transparent and easier to handle.
However, some operators view us as detrimental to their anti-competitive strategy. They intend to make things difficult for us. But the regulator would intervene.

What Is Happening with Value Added Services?   
For years, we have been pushing for value added services (VAS). Because telcos still force these people and collect what is due to them, majority are frustrated and getting out of business.
But, if they had from onset embraced channeling their services through the clearing houses, the same way we create values for telcos, and we would have helped solved the VAS operators’ problems.

Can Mobile Virtual Network Operators’ (MVNOs) Licensing Solve Some Problems
It is a sort of two-edged sword with a yes and no answer. Yes, because MVNOs is a welcome development; same time, the policies and implementation scheme will determine the success or otherwise. Example, Ghana licensed MVNOs about two years ago and it has been a challenge for them to take off.
 There is a difference between operating virtually and when it is officially announced. At the time of branding the operations then people can understand how it works.
Actually, it is a matter of time before it happens. When operators realized that managing cell sites is not their core-operations, they outsourced. Even with all the problems facing interconnect today, a time will come when they will appreciate it is not something they need not to hand onto. Similar stuff will happen when MVNOs get into full force; the telcos will start to outsource some part of their operations to them.
With a good revenue sharing formula, it is a win-win for everybody. How fast and successful it will become depends largely on the policies that back it up.
Secondly, the licensing model the regulator decides to adopt. If the telcos perceive it as anti to their operations they will create bottlenecks. The big question is: what part of the challenges operators are faced with presently that MVNOs will address? You must be able to create the value proposition. If not, if we implement MVNO licenses because it has worked in the UK and other environment, we can show you over ten things that have worked elsewhere but made little headway in this environment.
Mobile Money is working very well Kenya, in Nigeria it has been a struggle. It is even more successful in Ghana than here. We need to address the why.

Why?
The operators simply refused to cooperate with them. So, if you do it here and run into similar problem, you will get similar result. A model for the implementation of the scheme is very key to its success.
We also need to appreciate that here certain factors can militate against VMOs while they are thriving in other climes. It behooves on us to critically examine why they might not succeed here and address them before licensing them.

National Roaming and the Challenges
Roaming, traditionally, is a commercial arrangement between operators that benefits even the home network than the roaming network. It implies that with XYZ operator’s sim card I can work into a city that has only ABC operating, thus, XYZ can generate revenue by my presence in the city, likewise the home network. So, it is viewed as a plus.
But the context is viewed here as a minus. It is meant to by symbiotic not parasitic relationship. Two things must happen for roaming to occur.
First, there must be an existing network that you want to roam on. So, when people argue about USPF intervening in the matter, unless it wants to invest on a network in those places and allow third parties to roam on it. If not, somebody must invest in those areas for roaming to take effect.
Allowing others access to the your network is a matter of having right agreement because it is a source of additional revenue. It is similar to interconnect.
Why would you not want interconnect when it is additional revenue, because your existing subscribers are making calls on net. You are down to revenue made via your network, but by virtue of interconnect you spread your net for more revenue.
It should be a no brainer. But people look at it as ‘oh, if that subscriber comes, then the person won’t buy my sim card’, but subscribers roam when on transit. There tends to be a lot of ignorance with regards to this; people are just fighting the wrong fight.

Why Moving to Other Cities to Invest?
Nigerians exist in these cities. What happens today is that costs of services in those cities are higher. Obviously, everything has to come back to other areas where infrastructures exist and they bear the brunt.
Aside telecoms, look at petroleum distribution. When the price was increased, Lagos had a problem moving from there it was to N145/litter, because within Lagos we had access to the tank farms and seaport, but people outside Lagos where like ‘what are you people saying.
We have been paying N200/litter as standard here, because there was additional cost of getting it to the people. The same thing is happening in telecommunications hence we want to get infrastructure to everybody and make services cheaper. We believe if the patronage will be higher and user experience will get better.

Medallion in Next 5 Years
We hope to be able to offer services across the sectors of economy across the geo-political zones in multiple cities as a foundational infrastructure provider.
Of course, every now and then we get partnerships with people that want to take services outside the country. So, we also see ourselves doing a lot of intercontinental partnerships.
We would always want to partner indigenous companies in those cities we are invited. We have cemented partnerships in Ghana, with other opportunities in Uganda where they want to take advantages of the expertise we built over the years in Nigeria.
Ultimately, in moves to grow the brand, we see ourselves been listed as public company for Nigerians to participate in what we are doing. It is very key to us as part of our five-year strategic plan.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Mentorship: You Can’t Develop Skills Without Giving Experience- Johnson

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By peter oluka

Start-ups in Nigeria require proper adequate mentoring to triumph in today’s business environment hence the establishment of Lighthouse Hub about nineteen months ago.

The Hub aims to mentor, train, encourage, guide and propel the upcoming entrepreneurs towards the right path in order to reach their potentials, Yetunde Johnson, founder of the Hub said in an interview with Nigeria CommunicationsWeek.

Lighthouse Means

“LightHouse guides you to where you are going, safely. So, we are​ here to guide anybody that comes to us ​inspired to move to the next stage of achievement. We took a risk and we are still taking risks to make it happen. When we moved into the building, the core team took on the job of setting things right, from the electricity to decors and other works. We did this by ourselves and the funding had come from Slingshot’s consulting fees and money we have raised internally,” she said.

Why?

“We ​believe that if you give young people responsibility with the right training and mentoring, they will get to their destination. Imagine if you take an army of young people in technology or business and expose them to adequate training, the gains will be much.

“​My​ only worry is that young people​ tend to separate themselves from the older people. It is such a fundamental mistake. There should be a ‘marrying’ of the two; it takes the raw energy of the young people and the experience or exposure of the older people to move us to a different place, the right place’, Johnson said.

Lighthouse System of Grooming Young People

“It has been difficult in the country for organisations to take-on young people due to the cost required to groom them to a level where they are productive. Therefore, we are trying to give them (young people) hands-on experience in IT. They are here for real life tasks to develop their skills. We have six pioneer interns.

“One of the key things is that our interns follow us to meeting businesses. On one of such occasions, I spoke to a client and the company was willing to take four interns, train and pay them stipends. At the end of six month one will be selected, as a permanent staff. More employers need to do that.

“You can’t develop a skill if you don’t give experience. You can’t keep people unemployed because they don’t have the right skills or certification, yet you don’t provide the right environment for that. You can make it tax deductible whereby every business is involved in training​m the young people​. Businesses can​not just be sitting by the corner; not want to assist in job creation. They should train our youths to be employable”.

Lighthouse Hub, Johnson added, “We will show IT startups the avenues through which to limit business risks while giving those seeking career redirection the route to success.

“For this case we are partnering with organsiations like the Debbie Mishael Consulting and others. The fact is that IT needs a strategy. If you have a dream and lack where to seed it, there is not drive. We have given free courses before.

“Our costs are seemingly the lowest in Lagos and you can still get zero entrance. When we train somebody, we do it thoroughly. But people aren’t turning up. We did training on WordPress which anybody can take up and begin to make money. We had little or no turn out.

“However, we had some girls who showed serious enthusiasm that I rarely see in the young people and without any motivation from us they came for HTML and CSS training and have been coming for the last 10-12 weeks. They are inspiring. They see the opportunity learning coding skills can give them and they have jumped at it. We wish for more like them.

“Now, I know we don’t want brain drain, but if you have spent time here and there are opportunities calling for your skill​s elsewhere, then of course you would ​ go and grab it. Though, I strongly believe that when a Nigerian goes outside the country, they would want to return, because he would realize why home is so special.

“But you need an avenue or programme that should be showing our young people the pathway to success; rewards them commensurately. We worked with the Women In Tech on a project in the University of Lagos (Unilag). Out of thousands of young ladies in Unilag, less than 70 attended the training. We offered to train people free, but they aren’t showing up.

“There is something wrong with the present generation that must be addressed. Some of the best IT trainers are in Nigeria, but the young people are not paying attention. We did a programme for teachers in collaboration with Teachers Nigeria; they tend to train teachers on how to use Google related research tools. They were so disappointed.

“The turn out in Lagos was just low. How many teachers do we have. It was a free course. But the attitude of our people will now force them to start charging fees. We were invited to Ogun State, the turnout was incredible and we had a dynamic session.

Nigerian Youths Need to Believe In Themselves

“We need to give credit to ourselves and accept the little things we make here. I know a young man who makes shoes of extremely high quality. For him to make s​ale​s, he had to use ​an ​Italian label. Now, the shoes were made in Nigeria but Italy takes the credit. Now, Debbie Mishael Consulting is bringing ICITP training programme​s​ that will enable our young IT graduates have han​ds-on​ experience. Only the passionate will understand and grab the opportunities as they come.

“This is one reason we are partnering with lot of organizations do a lot of things that compliment the skills our startups would need. We are planning a six weeks intensive ‘You-Learn’ programme.

“If you are a programmer I don’t think you can succeed by mere ​reading books​, you need to practise what you have read​. Our young people need that practical approach to doing things. Also, it is difficult for interns to learn without ​​​financial support, even though they are not expecting to us to pay them we provide a stipend. They will struggle to have concentration if they are hungry or short of cash. Though, it is not easy to sustain such system. If we can’t continue to function as a business, we can’t sustain the Hub.

Why Obalende?

Johnson doubles as the managing director of Slingshot Technologies Limited. Lighthouse Hub is one of the consulting firm’s projects, located at 35 Moloney Street, Obalende-Lagos Island. She speaks on the location, thus:

“I really love Obalende; this is the place I want to be. People think I am crazy, but they are wrong. If you are going to tap into human capacity of Nigeria, you must know where they are. They too need to tap into us. We are willing to be here to share these skills we are bringing back. Among us, we share skills too because no body has​ a​ monopoly o​n​ knowledge. We need to borrow skills from others. I have always loved this building. To me, it is the most strategic place you can be.

“If you are headed to the Mainland- to the left; to the Island- to the right. If you are aiming at Ikoyi, go through under the bridge. ‘Besides that, it is one point where every w​ork ​of life crisscrosses. So, there was a day I was passing on the bridge, I felt this is a place we can tap in to the ​raw material of Nigeria which is the human resource. I fe​el, the Nigerian human resource is the most incredible resource if trained, mentored well and tapped into. Why do I say that? If you look around the world Nigerians are the ones leading. We are not hailing ourselves, unfortunately. If you look at the key developments in the US & UK, the key drivers are Nigerians.

“I am a staunch Nigerian and I love being here. As a child I grew up to know Nigerians are strong and dynamic. They don’t give excuses rather go for the results. So, I just wanted to come back to the country and tap into the ecosystem and contribute my quota to the development of the young people. If you are trained in Nigeria life is not that stressful when you travel out of the country, because you have already faced great challenges here.

What Happens At The First Floors?

The first floor is where the Hub is located. “In summary, the Hub has room to accommodate everybody no matter how large or small your business could be. We have inside the Hub the Co Working Area for those who can’t afford to rent offices. We made it flexible for networking beyond your own ‘kind’ of people- that is, those outside your immediate business field, but who you need to climb the ladder. That is the environment that allows the young and old meet. We also have the serviced office space that give clients opportunity to focus on their business while we handle all others issues for them.

“You have free access to the meeting and conference rooms for an allocated period of time which is also located on the first floor. Being a member of the hub guarantees you that platform. It is our way of making life comfortable for small businesses. You can actually conduct your training, seminars, meeting, conferences too. It is a small community with a great vision for businesses in the IT ecosystem”, she concluded.

 

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Investment on Innovation Centres Will Speed Up Nigeria’s Digitalisation- Nicholas

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Travers Nicholas is the general manager, Dell EMC West Africa. Working with his team, Travers spends time with customers helping to guide them through their digital transformation encompassing workforce, security, and IT. During Travers’s time with Dell EMC he has worked with customers from SME to Enterprise from all market segments, helping them to reduce cost and improve efficiency through the adoption of Dell EMC technologies.

Coming from a Technical Background, some of Travers’s previous roles include Systems Engineering Manager, Technology Consultant, and Infrastructure Manager for global organizations in the banking, telecommunications, and services industries. During a recent chat with peter oluka, he expatiates on how Dell’s activities positively impact Nigeria’s IT/ICT ecosystem. 

How Prepared Is Dell to Impact World Technology in the Next Industrial Revolution?

In September last year, Dell merged with EMC to create the largest privately-controlled technology company in the world – Dell Technologies.

Under Dell Technologies, we have seven brands (Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, VMWare, VirtuStream, RSA and SecureWorks) with which we are better positioned to deliver quality end-to-end solutions to our clients.

On our preparation to impact world technology in the next industrial revolution, Dell Technologies is innovating like a start-up with the scale and reach of a global powerhouse, investing $4.5B in research and development annually. In the same vein, we are also investing another $100M annually in innovative startups in future tech areas like AI/ML, Automotive, Genomics. These are indications that we are a forward looking organization and are future-ready in our approach to solutions and our client can attest to this.

The second question on monitoring: signatures is reactive, that’s the main talking point, i.e. not to be reactive; that’s where having Global threat intelligence (SecureWorks) and identity threat management solutions (RSA) comes in to plaly.

Security is very important in technology. How does monitoring network to detect suspicious acts solve the Issue of Internal Instigated IT Security Breaches?

First thing to note is that traditional approach to security is no longer enough. Identifying signature and using anti-virus are reactive approaches, and given current technology realities, being reactive is not efficient in forestalling and preventing security breaches, be it internal or external. For instance, what happens when virus changes itself and signature appears differently?

As such, solving security issues needs to do with the incorporation of global threat intelligence and threat management solutions using high performance security analytics. The need to shift from traditional approach to security is why Dell Technologies is investing heavily in its two security brands – RSA and SecureWorks.

RSA and SecureWorks provide intelligence-driven security solutions for organizations effectively prevent, detect and respond to advanced attacks, manage user identities and access, reduce business risk, fraud and cybercrime.

…Which Means You Are Using Big Data To Solve Security Challenges.

Absolutely, big data! Security is a big data problem. There is so much data and there is no way a human being could monitor and respond to all.

Let’s Narrow This Down To West Africa And Nigeria In Particular; Do You Think Nigeria Is Prepared For The Next Industrial Revolution Driven By Internet Of Things (IoT), Smart City, Big Data And Others? What Are Your Perceptions About This Market?

Personally, I think Nigeria is ready for the next industrial revolution. Interestingly, I believe a lot of innovations will come from countries like Nigeria, Kenya and India where there are necessities to innovate.

I have been opportune to interact with a lot of young people with keen interest in software development and do not think anyone would disagree with me on the high skills level of the members of Nigerian IT community. However, there is a need for continuous development and less dependence on the government.

No doubts, Nigeria has its fair share of infrastructural deficit in the area of power and networking, but the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians gives me hope that Nigeria is ready for the next industrial revolution. The mindset is there; maybe it just needs to be proliferated and supported a bit more.

How Did Dell Fare During the Economic Recession?

Truth is, all Nigerians were affected in one way or the other by the recession.

How we fare is very simple. Dell Technologies is the world’s essential infrastructure company. We provide essential end-to-end solutions that businesses need to run effectively and efficiently and when there is a need, there is business.

Of course, spending slowed and due to foreign exchange (Forex) issues, IT and ICT market declined during the economic recession, but at the same time we are happy that we’ve come through in a positive way for our customers and we continue to support them and deliver on outstanding quality of service.

Recently Dell Made A Commitment To The 2020 Legacy Project, How Are You Using Such Opportunity To Give Back To Nigerians?

Dell is committed to driving human progress by outing our technology and expertise to work where they can do the most good for people and the planet.

One of such commitments is the Ocean Plastics project, where we’re taking discarded plastics from beaches, shorelines, and other coastal areas and turning that into packaging for our XPS 13 2-in-1. 

As a country near the ocean, this is very important to Nigeria and it is a project that excites me personally. I’ve seen too many videos and heard many stories on how whale and other aquatic animals get killed by the plastics in the ocean

Dell Technologies is also involved in an alliance with the Nigerian government and a couple of organizations on how we manage Electronic Wastes (e-Wastes) around the world because we believe there is a need for e-wastes to be discarded in a responsible way.

What Is Dell Technologies Doing About Empowering Women In Technology?

First of all, we have a large female population of Accounts Executives in our team and we are very supportive of our female employees. Also, we have a female Mentoring and Development Program that allows our female employees grow and advance their careers. In fact, it was an employee driven initiative where some of those employees mentored internally become mentors to females in Universities, developing and guiding young women on how to join and succeed in the technology industry.

This type of thing only happens when you create a culture that supports women and treat them as fair and equal partners. There is no gender discrimination in our organization and we are going to provide a frame work for that to be successful around the world.

Research and Development (R&D) Is The Centre Of Technology Evolution, But Most OEMs Seemingly Develop Product Based on ‘Perceived’ Needs Of Emerging Markets. What percentage of Dell’s resources is channeled towards R&D?

We are very passionate about R&D such that we invest about $4.5B in it annually. We have in excess of 15000 engineers around the world who are working on building and developing products- software, hardware and solutions. We believe we create great products, great solutions and great technologies.

Also, we ensure we maintain a direct relationship with our customers and when we get feedback we take it very seriously, report back to our team of engineers on how to improve and be better positioned for the future

What Do You Are The Areas That Needs Fine Tuning; Requiring Government’s Intervention To Give Nigeria’s Technology Market A Push?

I’ve observed in Nigeria that many people look, first, to the government ‘to do things for us’, but I believe that innovation is more likely to come from individuals, because they are the ones who know and have the needs to solve problems. However, the government can invest in innovation centers that would allow use of technologies for youths who don’t have access. Though, it’s not possible to provide overnight access of technology to all Nigerians, we need to start with what’s reasonable; maybe some small centers.

Secondly, once they have access to the technology, a bit of monitoring should be done to make sure they are using it productively.

If the youths have access to technologies you would be surprised at what they can do, but if you create some sort of policies to force it on people, it won’t come out of passion. That’s why I have the belief that innovations need to come from the people, give them the tools, the access and support they need.

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Nigeria Can Become Africa’s Internet Hub If… – MainOne

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Vremudia Oghene-Ruemu, MDXi’s product manager, Data Center in this interview assesses the data centre market in Nigeria, challenges confronting the line of business, the partnership with IXPN, MainOne’s Open Connect Service, among others. Excerpts

Data Centre Operations in Nigeria

The Data Center landscape in Nigeria is still new, gradually developing. We have a few data centers for our economic size and population, which means there is opportunity for more operators to come in.

We are gradually building a digital economy, which requires cloud-based services and applications and data centers.

A rising confluence of demand and supply factors is making Nigeria’s data center business one of the most dynamic ICT market segments in Africa.

As broadband adoption has boomed, demand for cloud services has emerged and is expected to surpass supply soon.

To cater to this demand, MainOne’s Data Center Company, MDXi is also building more Data Centers not only in Nigeria, but other parts of West Africa. We have started our second Tier III Data Center in Nigeria in Sagamu, Ogun State; we have a Data Center in Accra and should launch another in Cote D’Ivoire soon.

We believe that other players will follow suit and build to match the growing demand. Right now, South Africa has the largest data center presence on the continent, with North Africa following closely but Nigeria and other West Africans countries are expected to deepen Data Center penetration over the next few years.

Main Challenges Confronting Your Line of Business

The major challenge for Nigerian businesses right now is the high cost of operation. Data Centers have huge power requirements and usually recourse to direct connection to the national grid, which is a significant investment in addition to backups, which include huge generators with attendant costs of diesel ad maintenance.

Operators need to import equipment into the country, but do not have access to FOREX, as the Central Bank has refused to give telcos priority. It has been ingenuity and financial knowhow that has kept players like us going in this tough terrain.

Nigeria is yet to fully implement data domiciliation and a lot of government and enterprise businesses still hosts Nigeria’s data abroad, rather than patronize indigenous data centers.

The Federal Government needs to enable policy to drive our diversification from oil-dependent to services-focused; such as pioneer status for indigenous operators, tax exemptions, data residency and priority access to Forex will go a long way to help Nigeria’s data center operators and enable us be at par with South Africa and other climes.

In China for example, foreign operators are mandated to keep Chinese data within the country. Europe, Russia, Malaysia and Indonesia have also implemented Data Domiciliation regulation.

Nigeria must also proactively protect its citizen’s data and mitigate huge security risks by repatriating all Nigerian data in-country. This will limit the country’s exposure to cyber-attacks, save us huge international internet transit costs and enable Nigeria’s data center capacity to grow quicker.

We need to understand that apart from glaring issues such as national security and capital flight; local data hosting has the ability to drive job growth and improve the lives of our teeming youth population.

Local data domiciliation has worked and is still working in countries with strong digital economies around the world. All you have to do is look around the globe to see what having data hosted in-country has done for local innovation, technology development and economies in general.

Partnership with The Nigerian Internet Exchange (IXPN)

This move is significant in many ways. As a data center provider, there are two goals. The first goal is to ensure that businesses that have high availability requirements can run their technology operations without breaking the bank.

The second goal, is to ensure that the infrastructure running these highly available services can be reached irrespective of the networks that users connect from.

To ensure that end users communicate effectively in this rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, network providers need to enable the exchange of user data in the quickest and most efficient manner using a process called peering. Peering is made possible by an Internet exchange point which in the simplest of terms is a physical meeting point where networks, content and service providers connect and directly exchange data.

This results in the significant reduction of costs and increase in speeds at which data is exchanged thereby leading to consumer friendly network subscription rates and superb end user experiences.

This is where our partnership with the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) is relevant. By hosting and partnering with the IXPN, our data center customers now have quicker, less costly access to local, regional and global connectivity via simple physical cable connections called cross connects.With these cross connects and close proximity to the Internet Exchange, our customers immediately have instant access to an ecosystem of network providers, cloud platforms, content providers and business partners while saving costs on expensive wide area network links and ensuring high network performance.

By combining our vast local, regional and global network resources with the IXPN’s capabilities, we can now directly connect and provide interconnection services to local operators, regional operators, global carriers, content providers, ISPs among others. Our data center’s value proposition is thus to ensure that people that host in our data center are able to reach their users seamlessly with great user experience and at lower costs.

Role of The IXPN

The Internet Exchange is the backbone of digital economies around the world and a key ingredient to growing the online economy in Nigeria.

The role of the IXPN is to ensure the local exchange of data between users by enabling peering between the networks that serve these users; hence the popular saying “keeping local traffic local”.

An example is a situation where an email from User A in Lagos to User B in Lagos needs to travel across User A’s provider network to an International location where User A and User B’s networks connect just because they cannot connect locally.

You can also view this practically from the standpoint of regional airport hubs which serve as an exchange point for passengers between different airlines served by that airport.

Airline passengers will definitely not fancyif they travel long hours to switch flights outside their country to reach a destination in their country just because a common airport that serves multiple airlines in the country does not exist. Routing internet traffic is similar to you flying to Ghana to get a connecting flight to Abuja, because there is no local interconnection point.

Mainone’s Open Connect Service
With Open Connect we are creating a powerful Internet ecosystem in the same physical location as the Nigerian Internet Exchange, and providing a platform for participants to exchange data in real-time at lightning fast speeds.

The idea behind Open Connect is that we are enabling owners of products, services and content with high response requirements become more service-oriented by bringing the networks closer to them. Being closer to the networks significantly enhances their ability to improve their end user experiences. For instance, today’s customer will seriously consider changing banks if they have an internet banking application that takes thirty seconds to open a login page, and takes several other painstaking minutes to conduct a transaction.

Main Benefits of Open Connect
Open Connect provides better network performance for the networks and their end users. It also ensures low latency connections which in turn enhance the end user experience while enabling local data exchange, local content and local hosting.

Before Open Connect, How Did Operators Connect?

In the past, operators connected Internet traffic via networks outside the country at interconnection locations where global content providers reside. This put more costs on internet providers, slowed down internet connections and put the end user at a disadvantage from a cost and user experience.

For voice services, interconnections were achieved through clearing houses some of which are present locally today. These methods of interconnection are no longer sustainable with the volumes of broadband traffic we are experiencing in Nigeria today via current explosion in content and smartphones.

The Nigerian Internet Exchange is currently enabling a limited amount of interconnection between operators today but we believe that a synergy between MDXi and the Exchange using Open Connect as a platform will take interconnections to the next level in Nigeria and West Africa.

With The Launch Of Open Connect Would You Now Consider Yourself A Carrier Neutral Data Centre?

We have always been a carrier neutral data center. For the benefit of your readers, a carrier neutral data center is a facility that allows its customers connect their hosted infrastructure to any network of their choice.

MDXi is structured as a totally separate legal entity from MainOne even though we are a subsidiary company. Customers in MDXi are free to choose any network provider that suits their business requirements and have done so since Day 1. As a result, customers in MDXi are connected to their various locations by over 20 different network operators and ISPs today.

Launching Open Connect expands our commitment to providing that open access, carrier neutral environment and bringing it closer to the Internet Exchange for all our customers to thrive.

Of What Benefit Is This To Over-The-Top (OTT) And Content Providers Across The Continent?

Until around 4 years ago, OTT operators like Facebook and Google hosted outside the continent because the infrastructure to host locally wasnot available and the traffic they generated in Nigeria was quite limited with low internet penetration.

This narrative is however changing as the facilities to host such infrastructure is now available on the continent. Africa’s huge population and rapid mobile broadband adoption is also a major business driver for these large players as they recruit these large number of users to their platforms.

Nigeria is the most populous country on the continent and we are beginning to see more content providers, producers and distributors develop significant interest in our local market. Five years ago we didnot have applications like Facebook Live, Instagram live and WhatsApp video. We also did not have Internet banking and the level of E-Commerce applications that require real-time online connections as we do today.

One of the key value propositions for content is a robust user experience. Accessing content hosted outside the country provides a significantly diminished user experience compared to content hosted within the country. By leveraging local hosting and Open Connect, content providers will improve their user experiences significantly, scale their products and increase user subscriptions which will lead to more revenue.

Plans to Build an Internet Hub in West Africa

By hosting the Nigerian Internet Exchange and leveraging our already active connections to the Ghanaian, Amsterdam and London Internet exchanges we have significantly expanded the reach of our network to other networks in the region and globally.

What is next is to ensure that our partnership with various internet exchanges and content providers across the continent continues to grow using products such as Open Connect to explore new frontiers for interconnections.
We will leverage our strengths as West Africa’s most connected data center to continually localize traffic, reduce transmission costs and improve user experiences which will catalyze the development of other industries such as gaming, content and media which are highly dependent on superior internet connections.

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