Subscribers want minister to urgently address gaps in 3G, 4G ahead of 5G rollout
With the claims by the Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami, that Nigeria was ready to deploy 5G networks across the country, but not immediately, subscribers have asked him to first and urgently, address gaps in 3G and 4G service offerings across Nigeria as promised.
Just like the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which claimed that Nigeria would roll out 5G networks by 2020, Pantami had also on Monday at the on-going 39th Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX), holding in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), reiterated Nigeria’s readiness to deploy the service. But subscribers in the country rather urged the minister to address quality of service with other generation of networks.
Subscribers, who spoke with The Guardian, said although deployment of 5G is not a rocket science, “but if you look at where we are coming from and where we are, you will know that it is a political statement,” said a Lagos-based banker, Kehinde Adekunle.
Adekunle noted that even the operators cannot claim they are ready to deploy 5G. “This is simple arithmetic, the 3G, 4G services remain a scam. To upload and download files could take 15 minutes to 20 minutes. 5G is at the speed of light! Go and check countries that are truly deploying 4G – South Korea, China, America, Sweden, you upload and download with peace of mind. I don’t think we are ready!”
The banker asked, “where are the infrastructure that will enable 5G, how many base stations do we have? What is the level of fibre connections? Where are the policies to drive this technology? I think our readiness should be by 2050, but by then, we would have been left behind.”
5G Technology is an umbrella term used to categorise the fifth generation of wireless communication, offering networks that are 100 times faster than 4G, support 100 times more devices, and feature five times lower latency.
While 2G (second generation) wireless enabled texting capabilities, the 3G allowed mobile users to browse the internet at speeds previously only experienced with a desktop computer. 4G brought in a new economy of mobile applications.
According to a telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, although all the mobile network operators (MNOs) in Nigeria claim to have 4G capabilities, only about 44 per cent of Nigeria’s mobile subscribers are on 3G wireless, and paltry four per cent are using 4G services.
Aluko said a vast majority are still stuck on 2G, while over 40 million Nigerians living in the rural areas still have no direct access to the Internet.
He informed that operators have repeatedly accused the regulators, including the NCC and the Ministry of ICT, of not taking meaningful steps to address the infrastructure problems and other domestic issues like Right-of-Way, security, and multiple licence demands and taxes from state, in the industry.
From her perspective, a female subscriber and ICT guru, Ngozi Isiguzo, 5G technology comes with a unique architecture different from previous generations of wireless infrastructure. According to her, the infrastructure transits from traditional large cell towers stretched over long distances to a network of smaller cells sited more closely together.
She pointed out that to make that infrastructure change, a country like Nigeria will likely need an estimated close to a million new cell sites by 2025 to remain competitive in 5G.
However, the President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Deolu Ogunbanjo, said the Minister’s claim of the country’s readiness is a good development.
Ogunbanjo said while there are still issues with 3G, 4G and the rest, “but I think the Minister wanted to spur the operators to action, and for Nigeria not to be left behind by other countries, who have started making efforts and getting ready to deploy.
The minister said: “Nigeria is ready for 5G network but preparation is key. We are ready, but need deployment; and before that we need pre-deployment and post-deployment.
“We are working to handle the challenges of pre-deployment but the approval has been given for the trial.
“Nigeria is not yet into the 5G network deliberately. Some of the telecom operators are ready to deploy the 5G network but the proposal was put on hold, so we can be productive and proactive.
“There could be potential challenges that could obstruct 5G network, which include regulations. You cannot just rush into it without preparing your ground,’’ he said.
He also said the Federal Government is engaging some security agencies like the National Intelligence Agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Nigeria Police, among others to ensure a seamless process, while establishing regulation on deploying the 5G network.
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