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Despite the fact that 44 percent of mobile subscribers in the country are still on 3G service and about four percent are using 4G as contained in the Jumia 2019 mobile report, it is still imperative that Nigeria embraces the 5G technology.
The above is the position of Information and Technology experts who spoke exclusively to Daily Sun.
According to them, offering significant improvements over previous generations, the fifth generation (5G) of cellular technology can certainly not be ignored.
They argued the essence of 5G adoption is to ensure the country is not left behind in the digital age adding that, it is not about simply participating in a rat race. “There must be purpose and direction. As various issues and possibilities emerge, the question is how will Nigeria use 5G? Critical to improving the level of preparedness entails having an inclusive multistakeholder plan. It should entail how 5G networks will be launched to work alongside existing older generation networks.”
What is 5G?
5G, the fifth generation of mobile wireless communications promises to lower latency, offer greater stability, the ability to connect many more devices at once, and move more data due to its fast speed. These features have the potential to improve businesses and that’s one of the reasons 66 percent of enterprises plan to deploy 5G by 2020, according to a study by Gartner. Ultimately, 5G takes advantage of higher-frequency bands in the radio spectrum that has high capacity but shorter wavelengths. Cisco estimates that by 2020, 5G will generate three times more traffic than the average 4G connection and those connections will make up three percent of total mobile connections.
Many industry experts believe that 5G networks alongside existing 4G LTE networks will be 10 to 20 times faster than 4G when fully deployed in the real world. Standalone, 5G could reach gigabit-plus browsing speeds, making mobile internet as fast, if not faster, than hardwired fiber connections.
According to Jide Awe, an IT expert, much of the attention on 5G comes from a realisation that it will distinguish countries in the new digital economy.
He said, “For Nigeria, leveraging on 5G can improve competitiveness and create immense possibilities in innovation and transformation towards building a new digital economy.”
Although Nigeria still has challenges in telecom infrastructure provision, Awe argued that 5G offers huge potential for new unexplored growth areas. “The ongoing trial of 5G is a good start. The trial should be used to explore use-cases and applications in Nigeria, especially those that have not been practical due to limitations of existing networks,” he said.
He stated that, the eventual full-scale rollout of 5G demands huge investment to design. “It is impossible to overemphasise the need to create an environment in the entire telecom space (5G and existing networks) that enables investment and deployment. Critical aspects such as access of providers to equipment, support of investment, partnerships and facilitating infrastructure rollout should be addressed.”
Awe added that the recent draft Executive Order declaring telecommunications infrastructure ‘a critical national infrastructure’ is a welcome development.
“Closing the digital inclusion gap is a major concern. Broadband penetration needs to be improved. Even without 5G, large segments of the population are still unable to benefit from the digital revolution due to lack of access to reliable internet services. Those issues hindering broadband rollout throughout the country still need to be addressed. States should become smart states that foster and encourage infrastructure rollout; they should not hinder or constitute roadblocks.
“The plan should consider privacy and security implications of 5G. With the increased speed and improved connectivity, security concerns need to be considered. In the new digital economy, protecting our information and security should be prioritised. Furthermore, effective 5G adoption requires meaningful capacity building. There should be focus on building capacity towards smooth implementation and sustainable operations and growth,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) and President, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), Muhammed Rudman, said Nigeria needs to follow the global trend. He said even though some places in Nigeria currently have only 2G and 3G, there is need to follow global trends in order not to be left out. “Most areas don’t have the internet access to 4G. Even in Lagos, not all the areas have 4G network but the reality is, we need to follow the global trend because technology constantly evolves,” he said.
Rudman stated that because Nigeria did not succeed in the initial technology evolution doesn’t mean it shouldn’t try and catch up with the next wave.
Ahead of 2020
Ahead of the 2020 set date for the roll out of 5G networks in Nigeria, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) said it will look at three strategic areas of interest that will be beneficial to the country and Africa. These areas of focus include enhanced mobile broadband applications, the low ultra-reliable, low latency applications, and the Machine to Machine application.
According to NCC, Nigeria and other parts of Africa will subscribe quickly to the enhanced mobile broadband application. The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the reason for this is because African countries are trying to roll out broadband infrastructure for broadband applications. “This will spur us on to ensure we put in place the necessary infrastructure,” he said.
In terms of readiness of the continent for 5G evolution, Danbatta said Nigeria and other countries within Africa are trying to reserve the spectrum for the roll out of broadband services. Specifically, Danbatta said in Nigeria, the focus is on 26, 38 and 42 GHz. He noted that these frequencies exist and are not licensed for any other application.
Just recently, by working with Huawei, MTN had 5G demo trial. At the trial, the first in West Africa, the operator was able to provide a glimpse into a range of 5G use cases and applications at a test Lab designed to show proof-of-concept.
MTN explained that 5G will enhance technological development because of the extremely fast transfer rate of large quantities of data. The firm said 5G is designed to keep self-driving cars aware of one another, stream virtual and augmented reality experiences; allow delivery drones to function safely and efficiently. Overall, it enables interconnected devices for instant communication.
Managing Director of Huawei Technologies Nigeria, Zhang Lulu, has said that with the new 5G network, telecommunications subscribers in the country can experience the fastest internet and mobile connectivity.
Lulu said Huawei’s partnership with MTN would enable the telecom firm serve its subscribers with advanced technologies for the future. He said the trial demonstrated the capability of the new technology while giving consumers a glimpse of what the future holds, due to its low latency rate.
“Huawei will keep supporting MTN through its challenges and requirements, providing the most innovative product and solution for MTN, bringing the ultimate experience to the subscribers,” the MD said.He noted that the firm was leading the 5G rollout globally, despite issues with the United States ban with more than 60 commercial contracts and shipment of over 400,000 base stations.
Chairman, MTN Nigeria, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, said the 5G technology would improve operations and provide efficiency for security equipment. According to Ndukwe, all security concerns over the 5G network will be taken on board when the roll out starts properly. His words, “I am happy today that
Nigeria is leading in demonstrating the 5G network. In due course, rules of engagement would be provided and that will enable us ensure that things are done in the way that is in line with the aspirations and requirements of the country.
“5G has a lot of potentials. For instance, the technology will provide efficiency for equipment like drones, and the possibilities are unimaginable.”