Nigeria and push for 5G rollout

Now that Nigeria is seems ready to deploy the 5G technology, what next? EHIME ALEX writes

Coming behind Kenya and South Africa, Nigeria will, from August 24, 2022, roll out the fifth-generation telecommunication network, amid the many challenges the country faces in adopting the network.

It has been argued that factors that might frustrate the smooth deployment of the network include poor fibre penetration, network security, spectrum pricing and harmonisation, poor electricity, infrastructure decay and inflation.

But poised to promote the network, the Nigerian Communications Commission said the 5G deployment would usher the country into “a more robust Fourth Industrial Revolution and a more digitised economy.”

Having earlier licensed MTN Nigeria Plc and Mafab Communications Limited for the rollout, NCC recently confirmed issuance of the final letter of awards of the 5G Spectrum Licences to both companies.

The companies had won the 3.5 Gigahertz spectrum auction conducted by NCC in December 2021, out-bidding Airtel Networks Limited to the race. Thus, with the award, and in line with the Auction’s Information Memorandum, the two licensees are now expected to accelerate deployment of the 5G network in the country.

5G is the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, which, according to tech experts, offers data speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G and lower latency – the delay in instruction for a data transfer and its actual transfer. The network can also support up to one million connected devices per square kilometre, compared to up to 100,000 for 4G.


Support and otherwise for 5G rollout

The NCC is optimistic that effective implementation of the National Policy on 5G will accelerate the actualisation of the national targets in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020-2025), National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030) as well as other sectoral policies designed to enhance the country’s digital transformation.

However, Nigeria is not there yet on 5G adoption and the benefits it brings, said the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Information, Communication and Technology, Lanre Osibona.

In a chat with CNBC Africa on Nigeria’s readiness and the prospects of 5G, Osibona explained that the network was very much about big data, but challenged by the issue of latency, the wait between transactions.

“For the everyday Nigerian, there is no issue with that at all; but in using it for skills development, access to education, finance, e-commerce,” he said. These are primarily the issues on the ground.

For the President, Africa Digital Economy Forum, Olusola Teniola, 5G network will give the country opportunity to look at some sectors, from the aspect of security, health, and education, among other uses.

According to a report by Statista, a company specialising in market and consumer data, over 40 per cent of the Nigerian population subscribed to 3G/4G mobile broadband in 2022. This penetration rate was relatively stable since surpassing the 40 per cent mark for the first time in 2020.

However, the report indicated that 3G/4G mobile broadband penetration rate, as a share of the country’s population from January 2017 to February 2022, rose by 19.21 per cent to 40.9 per cent, and hit a record 45.9 per cent in October 2020.

Also, a data by The Global Economy on Nigeria’s Security Threats Index 2021 reveals that Nigeria ranks on 8.8 index points in 12th position among 173 countries in the world, putting Afghanistan at the highest risk at first position on 10 index points.

In line with this, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund reveals that one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria.

Though primary education is officially free and compulsory in Nigeria, UNICEF reported that about 10.5 million of Nigeria’s children, from five to 14 years, are not in school.

“Only 61 per cent of six to 11-year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 per cent of children aged 36 to 59 months receive early childhood education,” the UN body added.

The picture is even bleaker in the North of the country, with a net attendance rate of 53 per cent, UNICEF also lamented in the official report. “Getting out-of-school children back into education poses a massive challenge.”

It identified insurgency in the North East as a significant challenge, which would require creating an enabling environment for education to thrive.

Financial Street could recall that earlier, in the year, Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, directed all the security agencies to leverage 5G technology, when deployed, to enhance security in the country.

At the launch of the National Policy on 5G, he stated, “It will enable our security institutions to effectively deploy robotics, autonomous vehicles, augmented and virtual reality to address any security challenge that we face.”

The United States had earlier urged the Nigeria to ensure the use of 5G for safety and protection of the digital rights of its citizens, when issuing licences to operators.

“A key aspect of safeguarding the security of our digital technologies is ensuring that countries and citizens can trust the equipment and software they are using,” the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, said at the 2021 International Stakeholders’ Conference on Digital Technology and Cybersecurity. “This is especially true in guaranteeing that new 5G technology and infrastructure will not introduce risks that threaten national security, personal privacy or human rights.”


The million dollar question

Is Nigeria ready for 5G adoption?

The Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, said the country was ready to deploy a 5G network. He, however, noted that the network would run alongside the previous networks.”It is a complementary service not a replacement service,” he added.

Adebayo also explained that 5G would be deployed gradually, and that people would continue to use the current 3G and 4G platforms, and, in some places, 2G. “It is a platform that is very suitable for many industries; aviation, military, security and telecommunications.”


4IR mirage

In an interview with Financial Street, Economics tutor at the University of Lagos, Dr Babatope Ogunniyi, asserted that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a mirage as far as Nigeria’s situation is concerned, as Nigeria has not addressed the concern for the present revolution.

The don said, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is mainly driven by four specific technological developments. These include high-speed Internet, Artificial Intelligence and automation, the use of big data analytics, and, in particular, cloud technology.

“The major element required is yet to be achieved. With poor electricity supply, Nigeria has a long way to go! AI is almost absolutely absent! Manpower development is still crawling!”

Known as the digital revolution, 4IR or Industry 4.0 conceptualises rapid change to technology, industries and societal patterns and processes in the 21st century due to increasing interconnectivity and smart automation.


Last line

As the 5G network continues to grow exponentially with higher demand, advanced nations such as China, U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain and South Korea have adopted the technology to boost their economies. Nigeria could do same, as the technology provides the platform for new and emerging technologies such as Internet of Things, AI and big data to improve the way people live and work, experts argue.

Ehime Alex
Ehime Alex
Ehime Alex reports the Capital Market, Energy, and ICT. He is a skilled webmaster and digital media enthusiast.

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