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5G fuels smartphone growth, as NCC sees technology bridge digital divide

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•MTN to lead charge for Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution

International Data Corporation (IDC), an analyst firm has expressed optimism on smartphone market growth pointing to rising demand for 5G models as a main driving force.

This is even as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), sees the technology, when fully deployed in the country, providing increased speed and bandwidth as well as deeper coverage to reach people in rural communities.

The IDC disclosed that shipments are expected to grow 2.4 per cent year-on-year to 377.7 million units. The upward trend is tipped to continue in 2021 with a 4.4 per cent rise over 2020 thanks to “an impressively quick supply chain recovery”, and “significant incentives” from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and channels on 5G devices.

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The Vice President, Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, Ryan Reith, said “supply-side momentum” heading into the current quarter and beyond “remains strong”, building on progress made in Q3.

Reith explained that a negative impact on shipments in the first half (H1) of the year was caused by COVID-19-related lockdowns, and had turned to positive in H2, with many consumers shifting spending from travel and leisure activities to consumer electronics.

IDC dubbed 5G “the driving force for the industry right now”, with shipments of compatible units expected to account for almost 10 per cent of the total in 2020. The proportion is tipped to hit 29 per cent in 2024.

MEANWHILE, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said 5G will bridge digital divide, while making reference to a recent landmark economy study conducted by Qualcomm, which stated that 5G would affect the global economy and drive growth exponentially.

Danbatta, who spoke through the Director, Public Affairs of NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, during a capacity building workshop organised by the Commission for telecoms journalists in Lagos, however said there had been a lot of falsehoods and misinformation peddled about the health and safety implications of deploying 5G technology.

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While allaying such fears, Danbatta said the recently published Draft Consultation Document on the Deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) Mobile Technology in Nigeria by the NCC, would open further research into 5G deployment, while insisting that the Commission has not concluded plans for the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) network.

He said: “Nigeria only undertook 5G trials in selected locations within the country in collaboration with an operator in 2019. The trial, among others was to study and observe any health or security challenges the 5G network might present. The Commission also has an ongoing engagement with the academia, while at the same time funding 5G related research projects, all in a bid to ensure the nation is provided with the best in terms of research findings and policy input to drive the implementation and deployment of 5G technology in Nigeria.”

Furthermore, with the prediction that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world, in a keynote session at the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Strategy Workshop held recently, the Chairman, MTN Nigeria Communications PLC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, highlighted the opportunities of the 4IR on the African continent.

While the first, second, and third industrial revolutions focused on Steam Engineering, Electrification and Assembly Line, and Computing Internet Nuclear Energy respectively, the 4IR is building on the third. The 4IR is characterized by a fusion of technologies that are blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

Highlighting the opportunities presented by the 4IR in Africa, Ndukwe asserted that the revolution represents a unique opportunity for African countries to leapfrog over development hurdles with the help of technology. Not forgetting the role that telecommunication companies play in the acceleration of the 4IR in Africa, Dr. Ndukwe elucidated on how MTN Nigeria is taking the lead on this.

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The Nigerian telecommunications industry in 2020 has recorded an increase in National Broadband penetration, contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Traffic, Radio Latency, and others. MTN is leading on the tripartite levers for 4IR acceleration, which include Pervasive Broadband through advances in 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), amongst other categories. Through innovations in these areas, the telecommunications company is at the forefront of enabling transformation through secure, high-speed connectivity and cloud solutions.

Apart from telecommunications companies, Ndukwe highlighted other drivers of 4IR on the African continent. He mentioned that African policy makers and regulators would need to use a “united vision to seize opportunities as well as create incentives for technology adoption in national priority sectors like agriculture and energy.”

He expounded on the roles of Business Associations, which include raising awareness and providing information about the potential and markets for technologies while also increasing investments in training.

Ndukwe concluded that development partners would need to “finance projects on the impact of the 4IR on African economies and societies, support the creation of regional R&D centres and foster linkages with R&D centres.”

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