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NCC And 5G Connectivity: Masterstroke Beyond Borders

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By Biodun Obisesan

It is ironical that the Covid-19 pandemic, an otherwise unfortunate incident that led to the untimely death of millions of people, has become the catalyst for the astronomic gains witnessed among players in the tech space. This year alone, it has been reported that three tech giants namely Apple, Microsoft and goggle made a combined profit of more than $50billion in April, underscoring the influence of the Covid -19 Pandemic on their businesses.

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The massive profits pouring into each company also illustrated why they have a combined market value of $6.4 trillion, more than double their collective value when the Covid-19 started almost two years ago. This economic index must have prompted the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to approve the Fifth Generation Network, otherwise known as 5G for the Nigerian business eco-system. The impact which the 5G network will have on businesses and our highly tech-wired world can never be over-emphasized. 5G technology comes with high-speed data transmission, low latency, and high quality of user experience with regards to of big data.

It is noteworthy that a top notch agency with eye for even the tiniest details, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) will drive the deployment of this earth-shaking technology.

Amid the controversy surrounding the adoption of the 5G connectivity, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami had revealed that the radiation of the 5G Policy is lower than that of 4G currently in use by Nigerians while the deployment of the policy which is with immediate effect will be carried out in phases between now and 2025.

The Minister listed the benefits of the policy to include higher data rate, larger capacity, lower latency while it will also open many opportunities economically, academically and render necessary support to the security agencies in areas where they need high quality frequency.

Pantami also explained that it took government close to two years to come up with the 5G Policy because of the initial resistance by stakeholders. He said: “I presented before the Federal Executive Council, which has also been approved after deliberation. That is the National Policy on Fifth Generation Networks for Nigeria’s digital economy, the national policy on 5G. So, that policy has been approved by the Federal Executive Council. “Furthermore, the policy discusses the benefits to be attained through the deployment of 5G in Nigeria and in any part of the world which includes lower latency, larger capacity, and higher data rate.

Just like the mimister, the Executive Vice-Chairman (EVC), of Nigerian Communication Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has been utilizing all available including his presentations on his Strategic Vision Plan (SVP) for the sector to highlight the benefits of 5G technology to the country’s economy.

His words: “These are the three major benefits of  the fifth generation technology. And in a simple language, we can say it will open many opportunities economically, educationally, and even in health sector. And it will also support our security institutions, particularly in areas where they need high quality services.

“So, these are some of the benefits to be anticipated when fifth generation or 5G is deployed in Nigeria.”

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, equally revealed that the Council in approving the 5G took cognizance of the report of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) that pronounced it safe to human health.

He noted that prior to that, in 2020, “there was a time that we started working, and we started the fifth-generation trials. And there was a complaint from citizens about the relationship between 5G and COVID-19.

“Because our government is a responsible one, we put everything on hold. We engage more stakeholders. We spend almost 18 months working on that. And we also wait for the resolution and verdict of the two most important organizations globally when it comes to the deployment of telecommunications facilities.

“These are firstly International Telecommunications Union. That is ITU, which is an arm of the United Nations, and also World Health Organization, that is WHO, which is another arm of the United Nations. Both of them confirm that there is no any adverse health effects of 5G and it has not been proven to be any harmful to our health.”

According to him, its deployment would be in phases, saying it would start from major cities in Nigeria, where there is need for very high-quality broadband.

“So, only few places will start to benefit from it. And we do hope that the plan will come up immediately. That will show that from now to 2025, we will be able to ensure that significant towns and cities in the country will also benefit from 5G,” he noted.

He added that stakeholders meeting were held in six different stages including the National Assembly before the presentation of the memo to the FEC for approval on Wednesday.

He also revealed that the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC), under his Chairmanship would soon release spectrum to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) that meet all the required conditions.

The NCC, as the regulator of the telecommunications sector, will continue engaging stakeholders with a view to developing the regulatory instruments required for the successful deployment of the technology in Nigeria, he added.

“With the approval of this national policy on fifth generation, or 5G, NCC has been directed to start working immediately to come up with regulatory instrument that will ensure its safety, and many more.

“Our government gives more priority and preference to the health and security of our citizens as stipulated in the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended under Section 14, Subsection 2 Article B. So, that is why our subsidiary legislation is going to be developed to ensure that 5G will only be useful in Nigeria, and we cannot allow it to be harmful in any place”.

Patami stressed that the 5G Policy is currently in operation in most European countries as well as some African countries while some are at the verge of introducing the policy.

“Let us all recall that it has been deployed in the US, in the UK, in Switzerland, in Germany, and in so many European countries. It has also been developed in the Republic of Korea and China. And it has also been deployed in Africa, especially South Africa and Lesotho.

“And there are other countries that are also working in the same pace we have been, like Kenya, Uganda, Morocco and Egypt. All of them are just at the last stage of the deployment of 5G and I congratulate Nigerians for getting the memo approved by the Federal Executive Council. And I do hope that we will soon benefit from 5G to get high quality broadband,” he added.

Tech industry watchers believe that 5G is the best technology to be adopted now and have warned that if Nigeria did not adopt 5G technology now, the country would be playing catch-up game later, which he said would be more expensive for Nigeria to bear. Meanwhile, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators in Nigeria, ALTON, has said Nigeria is ready in terms of infrastructure for 5G rollout across the country. Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, also posited that telecoms operators have built their networks to synchronize with 5G technology and that they are currently upgrading their networks to work seamlessly with 5G technology.

According to Adebayo, “The approval of 5G technology for Nigeria is a welcome development that will enhance Nigeria’s drive towards digital economy. The best we can have at this time as a country, is the approval for 5G technology, reason being that every successful generation of mobile technology service has brought improvement both in user experience and the quality of the service.

“Studies have shown that 5G is the next generation technology that will bring about high quality of user experience, and faster speed in data transmission. The approval is a good development, and we thank all the stakeholders that worked towards the approval.”

Asked if Nigeria is ready for 5G rollout, Adebayo said the national networks of telecoms operators were built to accept 5G technology and that telcos were upgrading their facilities to support 5G technology.

“What we have deployed on our national network is of international standard that can be compared to networks of developed countries. In terms of readiness for 5G rollout, telecoms operators are ready, even though the telecoms operators still have work to do on their networks,” Adebayo said.

He further said when 3G technology was introduced in Nigeria years back, there was some forms of resistance from the public and that telecoms operators would not see the current agitations against 5G rollout as something new.

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