A review of the top five broadband internet service providers in Nigeria; two sides of a good product.

Internet is everything, trust me. The world is better
connected by internet than it is by roads, air and water ways. The level of an
organisation’s dependency on internet can only be imagined when you consider
the astronomical rise of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
 Amazon is an e-commerce platform that depends
totally on the use of internet, a technology that Jeff leveraged on to catapult
himself to the top of the list of the world’s wealthiest men in world, becoming
the first person to earn that title with a net worth of over $90 billion!

To be successful, an organisation requires and depends
on fast and reliable broadband internet connections engineered with the best
network infrastructures and industry practices to deliver excellent
performances that will meet signed service level agreements (SLAs). Before
going any further in this article, I would like to briefly explain what a
broadband internet connection is.
According to Wikipedia,
“a
broadband is a wide bandwidth data transmission which carries multiple signals
and traffic types. The mode of connection can be through, fiber optic,
microwave radio, coaxial cables or twisted pair cables.” This is not the same as the Wimax,
Mifi and the USB dongles of this world,
or the mobile data that telecoms operators sell to you. That said, let’s get on with the review of the five top broadband
internet service providers in Nigeria.
While there are three categories of service providers
(from tier 1 to tier 3 providers), these five were selected based on some
factors. These factors include
the
number of upstream providers an ISP is connected to, the tier level it operates
in, disaster recovery mechanisms, response time, service level agreement (SLA),
and capacity
to provider public IPs to customers.
Glo:
So many negative things have been said about Glo mobile data network, many of
which I have experienced but surprisingly, the same Glo provides excellent
internet services through broadband connections. Glo has multiple connections
to upstream providers such as Telia Company and Cable and wireless
worldwide  through Glo1, a parent company that serves as its major
carrier. Glo owns fiber cables that connect different parts of Nigeria as well
as the submarine cable that connects to the UK from Lagos, carrying its traffic
to the rest of the world.
What makes Glo broadband good is simply because the
company rides on its own infrastructures, making the services they provide
cheaper and repairs to damaged parts,
quicker. This translates to very good response time which is reflected in their
SLAs. If you are on Glo chances are that all your sites in Nigeria will be on
Glo as they have services almost everywhere within the country. This will make sure
that connections between your various sites stay local within the Glo network,
giving you fast inter-branch connectivity.
Downside:
Glo often times don’t notify customers when issues arise, instead customers’ traffics are routed through a
low-capacity alternate links which
get congested easily. Customers are only notify when they report
slow connection issues. However, expected restoration times (ETR) for these
non-prevalent down times are usually not more than 2hrs.
  
MainOne:
This Company became a game-changer by establishing itself as a formidable force
in the Nigerian and West African telecoms industry. With connections to TATA Communications, Hurricane Electric,
and Level 3 Communications
, MainOne successfully commissioned a
submarine cable that connects its subscribers to the rest of the world through
Portugal. The company, apart from being an upper provider, is also a service
provider,
operating in the downstream sector. 
The company services other ISPs, notable among them is
Phase3 telecoms. Having full ownership of the submarine cable means they can
connect customers at lower costs than most ISPs and repairs jobs are quicker on the carrier link.
Downside:
MainOne does not have presence everywhere in Nigeria and chances are that your
branches can not all be connected to MainOne except they will ride on other
companies’ infrastructure to connect you. When this is done, repairs to damaged
infrastructures will take time as the company will not have total control over
these infrastructures. 
Internet
Solutions Nigeria (ISN):
Founded in 1997, ISN has quietly
ascended the ladder to become one of Nigeria’s most preferred managed service
providers. The company has a nationwide network with regional offices that
cover all the geo-political zones, making it easy to provide services to
customers irrespective of their location in Nigeria. All offices in all the
geo-political zones have dual connectivity to the core in Lagos. This makes
sure that connections
remain active in event of failure on one of the links.
With connections to multiple upper providers such as Glo1 and Dolphin Telecoms, the company
makes sure that service level agreements are met. The company also has a direct
peering with Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), a design that makes
sure that all Nigerian contents,
as well as most Google services like YouTube and Google DNS remain, local within Nigeria.
Downside:
The downside of ISN is also one of its positive sides, depending on how you see
it. In some cases, ISN uses unlicensed radios that operate within the 5Ghz
frequency spectrum to deliver services to some of its clients. Because of this, cost of
CPE is usually cheap when compared to licensed radios, however, these radios
are susceptible to interference and signal degradation and except when properly managed,
this can slow down a link and result in poor internet experience. 
MTN
Nigeria
: MTN is the largest network in Nigerian with
connections to virtually every nook and cranny of the country. With multiple
upstream providers such as MTN SA and Glo, subscriber’s traffics
are routed through West African Cable
System
(WACS) with Glo1 as backup. WACS is co-owned by
MTN, by the way. MTN has the capacity to deliver large
bandwidth to customers at low prices,
and because it is connected to Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN),
contents hosted within Nigeria remain local to users. 
Downside: MTN is unarguably the best mobile data
network in Nigeria but unfortunately, the company has not been able to
replicate this fit in the broadband arm of its operation in Nigeria. With base
station management and installations
contracted to third party companies, fault resolutions usually take more time
than expected. Also, because
MTN sells bulk bandwidth to re-sellers who sell to customers in the name of
MTN, the inefficiencies of these reselling companies are seen as MTN’s since
customers are usually in the dark regarding the that they are not dealing with MTN
directly.  
Vodacom
Nigeria:
Operating in Nigeria as Vodacom Business, a
subsidiary of the Vodacom Group, the company is one of the early entrant into
the broadband internet section of the Nigerian
telecoms sector, and has remained a formidable force ever
since. Vodacom connects customers through, fiber, licensed 10.5 Ghz wireless
radios and its popular V-sat solution, with services availability everywhere
across the country. With dual upstream connections from West Indian Cable Company and Vodacom,
the company claims it provides service availability of up to 99.5 percent. The
company, like many other ISPs, is also connected to IXPN and given the
company’s presence in some other African countries, communications within
covered African countries remain local to its network.
Downside: Apart from its Fiber connections, Vodacom’s
wireless connections are usually asymmetric; a situation where the download is
usually higher than the upload. Organisations like churches who require high
upload bandwidth for streaming may have to look elsewhere or be forced to pay
more to be on the Vodacom network.
There you have it. All reviewed ISPs provide public
IPSs to customers with proper BGP setup that displays their names when a customer performs IP address
lookup. These are just my opinion based on certain criteria. You are free to
disagree with me or suggest who should/should not be on the list. Please share
your thoughts.  

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Timigate

Ashioma Michael, a BSc (Computer Science)., MTCNA, CCNA, and CCNP holder with many years of industry-proven experience in network design, implementation and optimization. He has tutored and guided many professionals towards obtaining their Cisco certifications. Mike works as a senior network engineer with one of the leading internet service providers in West Africa.

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