As Nigeria readies for 5G deployment
In this report, Assistant Editor, ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, looks at preparation of Nigeria to join the league of countries that have deployed the Fifth Generation (5G) network. Nigeria is expected to deploy the technology by January 2022.
The Fifth Generation (5G) network technology is hitting the mainstream fast. According to a Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) report, over 378 cities in 58 countries had 5G networks as of June 2021, up from 38 about a year ago. A dozen more have had 5G mobile technology deployed in part. It is in fact expected that 5G will reach one billion users in three and half years time, compared with four years for 4G and 12 years for 3G.
In 2019, Nigeria became the first West African country to initiate 5G network trials, when its biggest telecoms provider, MTN Nigeria, ran spectrum tests in its offices across two locations (Lagos and Calabar). With support from mobile operators like Huawei, ZTE and Ericsson, the initial demos proved successful.
Now, going by the declaration of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isah Pantami, and the level of work done by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) under the leadership of Prof. Umar Danbatta, commercial 5G network deployment is expected to begin January 2022.
The January 2022 date was declared by Pantami, at a Town Hall Meeting in Maiduguri, Borno State, organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to address vandalism of power and telecommunications infrastructure last Thursday.
Pantami was represented by Commissioner for Technical Services, NCC, Ubale Maska, at the meeting. The readiness of Nigeria, is coming, after stakeholders across the globe have successfully dealt with misconception and other conspiracy theories linking 5G technology to COVID-19 and the likes of cancer.
The 5G Revolution
5G network, is the advanced form of 2G, 3G and 4G. Nigeria currently operates the last three. Large numbers of advanced countries of the world have adopted the 5G network, while others are considering its adoption in the next few years, because of its high connectivity speed that will drive new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoTs), among others.
5G is designed to be a system that will bring flexibility to mobile, fixed and broadcast networks and support more extensive data requirements. The technology will impact the way interactions are done by enabling in some cases, unforeseen business models, enhanced lifestyles all resulting in increased productivity.
Benefits Of 5G Network
5G is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks, which enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, objects, and devices.
5G wireless technology is meant to deliver higher data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users.
“5G has the potential to provide 20 times faster data speeds and carries a massive amount of data for a large number of simultaneous users. So users in high-density areas – like airports, stadiums or urban areas – can still experience the fast speeds and low latency of 5G service.
5G network is designed to carry data up to 10 times faster than 4G networks. This means HD movies can be downloaded in seconds.
5G tops out at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). 5G is 10 to x100 faster than 4G.The use of shorter frequencies (millimeter waves between 30GHz and 300GHz) for 5G networks is the reason why 5G is so fast.
Deployment Slow In Africa
Despite its identified benefits, Ericsson Mobility Report for June 2021, showed that 5G network remains slow in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), but it is expected to tick in the region over the next few years.
Although 5G subscriptions were still below one per cent of total subscribers in SSA at the end of 2020, Ericsson expects “discernible volumes of 5G subscriptions” by 2022, reaching about seven per cent in 2026.
The report, however, noted that 3G will remain the dominant tech on the continent – with a share of over 40 per cent of mobile subscriptions in 2026. It predicted that 4G will grow to be about 28 per cent of the region’s subscriptions by 2026.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, commercial 5G deployments are happening faster and 5G subscriptions exceeded one million at the end of 2020. Significant 5G volumes are expected in 2021 and the region is likely to reach around 150 million 5G subscriptions in 2026, representing 18 per cent of total mobile subscriptions.
Globally, 5G is expected to be the fastest deployed mobile communication technology in history and is forecast to cover about 60 per cent of the world’s population in 2026.
At the end of 2020, 4G accounted for around 15 per cent of subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa while 3G was still the biggest portion at 43 per cent, followed by 2G at just under 42 per cent.
Deploying 5G wireless speeds 10 to 100 times faster than 4G will cost $130 to $150 billion in fiber optic cabling alone over the next five to seven years.
That’s according to a Deloitte study that found massive investment in fiber infrastructure will be required for the United States to reach its 5G potential.
The same applies to other countries. Report had it that the department of telecommunications (DoT), India, sold 2,251 MHz of spectrum for 5G at a base price of ₹3.92 trillion, which to some extent limited participation by telcos in the country.
Nigeria expects to start auctioning spectrum for 5G network in the fourth quarter of this year, going by NCC projection.
Seen as about 400 per cent hike in price in Nigeria by service providers, the NCC said each slot of the 5G spectrum would be going for a fixed price of N75 billion, adding that through auction, it could go as high as N100 billion.
Price Hike May Cuts Access To 25m Nigerians
With the N75 billion bounty on spectrum, only a few of the biggest operators may be able to pay for the license. It also means the technology might not be deployed across Nigeria.
As at today, some 25 million Nigerians in 114 telecommunications clusters (cities and towns in the country) could remain outside coverage areas for 5G, as operators would focus on viable areas that guarantee quick returns on investments. .
Despite the attainment of 20 years of telecoms revolution in Nigeria, checks showed that these 25 million Nigerians have not had access to any basic telephony service.
Analysts have opined that while 4G has not even reach everywhere in the country, putting the price of 5G spectrum at ₦75 billion could further deepen access gaps in the country.
The Chairman, ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, said 5G remains a technology that the country should embrace. According to Adebayo, if these technologies are not harnessed and embraced adequately in Nigeria, “neighbouring countries would adopt, and slow down our own progress. It will push Nigeria back because there is no kind of service you will need on the 5G networks that is not there. Globally, part of the progress made is the acceptance of technology as they evolve.”
The Chairman of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Ikechukwu Nnamani, who admitted that Nigeria should not be left behind as far as emerging technologies are concerned, said reduced spectrum cost would help operators to deliver 5G service to subscribers at an affordable rate.
“There is no doubt that the operators are going to spend a lot of money to deploy 5G and they will need to recoup their investments from the service. The only way the cost can be lowered for the subscriber is for the telecoms regulator to make the 5G spectrum cost as low as possible,” he said.