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FG explains role of communications satellite in 5G network deployment

By Adeyemi Adepetun
02 February 2022   |   4:10 am
The Federal Government has said that communications satellites would be very strategic in the deployment of the Fifth Generation (5G) network in Nigeria.

The Federal Government has said that communications satellites would be very strategic in the deployment of the Fifth Generation (5G) network in Nigeria.

Justifying this claim, FG said current publications and research have shown that communications satellites have a huge role to play in 5G deployment, which can be realised by leveraging the advantage of the satellite infrastructure by mobile and fiber operators to expand their coverage areas.

FG said this will enable operators to offload networks through important functionalities like multicasting, backhauling, and mobility access where satellite is a better access technology.

Referencing ITU Satellite Communications Symposium in 2019, FG in its “National Policy on Fifth Generation (5G) Networks for Nigeria’s Digital Economy,” recently unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari, noted that several aspects leverage the advantages of satellite’s high bandwidth, and ubiquitous coverage to enable and extend terrestrial 5G networks. These, according to the government, include trunking and head-end feed; backhauling and tower feed; communications on the move and hybrid multiplay.

Accordingly, FG expects the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure that relevant stakeholders collaborate with the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) and other satellite service provision companies to leverage the existing and future communications satellite infrastructure in the deployment plan of 5G in the following but not limited areas including; coverage and integration; resilience and over slip; IoT over the satellite networks; content multicast and casting; backhauling; spectrum sharing and any other role that the communications satellites infrastructure can play in the 5G ecosystem.

Last September, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, had hinted of the possibility that telecoms operators will first deploy 5G network on satellite when the NCC, may have finished auctioning the new network regime.

Adebayo dropped the hint at a one-day stakeholders’ forum organised by NigComSat in Lagos.

Adebayo, an engineer, while delivering a goodwill message, said: “Satellite operations are key to telecommunications growth in the country, so NigComSat should be guided to succeed by every stakeholder.

“For instance, we are talking about 5G, the first mile deployment of the network should be by satellite, the second should be by fibre so that it will cover the entire country extensively.”

MEANWHILE, the policy document has shown that the FG is hoping to start 5G deployment in six states between 2022 and 2023. The states are Abuja, Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna, Gombe, and Anambra.

It added that other states would begin to enjoy 5G services from 2025.

“With the approval of this national policy, the implementation is to commence immediately to cover major cities across the different geopolitical zones of the country e.g. Abuja, Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna, Gombe, Anambra, and other states where the deployment is required and subsequently to other urban cities by 2025,” it stated.

NCC had revealed in the Draft Information Memorandum on 3.5 GHz Spectrum Auction for 5G that within year one to two, starting from the effective date of the licence, rollout service would happen in at least one state in each geo-political zones; South West, South South, South East, North Central (Including FCT), North West and North East.

With MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications emerging as winners for two lots of the 3.5GHz spectrum conducted on December 13, 2021, they have up till February 24 to pay $273.6 million each to the government’s coffers. The official date of the licence will begin counting after payments are made this month. It also expected that the commercial launch of 5G services would begin in the country within 12 months after the effective date of the licence.

Successful rollout of the network in the country would also see Nigeria benefit from the estimated $12.3 trillion 5G economic output by 2035 and its value chain support for approximately 22 million jobs, as estimated by Qualcomm.

In the document, FG advised NCC to adopt policy including to integrate 5G networks in the attainment of the National Broadband Plan; ensure that the networks are deployed to provide the recommended levels of connectivity and coverage and meet the approved quality of service metrics.

FG said there is also a need to encourage demand-driven deployment by ensuring that high consumption areas for data such as educational, health and industrial institutions are prioritized in the network roll-out and coverage plan for the 5G deployment.

According to FG, the youth population also presents an opportunity for Nigeria to focus on the development of innovative products and services, which will be significantly enhanced by the deployment of 5G in Nigeria.

“Some of such approaches include setting up of innovation and technology hubs, sponsorship of startup events and research projects for small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and academia to stimulate innovation among the youth and the research community in the country,” it stated.

FG also said that a vital advantage of 5G is the number of use cases it will enable and the emerging technologies it will facilitate, stressing that this rides on its ability to provide wireless broadband services at Gigabit speeds and data connections well above 10 Gigabits per second, latency below five milliseconds and the capability to exploit any available wireless resource, from WiFi to 4G and to handle millions of connected devices simultaneously.

The document informed that 5G technology will support the development of new applications, which will connect devices and allow innovative applications and business models due to its software virtualization abilities.

According to FG, 5G is expected to enhance applications such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, drones, Advanced Communication Systems, Cloud, 3D Printing, Mixed Reality, Simulation/Imaging and Gamification.